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BRICK TOWNSHIP – Opportunistic in victory, stingy in defeat and tough as nails from one through 14. The traits that have made Southern Regional a New Jersey wrestling juggernaut were on full display Friday night.

The Rams, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, received clutch performances up and down the lineup, winning eight bouts on their way to a 34-27 Shore Conference Class A South victory over No. 2 Brick Memorial in a match that will likely decide the division champion.

Southern used pins by senior Eddie Hummel and junior Nate Bischoff, a major decision from freshman Tyler Chase, a last-minute victory by sophomore Nick Bennet and a bonus-point-saving effort from freshman Matt Henrich to win their sixth match in a row against the rival Mustangs.

The Rams are now in line to win the Class A South division title for the first time since 2018 and can officially clinch the division championship by defeating Toms River North and Jackson Memorial next week.

“We were really looking forward to this, we looked at this as our big match,” Bischoff said. “We haven’t won A-South since 2018 and it’s not over yet, but we knocked off, on paper, the toughest team.”

“We’ve been talking about this match since September,” said Southern head coach Dan Roy. “We knew what they had coming back, that they would be ranked high, knew the heavy-hitters they had, but we just kept telling ourselves that we’re going to keep working. Then we found out there wasn’t going to be a team (state) tournament and then at that point all we have is A-South.”

Brick Memorial boats four state-championship contenders, The Four Horseman, if you will, of brothers Anthony and Vincent Santaniello, Evan Tallmadge and David Szuba. The Santaniello brothers and Szuba were state finalists last season and Tallmadge was fourth in the state at 106 pounds. All four are nationally-ranked among the top 20 in their respective weight classes. As it is against most teams, Southern’s answer was its depth and balance, not to mention a few hammers of its own.

Brick Memorial made some moves on the weigh-in sheet, including the debut of junior Lucas Torre, a Point Boro transfer and returning state qualifier, at 120 pounds. That moved Anthony Santaniello up to 126 and Vincent Santaniello up to 132. The Mustangs did not weigh in a 106-pounder, however. Southern was without standout junior Cole Velardi, a state qualifier last season, who would have been at 170 pounds but has not wrestled in a week.

Southern presented a matchup problem for Brick Memorial because of its ability to surrender fewer bonus points to the trio of Tallmadge, Santaniello and Santaniello. Southern has standout sophomore Conor Collins at 113 pounds which it knew would battle hard with Tallmadge. What the Rams couldn’t have expected was the job Henrich did at 132 pounds.

Facing Vincent Santaniello in the second bout of the night, Henrich held the three-time state medalist and No. 1-ranked 126-pounder in the state to an 8-2 decision at 132 pounds. Henrich even scored a takedown in the third period to prevent Brick Memorial’s star senior from accruing any bonus points.

“Matt is a real tough kid,” Bischoff said. “We knew he was good but just going out there, giving it his all, it really set the tone for the rest of us in the lineup to get after it.”

“(Santaniello) took second in the state last year so to see a freshman come in and be able to hold him to a decision, it was like, ‘alright, we can all do it, we can win the whole thing’,” Bennet said.

“This season is more about the individual than the team so he needs that match to see where he is against the top guy in the state,” Roy said. “It’s huge for his confidence and also he needs to have some criteria because who knows how they’re going to be picking these freshmen (for the individual postseason).”

After senior Matt Brielmeier won 6-2 over Nick Torre at 138 pounds to get Southern on the board and trim Brick Memorial’s lead to 9-3, Southern made its first move by inserting Bennet at 145 and running its lineup up a weight. Bennet had some clutch wins last season during Southern’s run to the NJSIAA Group 5 title and did it again on Friday night, scoring a takedown with 55 seconds left in the third period for a 3-2 win over Brick Memorial senior Victor DiPianta. It was a spark that began Southern’s run through the upperweights in which it won five of seven bouts to put the match away.

“I just knew I had to help the team any way I could,” Bennet said. “Being surrounded by my teammates and knowing how they are, I’m just bouncing off of them. They’re calm and I stay calm.”

