Monday, January 22, 2018

Wrestling: New Jersey Writers Association Top 20

Four teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area headline this week's New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20.

Pope John (10-1), which scored a 59-12 win over No. 17 St. John Vianney on Saturday, holds in the No. 5 spot. Coach Mark Piotrowsky's Lions, in their only scheduled action this week, will host No. 14 St. Peter's Prep on Wednesday.

Hunterdon Central (12-1) drops one spot to No. 7. The Red Devils knocked off St. Peter's Prep (33-25) and dropped a 29-28 decision to No. 6 Emerson-Park Ridge, the biggest mover this week, on Saturday. The Cavos jumped up 11 spots with that win.

Phillipsburg (6-2) checks in at No. 8 following a 33-26 win at No. 10 Hanover Park on Thursday. Coach Dave Post's Stateliners will close out a busy week with an independent showdown against No. 12 Southern on Saturday at Phillipsburg High School.

High Point (14-1), which is still unbeaten against New Jersey competition this season, rounds out the local teams at No. 11. Coach John Gardner's Wildcats can clinch the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division title with wins against Hackettstown (Tuesday) and Lenape Valley (Friday).

Newton (9-5), Kittatinny (7-6) and North Hunterdon (10-3) all dropped out of the rankings. The Braves and Cougars had been in the lower portion of the Top 20 in each of the previous three polls, while the Lions entered last week in a tie for the final spot with Watchung Hills, which scored a 48-16 win over coach Chris Hrunka's team on Saturday in Clinton Township.

Bergen Catholic (6-0), the six-time defending Non-Public A champion, is the consensus No. 1 for a fourth straight week. Howell (22-0), the defending Group 5 champion, remains the highest-ranked public school team at No. 3.

An impressive bronze trophy, donated by Prestige Imaging of Old Bridge, will be presented at the end of the 2017-18 campaign to the state’s No. 1 team in the final NJWWA poll during the state individual championships in Atlantic City.

1Bergen Catholic (13)(6-0)2601
5Pope John(10-1)2135
6Emerson-Park Ridge(18-0)18717
7Hunterdon Central(12-1)1746
9Seton Hall Prep(10-0)1589
10Hanover Park(10-2)1517
11High Point(14-1)13810
13South Plainfield(13-5)9112
14St. Peter's Prep(7-3)8614
15Watchung Hills(15-0)8120
16Camden Catholic(12-2)7015
17St. John Vianney(10-1)5716
19Long Branch(16-3)22NR

Also receiving votes: West Morris (9-2) 7; Newton (9-5) 3.

NJWWA voting members (in alphabetical order): Donald J. Brower (; Frank D'Esposito (; Steve Falk (Asbury Park Press); Josh Friedman (Courier Post of Cherry Hill, Daily Journal of Vineland); Screwy Louie Lazzari (New Jersey historian); John Lewis (Burlington County Times); Ron Mazzola (NJWWA president, Region 5 ranking chairman); Tom McGurk (Courier Post of Cherry Hill); Andy Mendlowitz (Courier News); Mark Trible (Courier Post of Cherry Hill); Greg Tufaro (Home News Tribune of East Brunswick); Mike Weilamann (Open Mike); Brad Wilson (Express-Times).

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Wrestling: Vikes eye milestone win (HWS rankings)

Ready for what could be another history-making week in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area? 

With Saturday's cutoff date looming in order for teams to qualify for the rapidly-approaching sectional tournaments, we have some big dual meets on tap, including a Sussex County matchup pitting a legendary coach against one of his former wrestlers.

Scott Fernandes can join Eric Hall in the Vikes' 100-win club.
Voorhees hopes to celebrate one milestone on Monday night in its home gym against Hunterdon Central as senior Scott Fernandes bids to become the 11th member of the program's 100-win club. Fernandes (21-2 at 195 pounds), sitting at 99-35 overall, can join his older brother Michael Fernandes, who also reached the century mark for the Vikes by going 108-20 from 2013-17.

