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LITTLE SILVER – Avery Maski is not considered one of the top heavyweights in the Shore Conference and, truth be told, he’s still developing as a wrestler in just his fourth season in the sport.

The first time he wrestled Donovan Catholic’s Dom Brogna earlier this season Maski was pinned, but the second meeting produced a very different result.

Maski, a senior at Pinelands who was seeded 14th at the Shore Conference Tournament, used a third-period takedown to defeat the third-seeded Brogna, 4-2, and advance to Saturday morning’s quarterfinal round. Maski’s win was the biggest upset in terms of Brogna being a highest-seeded wrestler to lose on Friday night.

“To be honest, the first time we met I didn’t feel like I was ready,” Maski said. “But the second time going in and knowing his move set and everything, I knew the kind of intensity I had to bring.”

When Pinelands and Donovan wrestled in a dual, Brogna pinned Maski in the second period and appeared to have too many advantages for Maski to be able to break through if they were to wrestle again.

“I said, ‘Wow’. The kid looked too big and too physically strong,” said Pinelands head coach Joe Adelizzi. “(Pinelands assistant) Dom LaFragola said, ‘No, I think we can beat him if we just keep moving and circling, that kid will run out of gas’. About halfway through the match they went out of bounds and (Brogna’s) hands were on his hips and I think that gave Avery the confidence to say, ‘Wait a minute. It’s only 1-0, I’m taking down next period, I can win this match’.”

“When we locked up I felt it,” Maski said. “He kept getting straight Russian (ties) on me and I kept re-Russianing him and seeing how he was reacting and positioning his hips. I felt I could get a shot and that would be my bread and butter.”

Now Maski is headed to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. Heading into the tournament it appeared any of the top six seeds could win the weight class, but anyone outside that group didn’t have much of a chance. Maski debunked that theory.

“It really makes all the hard work I’ve put into it worth it,” Maski said.

“He’s a kid who started wrestling as a freshman and was forced into the varsity lineup and lost a lot,” Adelizzi said. “Everyone told him to just put in the time and he would start to win and he kept doing it. This year he has won matches just by being a better wrestler. He’s learning positions it takes a lifetime to learn but you have to jam it into four years. He’s as good of a kid you can have, he wants to learn and he wants to win, so I couldn’t be happier.”

Maski’s opponent on Saturday morning will be Long Branch’s Matt Guidetti, who played his part in turning the 285-pound bracket upside down. Guidetti was seeded 11th and defeated the sixth-seeded Tom Lidondici of Colts Neck, 3-2 in double overtime.

A double-digit seed advanced to the quarterfinals at 10 of the 14 weights. At 220 pounds, Ocean’s Alejandro Villaraga, seeded 13th, pinned the fourth seed, Long Branch’s Tracey Taylor, to hand Taylor his first loss of the season and deliver the second-biggest upset in terms of seeds.

Another major surprise came at 152 pounds where Jackson Memorial sophomore Mike Rauch reached the quarterfinals as the No. 22 seed. Rauch wasn’t even in the tournament until 7:30 on Thursday night when he got the call he was moving up. Rauch was pre-seeded 26th but slid into the top 24 after some wrestlers dropped out.

“It’s been a rollercoaster, going from not being in the tournament to having to make weight and then doing something great like that,” Rauch said.

Rauch won by 11-1 major decision over Matawan’s David Quinlan in the first round before taking down the No. 6 seed, Raritan’s Vin Mangano, 9-3 in the pre-quarterfinals.

“I wasn’t expecting to go that far and a small part of me was doubting I would even make it out of the first period of the first match even,” Rauch said. “But it turns out it doesn’t matter who you face; wrestle your hardest and you can win.”

In the 132-pound pre-quarterfinals, Neptune’s Nathaniel Levie was down big to Point Beach’s Riley Simon before hitting a pair of big moves to reach the quarterfinals. Trailing 19-8, Levie hooked Simons’ leg, rolled him over and secured the fall at the 5:23 mark.

“I had the leg and his head and was coming up so I decided to grab it and try something. Never give up,” Levie said.

Levie was seeded 11th and Simon was sixth.

“It feels absolutely great,” Levie said. “The goal this year was to go farther than last year. Last year, I won my first match and lost my second and now I’m going to Saturday and it feels great.”

Another upset occurred at 126 pounds when Toms River East’s Joe McCullough defeated St. John Vianney’s Nico Diaz, 6-2, in another 11 over 6 victory. Diaz, who reached the fourth round of wrestlebacks at the state tournament to finish in the top 12 last season, took McCullough down first and led 2-0 after one. McCullough rode Diaz out in the second period and after escaping early in the third period, countered a Diaz shot with a cradle with nine seconds left, using the five-point move to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I hurt my arm on Tuesday and I just wanted to give it my all and not let it affect me,” McCullough said. “All I could think about was winning my next one and making it to (Saturday). It gives me a lot of confidence and shows me I can hang with the kids up there.”

Other double-digit seeds to advance included CBA’s Vin Principe, who won 2-0 over Toms River East’s Nicholas DeLorenzo in the 11-6 matchup at 113. At 120, Jackson Memorial’s Luke Temple won 1-0 over Toms River North’s Jake Rosenthal in the 12-5 matchup. Temple was 0-11 against Rosenthal in his career, according to Jackson head coach Doug Withstandley. Howell’s Kyle Nase, the No. 10 seed at 120, defeated Matawan’s Lee Rubin, 10-5.

Matawan’s Kamrin O’Neil was the 10 seed and defeated Shore’s Gabe Scalise, 6-4, at 126 pounds. At 138 pounds, Howell freshman Isaiah Fenton, who wasn’t even in the tournament until some wrestlers dropped out, was the No. 12 seed once the weight was re-seeded. He dominated Point Beach’s Kip Lovgren, a returning district medalist, with a 15-0 technical fall in 4:26. In the 145-pound weight class, Toms River East’s Anthony Lawrence won by 12-3 major decision over Holmdel’s Luke DuPont in the 12-5 matchup.

Two 195-pounders seeded 10 or lower also advanced. Hao Tang pinned Long Branch’s Pat O’Dwyer in the 11-6 matchup and Donovan Catholic’s Levi Wilkins, the No. 10 seed, won by medical forfeit over Lacey’s Gerard O’Connor. Wilkins is the No. 10 seed.

Wrestling continues with the quarterfinal round at 10 a.m. on Saturday from Red Bank Regional High School. The finals are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will be streamed live on and the SSN mobile app.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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