MIDDLETOWN — Owen McClave had just put Nick DePierro down to the mat with a double-leg to tie their Walter Woods Tournament 113-pound final at five in the third period, and he knew the only way he was going to close out a victory was to give the lead immediately back.

“I wrestle him all the time in the room at Shore Thing, and I haven’t been able to ride him all year,” McClave said. “I don’t know what it is. He’s explosive on the bottom. I just knew I couldn’t ride him so I thought I’d cut him and go for the win.”

The Toms River South sophomore was trailing 6-5 to Freehold Township’s DePierro when they walked back to the center of the mat off a restart with 10 seconds left. McClave shot in and was denied, but when DePierro stayed tight it gave McClave the opening he was looking for, as he hit a dump and put DePierro to his back with four seconds left for a come-from-behind 9-6 victory to claim the Walter Woods Tournament 113-pound championship on Monday night at Middletown High School South.

“I knew he was on his knees the whole time so I was looking to get heavy on the head, lower my level and try to blast through him with a double like I did for the first takedown in the third period,” McClave said. “I took a bad shot and he snapped me, but he didn’t try to capitalize. He just sat there to hopefully wait it out, so I went with my go-to move, hit the dump and it pulled me through to get the win.”

McClave has picked up right where he left off a fantastic freshman season in which he went 39-5 with a District 24 title and a second-place finish in the Region VI Tournament at 106 pounds. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament but was eliminated in the third round of wrestlebacks - one win short of a top-eight finish. He won the TCNJ Pride Tournament to open the season and followed it up with Monday’s tournament victory against DePierro, who also reached the third round of wrestlebacks in Atlantic City at 113 pounds.

[onescreen item="5187013"]

“I was looking forward to the competition here,” McClave said. “I knew the weight class was pretty deep, and I’d rather have a good, competitive match than pin someone in 10 seconds. I’m definitely looking to build off these first two tournament wins. I’m looking to be pretty high up on the podium (in the state tournament).”

At 195 pounds, one look at the bracket was all that was needed to see the impending collision between Christian Brothers Academy senior Mike Oxley and Jackson Memorial senior Ken Bradley. Both qualified for the state tournament last season at the same weight, Oxley as the Region VI champ and Bradley as the third-place medalist. Oxley beat Bradley, 4-3 in the region semifinals, on his way to the title, and anticipated a similar match this time.

“I love wrestling tight matches, absolutely love it, and I was excited for this,” Oxley said.

In what could be a preview of this season’s Region VI final, Oxley used a takedown in the first period and another in the third, coupled with a defense that stuffed all of Bradley’s takedown attempts, to win the matchup of returning state qualifiers, 4-3, and claim the 195-pound championship. He was subsequently selected as the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler for the upper weights.

“All you can do is go out there and wrestle your hardest, and that’s what I did,” Oxley said. “He’s an excellent wrestler, and he’s hard to wrestle. I was ready for this match, it was just a matter of going out there and performing.”

Like McClave, Oxley is looking to get back to Atlantic City and finish the season with a state medal. He ramped up his offseason wrestling, competing at the Super 32 and the NHSCA Junior Nationals, and also wrestled in the New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Invitational.

“I’m 100 percent better (than the last time we wrestled),” Oxley said. “I didn’t take any breaks in the offseason. I wrestled top-caliber kids like him, so this was just another match. My goal is to get down there and be on that medal stand. Everything I did in the offseason was for that. This is just another small tournament. The end of the year is what matters to me.”

[onescreen item="5187032"]

Oxley’s win over Bradley in the final wasn’t enough to keep Jackson Memorial from winning the team title, however. Led by 182-pound champion Connor Bohringer, second-place finishers Brody Graham (220) and Bradley, and third-place finishers Fred Terranova (113) and Sean Leahey (152), the Jaguars, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, bested No. 5 Toms River South 115.5-102 with No. 9 CBA finishing third with 99.5.

