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BRICK -- After a tough opening week, Khalil Haskins was ready for something good to happen.

The St. John Vianney junior's fortunes turned on Saturday at the prestigious Brick Memorial Mustang Classic when he rose to the top of a tough 132-pound weight class to claim the title, holding off highly-touted Delsea freshman Billy Janzer, 3-2, in the championship bout.

"I was looking forward to today," Haskins said. "I had two tough losses early in the season (pinned by Jackson Liberty's Mike Russo with a spladle and a controversial 5-4 loss to Raritan's Dylan Seidenberg - both at 138 pounds) so I wanted to show my coaches I'm still fighting and I'm going to work hard to try to get the victory."

St. John Vianney junior Khalil Haskins won the 132-pound title at the 2014 Mustang Classic wrestling tournament. (Photo by Bob Badders).
St. John Vianney junior Khalil Haskins won the 132-pound title at the 2014 Mustang Classic wrestling tournament. (Photo by Bob Badders).

Haskins was seeded fourth and began his run to the title with a 6-4 decision over fifth-seeded Tom Carney of Delsea. Haskins then knocked off top-seeded William Kui of DePaul, a state qualifier last season, 7-3, to reach the final.

Janzer, who was the No. 7 seed and defeated Paulsboro's Mike Morina (state qualifier) and Brick Memorial's Luke Vescovi to reach the final, proved a tough out for Haskins. The only takedown of the bout came in the third period with the score tied at one. Haskins shot in and grabbed ahold of Janzer, but the freshman would not relinquish the points easily. After a lengthy scramble, Haskins finally got the takedown for a 3-1 lead, and held on to win 3-2.

"Coach Eckloff (former Howell wrestler Jason Eckloff) worked a lot of scramble drills this week and it paid off," Haskins said. "I owe it all to the coaches. We had a hard week of practice and they got me to focus. It's a big tournament and we did a lot of extra preparation, and I just came out here and wrestled."

Haskins was a standout for Matawan last year, going 28-6 and finishing fourth in the Region VI Tournament, one win away from a trip to the state tournament. His main sport is football, however, where he starred for a Lancers team that finished 10-1 and reached the Non-Public Group III semifinals. He was selected as a Shore Sports Network All-Shore defensive back. This means Haskins is a part-time wrestler, only getting on the mat when it's wrestling season. Most - maybe all - of the wrestlers sharing the same achievable goals as Haskins are year-round grapplers.

"I get on the mat when December starts," Haskins said. "No offseason at all."

But that hasn't changed Haskins' goals. He believes he has the talent and the coaches behind him to make trip to the state tournament and earn a spot on the medal stand. It's his competitive nature that drives him, especially the strong push not to lose in front of his biggest fan.

"I don't like to lose in front of my mom," Haskins said. "So I wrestle hard for her."

No doubt she was proud on Saturday afternoon.


Last season, Brick Memorial's Nick Rivera burst onto the scene as a freshman heavyweight, finishing third in the Region VI Tournament and reaching the state tournament. He was the only freshman or sophomore to reach the state tournament at heavyweight, and his great potential was understood by all who watched him wrestle.

Brick Memorial sophomore heavyweight Nick Rivera knocked off a pair of state qualifiers, including Paulsboro's Davontae Randall, on his way to the Mustang Classic title. (Photo by Bob Badders).
Brick Memorial sophomore heavyweight Nick Rivera knocked off a pair of state qualifiers, including Paulsboro's Davontae Randall, on his way to the Mustang Classic title. (Photo by Bob Badders).

It's still early in the 2014-2015 season, but already it appears Rivera is among New Jersey's very best big men. The Mustangs sophomore won the heavyweight title at the Mustang Classic, pinning top-seeded Thomas Lynd of St. Augustine in 1:04 in the championship bout.

It was in the semifinals where Rivera felt he won the tournament, however. That's where he edged Paulsboro senior Davontae Randall, 2-1 in double overtime, to avenge a 1-0 loss from last season's Mustang Classic.

"He was definitely the hurdle in this tournament for me," Rivera said. "Not taking anything away from Lynd who is also very good, but I had the momentum after beating the person that beat me last year, and I was really pumped up and ready to wrestle."

Against Randall, Rivera escaped to take a 2-1 lead off a restart with three seconds left in the first 30-second period of double overtime. He then rode out Randall to win 2-1.

"I just used all my strength to get out," Rivera said. "I didn't want to get to triple overtime and have to ride him out again."

Rivera is now 7-0 with five pins this season, winning titles at both the TCNJ Pride Tournament and Mustang Classic. On Saturday he beat a pair of fellow state qualifiers to improve his resume and continue to prove he will be a force to be reckoned with for the next two-plus seasons.

"I definitely feel like I've improved all around," Rivera said. "The state tournament last year definitely helped with that. It was a big eye-opener and showed me what the competition was really going to be like and set the bar for me."

Rivera's teammate and classmate, fellow sophomore Gianni Ghione, won the 113-pound title with a 9-2 decision over Paulsboro sophomore Anthony Duca. Ghione, the top seed and last season's Region VI 106-pound champion, won by fall in his first two bouts before dominating the championship bout.