Coach Eric Hall's team can make history again later this week as the program stands just two victories shy of 600. Voorhees (12-6), which is 598-264-5 overall and in its 43rd season, has four matches on the schedule -- Hunterdon Central at home on Monday, at Warren Hills on Wednesday and a tri-meet at Belvidere on Saturday that includes Livingston.

The Vikes will be heavy underdogs against Central, but the other three matches are very winnable.

Voorhees also has designs on locking up either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in North 2, Group 3. The next-to-last set of power points will be released on Monday, as the Vikes were the No. 2 seed as of last week, just .77 points behind Cranford. Warren Hills was in the No. 4 spot. The top eight teams in each section qualify for the tournaments that begin on Monday, Feb. 5.

Delaware Valley (4-8), despite a season riddled with injuries, including the loss of state champion Kyle Lightner (knee) for the season, has designs on making a return to the Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional final. The Terriers, last season's Group 2 champions, appear to have a shot with favorite Raritan likely to be the No. 1 seed and unbeaten Point Pleasant Boro inexplicably being moved to South Jersey this season.

All eyes in these parts will be on North 1, Group 2, where High Point, Kittatinny and Newton will battle it out, along with Jefferson, which beat Kittatinny on Thursday.

Newton will host Kittatinny on Friday in front of what should be a packed house at Henry Boresch Memorial Gym. The Braves, under coach Eric Bollette, a former Kittatinny wrestler who is 4-15 against John Gill's teams, haven't won in the series since a four-match streak during their sectional title runs in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The Cougars, who have won the last six meetings, hold a 31-15 edge all-time, including a 57-6 victory in 2016. The teams did not wrestle last season (weather) for the first time since the series began in 1976.

We will take a closer look at that matchup later in the week.

Now, onto this week's rankings:

1. Pope John (10-1) -- Lions swept a quad at home with wins against Delaware Valley (Pa.) (60-9), Don Bosco Prep (58-10) and St. John Vianney (59-12) on Saturday. Senior Jake Rotunda (22-4) went 3-0 and set the school record for wins -- he's 112-22 overall -- in the process. Junior ace Joe Aragona (24-1) is the next in line to hit the century mark at 98-5 for his career. Interesting to note is senior Jake Brown dropping to 195. It's a light week for coach Mark Piotrowsky's team with one match on the docket.

Up next: St. Peter's Prep at home on Wednesday.

2. Hunterdon Central (12-1) -- Red Devils scored wins over Old Tappan (55-13) and state-ranked St. Peter's Prep (33-25), but suffered their first loss of the season -- 29-28 to a solid Emerson-Park Ridge squad as part of a quad on Saturday. Freshman Brett Ungar (20-1) took his first loss -- 4-2 to Nick Babin of EPR -- while senior Kevin Ciresa (17-5) went 3-0 as he inches closer to the 100-win mark at 92-39 overall. Coach Jon Cantagallo-Rohm's team can clinch at least a share of the Skyland Conference Raritan Division title with a win against Voorhees.

Up next: at Voorhees on Monday; at Northern Burlington on Friday; Delran, Rancocas Valley at Kingsway on Saturday.

3. Phillipsburg (6-2) -- Stateliners started their week on Thursday with an impressive 33-26 win at Hanover Park, but they dropped a tough 28-26 decision to archrival Easton (Pa.) in match that went down to the wire on Saturday. Junior Travis Jones (20-4 at 120), who will be one tough out in the postseason, warranted my vote for the Easton Lions Club Award, presented to the most aggressive wrestler in Saturday's match. Big week for coach Dave Post's team with four matches on the slate.

Up next: at Warren Hills on Monday; North Hunterdon at home on Wednesday; Parkland (Pa.) at home on Thursday; Southern at home on Saturday.

4. High Point (14-1) -- Wildcats rolled to a 47-15 win over Sparta on Thursday before sweeping a tri-meet on Saturday against Toms River North (31-22) and Delsea (41-28) at Pine Belt Arena, as coach John Gardner's team remained unbeaten against New Jersey competition. The 'Cats are hoping the trip will serve as a tuneup for the Group 2 championships next month at TRN. Sophomore Devon Liebl (16-4 at 106) had a nice win against the Spartans, a defensive pin against Cooper Stewart, who was third in the HWS Tournament.