Bohringer showed off his exceptional top position skills by riding out West Orange’s Christopher Morgan for the entirety of the third period to hold on for a 1-0 win. He won by fall in his three prior matches, including a pin of Toms River South’s Quentin DeCarlo in 2:32 in the semifinals.

[onescreen item="5187014"]

Graham, who is in just his second year of wrestling, used a pair of 1-0 victories and a 6-0 win over Jackson Liberty’s Mike McKenzie in the semifinals to reach the 220-pound championship bout, where he was pinned by Manalapan’s Ben Aquilina in 1:15.

Aquilina wrestled for a total of 1:52 in the entire tournament, winning his first two bouts by fall in 17 and 20 seconds, respectively.

Toms River South tied a tournament-high with three champions. In addition to McClave, junior Joe Salvato won the 160-pound title with a 10-5 decision over Monroe’s Harrison Utter and junior Antrez Clagon held off Point Boro’s Kevin Kelly, 1-0, to win at 170. Freshman Zack Martin (106) and junior James Kearney (Hwt) each placed third.

CBA also had three champions as sophomore Sebastian Rivera won the 106-pound title with a 9-3 decision over Monroe’s Nicky Lombard and senior Erik Beshada won the 138-pound championship with a 4-2 victory over Manalapan’s Joe Santomarco. Sophomore Dylan Van Sickell was third at 126 pounds.

Middletown South’s Matt Best was the lone champion for the host Eagles. He pinned Voorhees’s Thomas Riley in 2:42 to win the 152-pound bracket and won by fall in three of his four matches.

Jackson Liberty’s Mike Russo, the fourth-place finisher in the state tournament at 106 pounds last season, won the 120-pound title with a 3-0 decision over Voorhees’s Cody Ihling.

Watchung Hills senior Mike Magaldo won his fourth Walter Woods title by majoring Jackson Liberty’s Matt Russo, 12-1, and was selected as the Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights. Magaldo is a two-time state finalist, the 2012 120-pound state champion and is ranked No. 6 in the nation at 132 pounds. He is committed to Oklahoma State.

Walter Woods Tournament
At Middletown South

Lower weights OW: Mike Magaldo, Watchung Hills
Upper weights OW: Mike Oxley, CBA

Team Scores
1. Jackson Memorial 115.5
2. Toms River South 102
3. CBA 99.5
4. Monroe 95
5. Watchung Hills 89.5
6. Manalapan 87
7. St. Augustine 78
8. Jackson Liberty 64
9. Middletown South 63
10. Point Boro 55
11. Voorhees 53
12. West Orange 49
13. Freehold Township 37.5
14. Freehold 21

Finals
106: Sebastian Rivera (CBA) d. Nicky Lombard (Monroe) 9-3
113: Owen McClave (Toms River South) d. Nick DePierro (Freehold Twp.) 9-6
120: Mike Russo (Jackson Liberty) d. Cody Ihling (Voorhees) 3-0
126: Sal Profaci (Monroe) p. Dom Franciosi (Middletown South) 1:54
132: Mike Magaldo (Watchung Hills) md. Matt Russo (Jackson Liberty) 12-1
138: Erik Beshada (CBA) d. Joe Santomarco (Manalapan) 4-2
145: Alex Murray (Watchung Hills) d. Jake Kaminsky (Manalapan) 6-5 (TB-2)
152: Matt Best (Middletown South) p. Thomas Riley (Voorhees) 2:42
160: Joe Salvato (Toms River South) d. Harrison Utter (Monroe) 10-5
170: Antrez Clagon (Toms River South) d. Kevin Kelly (Point Boro) 1-0
182: Connor Bohringer (Jackson Memorial) d. Christopher Morgan (West Orange) 1-0
195: Mike Oxley (CBA) d. Ken Bradley (Jackson Memorial) 5-3
220: Ben Aquilina (Manalapan) p. Brodie Graham (Jackson Memorial) 1:15
285: Tom Lynd (St. Augustine) d. Anthony Carbajal (Watchung Hills) 5-2