Brick Memorial, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, finished with two champions, as did No. 6 Wall. Senior Denzel Tovar won the 120-pound title with a 4-2 decision over St. Augustine Prep's Reid White, while sophomore Matt McKenzie took the 195-pound title by topping Timber Creek's Kashon Gordon, 5-2. Both Tovar and McKenzie were the top seeds in their respective brackets and remain undefeated on the season.

The other champion from the Shore Conference was Howell freshman Kyle Slendorn, who cruised to the 106-pound championship with a pair of falls and a 9-0 major decision over Paulsboro junior Nick Duca in the final.

Among the runners-up were Howell's Nick Ciaccia at 126, Kris Lindemann at 138 and Eric Keosseian at 220 pounds. Ciaccia was the No. 10 seed and reached the semifinals after knocking off Timber Creek's Alex Tran via technical fall and advancing via injury default over the No. 2 seed, West Essex's Chris Zaccaria. He then beat third-seeded Costa Poniros of Ocean, 5-4, to reach the final, where he fell to DePaul's Matt Noble, 9-2.

Lindemann lost 3-1 to High Point standout Jared Kobis while Keosseian was pinned by DePaul's Scott Lavelle. Keosseian, who wrestled for Manasquan as a freshman, had a great run to the final as the No. 7 seed. He beat St. John Vianney's Calvin Beaty 5-4 in double overtime in the quarterfinals and took down St. Augustine's James Brady, 4-2 in double overtime, in the semifinals. Beaty was the No. 2 seed and Brady was the No. 3 seed.

Middletown North's Paul Capaldo reached the 145-pound final before falling to Paulsboro's Mickey Croce, 3-2.

At 160 pounds, St. John Vianney's Kevin Grady made the final before running into DePaul's Dave McFadden, last season's 145-pound state champion, who is ranked in the top five nationally. McFadden won by fall in 1:47.

There was no team scoring in the event, but DePaul led the way with five individual champions. Sophomore Brandon Kui knocked off Brick Memorial's Alec Donovan, 4-3, in the 152-pound semifinals before winning the title in a loaded bracket via medical forfeit to High Point's Jason Gaccione.

Kobis was selected as the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler for winning the 138-pound bracket. He defeated state qualifier Sam Morina in the semifinals and edged Lindemann, who was sixth in the state at 132 pounds last season.


Mustang Classic


106: Kyle Slendorn (Howell) md. Nick Duca (Paulsboro) 9-0

113: Gianni Ghione (Brick Memorial) d. Anthony Duca (Paulsboro) 9-2

120: Denzel Tovar (Wall) d. Reid White (St. Augustine Prep) 4-2

126: Matt Noble (DePaul) d. Nick Ciaccia (Howell) 9-2

132: Khalil Haskins (St. John Vianney) d. Bill Janzer (Delsea) 3-2

138: Jared Kobis (High Point) d. Kris Lindemann (Howell) 3-1

145: Mickey Croce (Paulsboro) d. Paul Capaldo (Middletown North) 3-2

152: Brandon Kui (DePaul) won by medical forfeit over Jason Gaccione (High Point)

160: Dave McFadden (DePaul) p. Kevin Grady (St. John Vianney) 1:47

170: Nick Clark (St. Augustine Prep) d. Zach Richard (Paulsboro) 1-0

182: Nick DePalma (DePaul) md. Jose Tabora (St. Augustine Prep) 14-3

195: Matt McKenzie (Wall) d. Kashon Gordon (Timber Creek) 5-2

220: Scott Lavelle (DePaul) p. Eric Keosseian (Howell)

Hwt: Nick Rivera (Brick Memorial) p. Thomas Lynd (St. Augustine Prep) 1:04


Third place

106: Luke Eckloff (St. John Vianney) d. George Coleman (St. Augustine Prep) 10-4

113: Dave Tieto (Ocean) d. Jack Kelly (Wall) 4-3

120: Jake Benner (Ocean) p. Dino Cancellieri (DePaul) 1:59

126: Nick Wagner (Wall) by injury default Costa Poniros (Ocean)

132: Luke Vescovi (Brick Memorial) by medical forfeit over William Kui (DePaul)

138: Sam Morina (Paulsboro) d. Cory Doebel (DePaul) 4-1

145: Josh Glantzman (Wall) d. Blaine Shade (Timber Creek) 1-0

152: Alec Donovan (Brick Memorial) by medical forfeit over Jarred Hodges (St. Augustine Prep)

160: Cliff Ruggiero (Brick Memorial) md. Thomas Anderson (Middletown North) 17-7

170: Jaxon Panico (West Essex) p. Brett Hughes (Delsea) 5:51

182: Anthony Vetrano (Middletown North) d. Matthew Tiritilli (West Essex) 4-0

195: Roberto LoCascio (West Essex) d. Adam Schlereth (DePaul) 11-4

220: Joe Fabrizio (Delsea) by medical forfeit over James Brady (St. Augustine Prep)

Hwt: Marc McDonald (West Essex) p. Davontae Randall (Paulsboro) 0:55

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