High school wrestling is quite unique in that it features two different seasons melded together, each with their own prestigious championship tournaments. But even with the separation between team and individual, momentum can certainly be a factor in both directions.
Take Brick Memorial, the NJSIAA Group IV runner-up. The Mustangs had a great run in what was supposed to be a year of reloading for a championship journey in 2013. After knocking off rivals Jackson Memorial and Southern Regional, however, the Stangs were suddenly in line to possibly be the No. 1 team in the state. Phillipsburg ended the party with its thrilling 29-27 walk-off victory in the Group IV final, a gut-wrenching loss for Brick Memorial. So it was a legitimate question as to how the Mustangs would respond.
It’s clear Brick Memorial has resiliency to go along with its talent.
The Mustangs went 4-for-4 in the Region VI pre-quarterfinal on Wednesday night at Toms River North’s Pine Belt Arena, giving them a region-best 11 wrestlers in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The one-and-done prelims were contested Wednesday night in all eight regions throughout the state. The tournaments will resume with the quarterfinals on Friday and the semifinals, two rounds of wrestlebacks, the consolation round and the championship bouts on Saturday.
After winning seven District 23 titles and claiming the team title last weekend, Brick Memorial gave itself great odds to add to its Shore Conference-best 48 champs all-time (tied with Jackson Memorial). Sophomore Tyler Poling and junior Joe Beverly led the Mustangs’ perfect night that gave them quarterfinalists in all but three weight classes.
Poling, the District 23 runner-up at 285 pounds, outlasted Christian Brothers Academy’s Kirby Gardner, 5-1. Poling, the No. 8 seed, scored a reversal late in the bout and then added three near-fall points for a come-from-behind victory. He was also able to avenge a loss to Gardner from January 14 in which the Colts senior won by fall in the third period. Poling will face top-seed Johnny Appice of Manalapan in the quarterfinals.
Beverly couldn’t crack the lineup with sophomore Nick Costa at 160 most of the season, but with Costa’s move to 152 for districts, Beverly got his shot. He entered the individual postseason with an 0-3 record, but won two bouts to get the the District 23 semifinals where he eventually finished third.
On Wednesday he topped Toms River South freshman Antres Clagon, 6-1, to continue his out-of-nowhere run to the final eight. Beverly has third-seeded Dan Wojtaszek of Brick Township in the quarters. Junior Tyler Richardson, the No. 3 seed at 170, had a quick night with a first-period pin of Red Bank Catholic’s Shawn McCord in 1:01. Richardson will wrestle sixth-seeded Southern Regional junior Connor Case in the quarterfinals.
Rumson-Fair Haven freshman Marcus Iwama withdrew from the tournament just hours prior with an illness, so with the ensuing re-seeding Mustangs senior Sean Stephenson, the No. 4 seed, received a bye into the quarterfinals.
Southern has nine wrestlers in the quarterfinals, including junior Jake Campana, who earned a surprising 8-5 win over Jackson Memorial junior Spencer Young at 138 pounds. Campana hit Young with a headlock early in the bout to take a 5-0 lead and was able to hold off Young’s rallying efforts. Young had defeated Campana by 12-4 major decision in the final bout of the Jaguars’ 27-26 victory on January 18. Young was seeded fifth and Campana 12th
Raritan senior Matt Lindo fought hard to keep his season alive and reach a milestone with a nail-biting 4-2 victory over Lacey’s Ben Mrozinski. Lindo scored with a reversal with five seconds left to take his 100th career win in what could have been his final high school bout. Lindo, the fourth-seed, gets St. John Vianney junior Matt Caracappa, the District 21 champ, in the quarters.
District 21 team champion Howell has eight wrestlers in the quarterfinals and District 22 champ Ocean Township has seven wrestlers still alive for a trip to Atlantic City.
Upsets were few and far between at Hackensack High School until the 220-pound weight class took to the mat. Cresskill senior Ray Kim, the No. 13 seed, changed that when he stunned fourth-seeded Hunter Kiselick of Bergen Catholic, 5-2. Kim (23-8) did not qualify for the Region II tournament last season while Kiselick (17-8), a senior, was the third-place finisher at 215 pounds last season.
Then at 285 pounds, 14th-seeded William Brown, a junior from Hawthorne in Passaic County, edged third-seeded Frank Astarita of Dumont, 3-2. Astarita, a region qualifier last year with a 22-3 record, was 24-3 heading into Wednesday night. It was Brown’s 22nd win of the season and moved him into a quarterfinal bout with sixth-seeded Kevin Wilkins (16-7) of Don Bosco Prep.
Newark West Side’s Samuel Jackson defeated Secaucus’s J.L. Castellanos 7-4 at 152 pounds to advance to the quarterfinals of the Region IV tournament at West Orange High School. Jackson (21-3) is the first West Side wrestler to reach the region quarterfinals since Willie Knott in 2006. He faces top-seeded Palel Deep of Passaic Tech on Friday.
Nutley will send 10 wrestlers to the quarterfinal round including Ralph DiPasquale, who edged St. Peter’s Prep’s Andrew Ulloa, 3-1, at 132 pounds.
South Plainfield captured won its state-record 28th consecutive district title in District 12...Delbarton won its fourth straight title in District 9 with senior Jorge Lopez also taking his fourth individual title...Asbury Park junior heavyweight Domingo Perez became the Blue Bishop’s first district champ since 1971, according to theshoreconference.com records. Asbury Park did not have a wrestling team from the mid-1970s until 2005...Wayne Valley won its third District 4 title in four seasons. Senior Nick Della Fera won his 100th career match in the 182-pound final...Jackson Liberty had three District 21 champs, freshman Mike Russo (106), sophomore TJ Liquori (152) and junior Nick Zak (170), to equal its previous program total.
Bob Badders covers wrestling for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @Bob_Badders