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With the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altering the 2021 wrestling season, the team portion of the postseason has been completely eliminated. This year, it’s all about the individuals and their time has finally arrived.

The four NJSIAA Super Region Tournaments will take place this weekend at four sites around New Jersey. The top four finishers in each weight class in each region will advance to the state tournament. Shore Conference wrestlers teams are spread between Districts 17-32 and Regions 5 through 8 with most of the Ocean and Monmouth County squads residing in the Central Super Region, which comprises Regions 5 and 6 and will be held at the Hunterdon Central Field House on Saturday and Sunday.

The weight classes will be spread out over four sessions (two each day). Each weight class will complete its entire bracket during that session. Wrestlers who lose in the first round are eliminated from the tournament. Those who lose in the quarterfinals have the opportunity to wrestle back for third. The top four advance to the NJSIAA Championships and the fifth and sixth-place finishers will serve as alternates in case anyone has to withdraw from the state tournament.

Spectators will not be permitted at the region tournaments. There will be a free live stream courtesy of NJ Advance Media. Results will be continuously updated on Shore Sports Network throughout the tournament.

 

Tentative schedule for all sites

Saturday

Session 1 (106-126)

10 a.m. – First round

11:15 – Quarterfinals

12:15 – Semifinals, wrestleback quarterfinals

1:05 – Wrestleback semifinals

1:50 – Finals, 3rd-place and 5th-place consolations on three mats

Session 2 (132-145)

4 p.m. – First round

4:55 – Quarterfinals

5:45 – Semifinals, wrestleback quarterfinals

6:30 – Wrestleback semifinals

7:45 – Finals, 3rd-place and 5th-place consolations on three mats

 

Sunday

Session 3 (152-182)

10 a.m. – First round

11:15 – Quarterfinals

12:15 – Semifinals, wrestleback quarterfinals

1:05 – Wrestleback semifinals

1:50 – Finals, 3rd-place and 5th-place consolations on three mats

Session 4 (195-285)

4 p.m. – First round

4:55 – Quarterfinals

5:45 – Semifinals, wrestleback quarterfinals

6:30 – Wrestleback semifinals

7:45 – Finals, 3rd-place and 5th-place consolations on three mats

 

Central Region Seeds and Pairings

South Region Seeds and Pairings

 

While the 2021 season is a stark departure from a usual season there will still be plenty of dramatic moments and history made over the next two weekends. Here are some storylines to follow for Shore Conference wrestlers.

 

Will Brick Memorial’s Four Horseman reign supreme?

The Mustangs have six region qualifiers and four of them – junior Evan Tallmadge (113), sophomore Anthony Santaniello (120), senior Vincent Santaniello (126) and senior David Szuba (285) – are seeded No. 1 in their respective brackets. All are significant favorites to win region titles and all four are also favorites to win state titles. Both Santaniellos and Szuba were state finalists last season and Tallmadge was fourth in the state at 106 pounds.

Only seven Shore Conference programs (Brick Memorial, Central, Howell, Long Branch, Ocean, Southern, Toms River South) have ever had four region champions in the same season. Howell was the last to do it in 2017 (Diedrich, Slendorn, Reitsma, Keosseian). Brick Memorial and Toms River South are the only teams to do it twice and, ironically, both did it in consecutive seasons (1989 and 1990 for BM, 1976 and 1977 for TRS). The Mustangs have a good chance at becoming the first program to do it three times.

Vincent Santaniello is aiming to become a three-time region champion and join the likes of Bill Scott, Todd Palmisano, Marc Rosenfeld, Nick Rivera and Gianni Ghione in Mustangs lore. His father, Vinnie Santaniello, is Brick Memorial’s only four-time region champion. Anthony Santaniello is a returning champion, Tallmadge won a region title last season when he wrestled for Brick Township and Szuba is seeking his first region crown.

Brick Memorial also has senior Nick Torre as the No. 5 seed at 132 pounds and senior Braden Scott as the No. 8 seed at 138 pounds.

 

Can Kamrin O’Neill end Matawan’s region champion drought?

Just five Matawan wrestlers have won region championships in the program’s history with the last coming in 2010 when Johnny Short won his second title. The Huskies have as good a shot as ever to crown their first region champion in over a decade thanks to senior Kamrin O’Neill.

O’Neill is the No. 1 seed in the Central 145-pound bracket and enters the tournament with a 9-0 record. He reached the third round of wrestlebacks at last season’s state tournament after advancing to the Region 5 final at 126 pounds. He has steadily improved every season and helped lead the way in Matawan’s resurgence. He reached 100 wins earlier this season and can add another line to his legacy this weekend.