Up next: Hackettstown at home on Tuesday; Lenape Valley at home on Friday; Warren Hills, Cedar Grove at Cranford on Saturday.

5. Kittatinny (7-6) -- Cougars dropped a 31-29 decision to Jefferson on Thursday and suffered a 34-31 loss to West Morris on Saturday, while going 2-1 in that quad at home with wins over Delaware Valley (36-33) and Westfield (56-19). Coach John Gill's team, which can clinch the NJAC Colonial Division title on Wednesday, is gearing for a brutally tough week with matches against Sparta and Newton on tap, as well as Group 1 title contender Emerson-Park Ridge.

Up next: North Warren at Hopatcong on Wednesday; at Sparta on Thursday; at Newton on Friday; Emerson-Park Ridge at Westwood on Saturday.

6. Newton (9-5) -- Braves opened last week with a 45-21 win over Lenape Valley on Thursday before going 4-1 and finishing in fifth place at the Jack Welch Duals -- scoring wins over Holy Spirit (58-15), Northern Burlington (59-9), Warren Hills (55-13) and Buena (46-17), while dropping a tough one against Kingsway, 36-22. Juniors Wyatt McCarthy (21-2) and Luke Fischer (20-3) went 5-0 in the Duals, as Fischer scored a nice 3-1 win over Warren Hills junior Nick Galka in their matchup at 195. 

Up next: Wallkill Valley at home on Tuesday; Kittatinny at home on Friday; North Warren, Dumont, Pascack Valley at home on Saturday.

7. North Hunterdon (10-3) -- Lions rolled to a 55-9 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan (55-9) on Thursday and went 2-1 on Saturday with wins over Hillsborough (61-15) and Woodstown (47-18) and a 48-16 loss to Watchung Hills, which won 11 bouts. Coach Chris Hrunka's team will look to bounce back on Monday against Delaware Valley, a match that appears to be closer on paper than team records would indicate. Senior Andrew Gapas (20-1 at 138), who went 2-0 on Saturday, is closing in on the 100-win milestone, as he enters the week at 92-22.

Up next: Delaware Valley at home on Monday; at Phillipsburg on Wednesday.

8. Sparta (9-3) -- Spartans dropped a 47-15 decision to High Point on Thursday before bouncing back with wins over Pompton Lakes (38-30) and Wayne Hills (49-25) on Saturday. Senior Robert Gennat (21-1 at 195), one of just three winners vs. High Point, improved to 108-28 overall, as he majored Pompton's Frankie Negrini, 11-3, who was previously unbeaten. Gennat is one win shy of gaining sole possession of fourth place on his school's all-time list. Coach Frank Battaglia's team has a big week ahead as it looks to lock down the No. 1 seed in North 1, Group 3.

Up next: Jefferson at home on Tuesday; Kittatinny at home on Thursday; Wallkill Valley, Demarest, Pascack Hills at home on Saturday.

9. Voorhees (12-6) -- Vikings, in their lone action of the week, swept a quad on Saturday with wins against New Brunswick (59-15), Franklin (55-15) and host Ridge (49-19). In addition to Scott Fernandes' milestone victory, younger brother Lewis Fernandes (23-0 at 220), a junior and another one to watch in the postseason, remained unbeaten with a pair of wins.

Up next: Hunterdon Central at home on Monday; at Warren Hills on Wednesday; Livingston at Belvidere on Saturday.

10. Delaware Valley (4-8) -- Terriers received a big boost to the lineup last week with the return of senior Shawne Ramsby (5-0) at 170 pounds, a weight where they were giving up six points on a pretty regular basis during his absence with a knee injury. Ramsby jumped back in by going 3-0, including a 17-10 win over Kittatinny senior Josh Hiler, a HWS champion, in a 36-33 loss to the Cougars on Saturday. Coach Andy Fitz's team beat Westfield (46-25) and lost to West Morris (38-30) in the quad after losing to Jefferson (36-27) on Friday.