“He does whatever the team needs him to do,” Roy said. “He had a chance to shine tonight and he did. He got after it, and I’m happy for him.”

Bennet’s tall and wiry frame is a tough matchup for most wrestlers and it gave him an advantage against a very solid wrestler in DiPianta.

“There’s not a lot of wrestlers who look like me, long and lanky,” Bennet said. “It’s not really the sport for that. I try to find new moves and anything I can do to get better.”

Hummel, who was third in the state at 138 pounds last season, bumped up to 152 and won by fall over Josh James in the first period. Then, at 160 pounds, Bischoff turned a one-point match into six points when he cradled and pinned Dawson Renna in the third period. Bischoff was leading 1-0 entering the third, Renna chose defense and it wasn’t long before Bischoff hit his go-to move.

“A lot of people say it’s the only thing I hit,” Bischoff said of his cradle. “I knew once he took bottom I could really get after it. He was strong in neutral but once I got on top I knew it was my match.”

“He’s good on top and he knows what he’s good at and has a plan in the back of his mind,” Roy said, “He’s been hitting that cradle since he was in middle school.”

Bischoff’s fall put Southern up 18-9 through six bouts but Brick Memorial Cory Martin got those points right back with a stunning fall at 170 pounds. The fall itself wasn’t shocking, but the manner in which certainly was. Martin had a hold of Evan Graczyk’s ankle as he was trying to finish a takedown. Graczyk tried to twist out of harm’s way but in the process put himself on his back, and as he did, Martin had control of his head and secured the fall in 1:55.

Brick Memorial was now right back in it trailing 18-15 with seven bouts still to be wrestled, but the Mustangs needed to pick up a win between 182-220 to have a chance. Instead, Southern swept those bouts as Chase won by 19-8 major decision over Mike Angrosina at 182, Stephen Jennings won 3-0 over Ruben Lizardi at 195 and Riley O’Boyle edged Matt Murphy, 4-3, at 220.

Those three victories gave Southern a 28-15 lead and with the impending forfeit coming at 106, clinched the match with four bouts to go.

Szuba needed just six seconds to pin Pat Fulginiti at heavyweight to make it 28-21, but the forfeit at 106 gave Southern a 34-21 lead to officially clinch the match with two bouts left.

A marquee bout still remained at 113 between No. 1 Tallmadge and No. 2 Collins and it was Tallmadge using a reversal in the second period to win 2-1. Torre closed out the dual with a 6-2 victory over Tyler Verge in his first bout of the season.

“We always try to lose small to the tougher guys and that’s what we did tonight,” Bischoff said. “When it was the upperweights’ chance we knew we had to get after it, get bonus points when we could, win tough matches. Riley and Tyler had good wins and that really just kept the ball rolling.”

Check back for a photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell

Southern vs. Brick Memorial



Box Score

Class A South

No. 1 Southern 34, No. 2 Brick Memorial 27

126: No. 1 (at 120) Anthony Santaniello (BM) p. Kellen Bischoff, 4:31

132: No,. 1 (at 126) Vincent Santaniello (BM) d. No. 8 Matt Henrich, 8-2

138: No. 1 Matt Brielmeier (S) d. No. 7 (at 132) Nick Torre, 6-2

145: Nick Bennet (S) d. No. 10 Victor DiPianta, 3-2

152: No. 1 (at 145) Eddie Hummel (S) p. Josh James, 1:38

160: No. 9 (at 152) Nate Bischoff (S) p. Dawson Renna, 4:54

170: Cory Martin (BM) p. Evan Graczyk, 1:55

182: Tyler Chase (S) md. Mike Angrosina, 19-8

195: No. 9 Stephen Jennings (S) d. Ruben Lizardi, 3-0

220: No. 9 Riley O'Boyle (S) d. Matt Murphy, 4-3

285: No. 1 David Szuba (BM) p. Pat Fulginiti, 0:06

106: No. 3 Dylan Verge (S) by forfeit

113: No. 1 Evan Tallmadge (BM) d. No. 2 Conor Collins, 2-1

120: Lucas Torre (BM) d. No. 10 Tyler Verge, 6-2



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