 

Will Howell’s Hunter Mays announce himself as a state title contender?

One of the wildcards across the state this weekend is Howell junior Hunter Mays. He has been dominant this season with an 8-0 record and has won by either fall or technical fall in each bout. He has yet to be tested like he will be this weekend, however, so the jury is still out.

Mays was a state qualifier last season when he wrestled for Conwell-Egan in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, going 37-5 with winning a district title and a second-place region finish. He is an accomplished wrestler, of course, so this could be his breakthrough performance in New Jersey. He is the No. 2 seed and has returning state qualifier James Romaine of Princeton (NJ-WB2) in his way as the No. 3 seed. A potential finals matchup could come against Hunterdon Central’s Colton Washleski, the top seed, who was sixth in the state last season.

 

Who will emerge from a loaded Central 120-pound bracket?

The 120-pound weight class in the Central Super Region features a whopping 10 returning state qualifiers, including three state medalists. Given just four will advance to the state tournament, there are going to be a lot of talented and accomplished wrestlers who have their season come to an end this weekend.

Brick Memorial sophomore Anthony Santaniello is the No. 1 seed the clear favorite. He was the 106-pound state runner-up last season and holds a 3-0 record over Middletown South’s Jack Zaleski, the No. 2 seed, two of which came by fall. Zaleski was fifth in NJ at 106 last season. The No. 3 seed is Christian Brothers Academy junior Garrett Totten, who was seventh in the state at 113 pounds last season when he competed for Northern Burlington. Seeded fourth through 10th are Howell’s Colin Bradshaw, Piscataway’s Desmond Pleasant, Rumson-Fair Haven’s Aidan Shaughnessy, St. John Vianney’s Joseph Giordano, Northern Burlington’s Blake Geibel, Sayreville’s Dylan Acevedo and Ocean’s Blake Tarnowski.

Whoa.

Keep an eye on Jackson Memorial senior Brett Blaess, who could be a bracket buster as the No. 12 seed. Blaess seemed like a sure bet to be a state qualifier last season before an injury in the Region 7 Tournament ended his season.

 

Szuba-O’Donnell 2

Brick Memorial senior David Szuba and Toms River North senior John O’Donnell are two of the best heavyweights in New Jersey and Sunday night could be round two of a potential trilogy.

Szuba, who is committed to Rider and was the state runner-up at 195 pounds last season, has been unstoppable this season. He is 8-0 with one forfeit and all seven of his contested bouts ending via fall, including one over O’Donnell. The two met on April 1 and Szuba won by fall early in the third period, but it was a close bout at that point with Szuba leading 2-0 on the strength of a reversal in the second. O’Donnell had a cradle hooked up in the second but couldn’t fully cinch it up and turn Szuba. In the third, Szuba stopped a Granby attempt and stuck O’Donnell for the pin.

Szuba is a consensus top-10 ranked heavyweight in the country and ranked No. 1 in New Jersey. St. Joseph Regional (Montvale) sophomore Jimmy Mullen, who was the defending heavyweight state champion, decided to opt out of the rest of the season in favor of an international event, so Szuba is now the clear favorite. Szuba and Mullen split bouts during the offseason.

Can anyone interrupt this collision course? Ocean’s Joe Teresi is actually the No. 2 seed based on further prior advancement in the state tournament, NJ-WB4 in 2019 to O’Donnell’s NJ-WB3 last season. Teresi has one loss this season but it is to New Brunswick’s Bryand Garcia, who is at 220, so it didn’t affect Teresi’s seed. Hightstown’s Brendan Hansen is 10-0 and a returning state qualifier and is the No. 4 seed but it would be an absolute shocker if he beat Szuba.

Another wrinkle is that Szuba and O’Donnell are training partners at Shore Thing Wrestling Club.

 

St. John Vianney’s time to shine

The regular season was one to forget for St. John Vianney, but now that it’s tournament time the Lancers could make some serious noise at the Central Region.

The Lancers went just 1-5 in dual meets thanks to having an incomplete lineup on most days. SJV has also been without two-time state champion Dean Peterson, a Princeton commit, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Peterson had nasal surgery in March and is out for the season. The Lancers’ imbalance does not lend itself to winning dual meets but tournaments are another story.

