Get our free mobile app

PISCATAWAY -- On paper it was a toss-up bout, but for Phillipsburg it was a must-win matchup. The Stateliners appeared set to pick up a necessary win at 190 pounds to open the NJSIAA Group 5 state championship match until Southern Regional senior Bradford Birch squashed their plans and sent the Rams on their way to another state title.

Trailing 6-4 in the second period to Phillipsburg's Derek Stone, Birch cinched up a body lock and planted Stone to his back late in the third period for a match-turning fall that sent the Rams on their way to a 45-21 victory in the NJSIAA Group 5 state final on Sunday at Rutgers University's Jersey Mike's Arena. The Rams won 10 of 14 bouts, including four of the first five, and rolled past the rival Stateliners to repeat as Group 5 champions and secure the sixth state title in program history.

Wrestling_State_Champs (1600 x 1067 px) - 1
Scott Martin

Senior Collin French (215) and sophomore Attila Vigilante (126) also won by fall while sophomore Anthony Mason (106) and seniors Matt Henrich (157) and Hayden Hochstrasser (165) won by major decision. Freshman Cash McVey (113), junior Scottie Sari (138), and junior Wyatt Stout (144) each won by decision, and junior Bryce Manera received a forfeit at 132 pounds.

The match that set the unstoppable Southern train in motion was Birch's pin at 190.

"If we get three there that's great and we end up getting six," said Southern head coach Dan Roy. "That catapulted us. The momentum was huge."

"Pinning was not in my thought process but I knew going out in the first match I had to set the tone," Birch said. "Going through the match it didn't work out how I wanted to but I was able to figure out his style and pin him in the end."

Birch scored the first takedown before Stone escaped and returned the favor to lead 3-2 heading into the second period. An escape by Birch in the second period sent the bout to the third period tied 3-3. Stone scored with an escape and a takedown to go up 6-3 in the third period but Birch was able to get back to his feet and counter a double overhook throw attempt to put Stone to his back for the fall at the 5:38 mark.

"I was finally able to figure out some of his throws and I was able to read one correctly and put him to his back," Birch said. "I knew in the end that was big momentum for us and that going forward we were going to be okay."

"He's a kid that grew up through our rec program and middle school program and all four years of high school and he got his shot his senior year," Roy said. "Southern wrestling means a lot to him and a lot to his family and I'm really proud of him. He's a hard worker."

Southern Regional senior Bradford Birch raises the NJSIAA Group 5 state championship trophy after the Rams defeated Phillipsburg, 45-21, to repeat as state champs and win their sixth state title in program historyBob Badders |
Southern Regional senior Bradford Birch raises the NJSIAA Group 5 state championship trophy after the Rams defeated Phillipsburg, 45-21, to repeat as state champs and win their sixth state title in program history (Bob Badders |

French followed with a pin at 215 pounds and Southern was off to the races. John Wargo won by fall at heavyweight for Phillipsburg to briefly halt the Rams' momentum but a major decision by Mason over Anthony Pettinelli at 106 and a 4-3 decision from McVey over Massimo Gonalez at 113 stretched the Rams' lead to 19-6 through the first five bouts.

Phillipsburg was able to get back into the match, albeit momentarily, when Owen Garrigues won by fall over Jacob Chambers at 120 pounds. Southern's depth and ability to respond immediately with bonus points was showcased again when Vigilante answered Garrigues' pin by securing a fall against Dawson McWilliams in a matchup of region medalists at 126 pounds. Vigilante had two takedowns in the first period to lead 4-1 and hit a reversal in the second period before turning McWilliams for three back points.

"I beat him twice last year and I didn't think there would be anything different (this time)," Vigilante said. "After the first turn I knew I was going to be able to get more."

Vigilante's six points and a forfeit to Manera at 132 extended the cushion to 31-12 and effectively ended the match. Southern's relentless lineup kept piling up the points, however, when Sari blanked Gavin Galeta, 4-0, at 138, and Stout scored a takedown with 20 seconds left in sudden victory to beat Luke Geleta, 3-1 at 144 pounds, in a matchup of returning state medalists. Stout placed sixth in the state at 132 pounds last season and Geleta finished sixth at 138.

"We drag teams out to deep water and we drown them," Vigilante said.

Stout's victory gave Southern a 25-point lead with four bouts remaining and clinched the state championship. Phillipsburg's Gavin Hawk won by fall at 150 pounds over Tyler Chase but Southern won the next two with Henrich, last season's 150-pound state champion, and Hochstrasser, a state 8th-place finisher at 144 pounds last season, both winning by major decision to put an exclamation point on another dominant postseason run.

"We're a true team, constantly together," Birch said. "It's how hard we push each other. We may scream and yell and there may be blood and tears but we keep working. There's nothing we'd rather do."

"I'm extremely proud," Roy said. "We had a lot of good seniors who graduated last year and that was my first freshman class as head coach. You want to see how the team chemistry is going to be and over the past few weeks we started to get it. We had some tough losses but they made us better. Right now, we are wrestling the best we've wrestled the entire year."


Box Score

Southern 45, Phillipsburg 21

Back-to-back Group 5 state titles for Southern; 6th title in program history

190Bradford Birch (Southern Regional) over Derek Stone (Phillipsburg) Fall 5:38
215Collin French (Southern Regional) over Nathan Smith (Phillipsburg) Fall 3:41
285John Wargo (Phillipsburg) over Caleb Counts (Southern Regional) Fall 0:41
106Anthony Mason (Southern Regional) over Anthony Pettinelli (Phillipsburg) Maj 9-0
113Cash McVey (Southern Regional) over Massimo Gonzalez (Phillipsburg) Dec 4-3
120Owen Garriques (Phillipsburg) over Jacob Chambers (Southern Regional) Fall 5:39
126Attila Vigilante (Southern Regional) over Dawson McWilliams (Phillipsburg) Fall 4:35
132Bryce Manera (Southern Regional) over Unknown (Unattached) Forf
138Scottie Sari (Southern Regional) over Gavin Geleta (Phillipsburg) Dec 4-0
144Wyatt Stout (Southern Regional) over Luke Geleta (Phillipsburg) SV-1 3-1
150Gavin Hawk (Phillipsburg) over Tyler Chase (Southern Regional) Fall 1:27
157Matt Henrich (Southern Regional) over Patrick Day (Phillipsburg) Maj 13-3
165Hayden Hochstrasser (Southern Regional) over Johnathon Roth (Phillipsburg) Maj 10-0
175Liam Packer (Phillipsburg) over Mitch Bivona (Southern Regional) Dec 5-4


More From Shore Sports Network