SJV has seven region qualifiers, three of whom are seeded in the top four. Senior Blake Clayton, who was third in the state at 182 last season, is the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds and a strong favorite to win the title, although Manalapan’s Gavin Claro is a strong No. 2 seed and Rumson freshman Hudson Skove, the No. 3 seed, has impressed this season with some big wins.

Senior Harrison Gordon reached the third round of wrestlebacks at the state tournament last season when he competed for Marlboro, and although he is the No. 4 seed in a deep 113-pound weight class he has a strong chance to punch his ticket again. Sophomore Joseph Giordano has a tough road as the No. 7 seed in a 120-pound weight class that features 10 returning state qualifiers but is more than capable of making a run in the wrestlebacks if needed.

Junior Nico Diaz, a two-time state qualifier, is the No. 2 seed at 126 pounds. Brick Memorial’s Vincent Santaniello is the heavy favorite to win the title but Diaz could certainly make the final. He’ll likely have to get through Howell senior Neiko Malone to do so.

Keep an eye on senior Seth Rotondella at 138 pounds. Rotondella is a two-time region qualifier and has been wrestling up several weights this season. He’s a tough competitor. The draw as the No. 9 seed is very tough but if he can win his first bout he could make a run in the wrestlebacks.

Senior Joey Butler is the No. 5 seed at 145 pounds. The Citadel commit was a district runner-up as a freshman but hampered by injuries over the last two seasons.

Freshman Michael Foley has the toughest road as the No. 15 seed at 182 pounds.

 

Which Shore Conference freshmen will find their way to the state tournament?

A total of 21 Shore Conference freshmen were selected for the Central and South Super Region Tournaments, 17 in the Central and four in the South, with 11 of them competing at 106 pounds. Nine of those are in the 106-pound bracket in the Central Region.

The highest seed is Howell’s Sebastian Ortega, who is the No. 2 seed at 113 pounds in the Central Region. CBA’s Alex Nini is No. 3 in Central 113, Rumson’s Hudson Skove is No. 3 in Central 195, Freehold Township’s Giovanni Scafidi is No. 4 in Central 138, Ocean’s James Farina is No. 5 in Central 106, Toms River East’s Kurt Wehner is No. 5 in South 106, Southern’s Matt Henrich is No. 6 in South 126 and Wall’s Donovan DiStefano is No. 6 in Central 145.

Skove and Red Bank Catholic’s Davin Brewon (No. 13 at 195) are competing at the heaviest weight class among Shore Conference freshmen.

 

A return to form for Lacey’s Brady Carter and Vin Ceglie?

Lacey senior Vin Ceglie and junior Brady Carter were both state qualifiers in 2019 and are looking to get back to the NJSIAA Championships this season. Injuries limited Carter to just five bouts as a sophomore and he did not compete in the postseason. He reached the second round of wrestlebacks at the state tournament as a freshman. Ceglie was a state qualifier at 220 pounds as a sophomore but took a step back last season when he finished sixth in Region 7 at 220.

Ceglie has wrestled in just four bouts this season but has won by fall in all four. Carter is 3-0 with two wins by fall.

 

Southern’s Eddie Hummel leads a beastly South 138 bracket

The 138-pound bracket in the South Super Region includes a total of nine returning state qualifiers, so like 120 pounds in the Central Region, some great wrestlers will not make it to the state tournament.

Southern Regional senior Eddie Hummel is the No. 1 seed after a strong season at 145 pounds. He was third in the state at 138 last season and decided to drop down to 138 again for this postseason. The top four could go a lot of different ways, but even if it’s all chalk the bouts should deliver plenty of excitement.

 

Toms River East’s Michael Conklin can join rarified air

Toms River East senior Michael Conklin is already a two-time region champion having won Region 7 titles at 126 and 132 pounds the last two seasons. He is the No. 2 seed at 145 pounds in the South Region where he will try to become the fifth three-time region champion in Raiders program history, joining Tony Mangione (1984-1986), Vin Salek (2001-2003), Vinnie DelleFave (2006-2009) and Richie Lewis (2011-2013). DelleFave is Toms River East’s only four-time champ.

Conklin is a three-time state qualifier who has advanced farther each season, finishing top 12 last season in reaching wrestleback round four at 132 pounds. To win his third title, Conklin will likely have to defeat the No. 3 seed Kingsway’s Finnegan McFadden, in the semifinals and Woodstown’s Hunter Gandy in the final. McFadden is a two-time state WB-3 wrestler and Gandy has fallen in the blood round in each of the last two seasons.

 

 

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