Up next: North Hunterdon at home on Monday; Bound Brook at home on Wednesday; Marlboro at home on Thursday; Hillsborough at home on Friday.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Wrestling: 'Liners fall to Rovers; Top 20 will shuffle

It was just another one of those crazy Saturdays likely to shake things up in the New Jersey Writers Association Top 20. When Monday's poll is released, expect some Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex teams to drop a few spots or fall out altogether.

Phillipsburg, which is ranked No. 8, scored an impressive 33-26 victory on the road against No. 7 Hanover Park on Wednesday. But the Stateliners couldn't keep that momentum going -- dropping a tough 28-26 decision to Easton (Pa.) in the 81st meeting of their border rivalry on Saturday night at the Easton Area Middle School Gymnasium.

P'burg (6-2) secured more bonus points, but it managed to win just six of 14 bouts against the Red Rovers (7-1), who improved to 64-17 overall in a series dating to 1947. It's also the closest margin of victory since Easton's 32-29 win in 1990.

Phillipsburg, which had won three of the previous four meetings, had a good chance to make it four of five, grabbing a 23-22 lead with three bouts remaining after senior Lance Wissing's 9-3 win over Dominic Falcone at 170. Wissing (21-3) nearly decked Falcone late in the third period, but Falcone bridged to avoid the fall in the closing seconds.

Junior Austin Roth followed with a key 3-0 win at 182, giving the 'Liners a 26-22 advantage. Needing to win one of the last two bouts, P'burg appeared to be on its way when senior Shamyr Brodders led 4-3 after two periods against Tyler Pellechia at 195. But Brodders gave up a decisive takedown with 37 seconds left in the third in a 5-4 loss.

Jacob Frank sealed Easton's comeback with a 3-1 win over sophomore Cody Cruts in the final bout at 220.

Evan Gleason (113), Brett Scalzo (126) and Blake Daniel (138) won crucial decisions earlier for Easton. Gleason, a tough freshman, used a reversal and a three-point nearfall in the second period to upend P'burg senior Cullen Day, a state qualifier last season. Gleason took home the Brad Weaver Memorial Award as the meet's outstanding wrestler. Another good-looking freshman, Isaiah Reinert, rolled to a 10-0 major of P'burg junior Jayson Zinsmeister to earn the Easton Lions Club Award as the most aggressive wrestler.

Logan Maczko (106), Travis Jones (120), Cody Harrison (145) and Brian Meyer (160) also picked up wins for P'burg. Harrison's 12-3 major of Mason Werkheiser started the comeback as the 'Liners won four of five from 145 through 182 to erase Easton's six-point lead through seven bouts.


285 -- Sr. Jonathan Pineda (20-3), E, md. Sr. Patrick Sharpe (13-9), 20-7.
106 -- Fr. Logan Maczko (11-9), P, p. Fr. Alex Cameron (5-7), 2:49.
113 -- Fr. Evan Gleason (18-6), E, d. Sr. Cullen Day (15-7), 7-4.
120 -- Jr. Travis Jones (20-4), P, p. So. Colby Duffy (4-6), 1:47.
126 -- So. Brett Scalzo (8-6), E, d. Jr. Brenden Fox (1-7), 6-5.
132 -- So. Jonathon Miers (20-2), E, tf. Jr. Thomas Abode (2-5), 16-0, 3:50.
138 -- Jr. Blake Daniel (5-4), E, d. Jr. Kyle Tino (11-5), 9-4.
145 -- Jr. Cody Harrison (16-2), P, md. So. Mason Werkheiser (0-1), 12-3.
152 -- Fr. Isaiah Reinert (11-8), E, md. Jr. Jayson Zinsmeister (12-9), 10-0.
160 -- Sr. Brian Meyer (18-2), P, md. Jr. Gaven Krazer (17-7), 11-1.
170 -- Sr. Lance Wissing (21-3), P, d. Fr. Dominic Falcone (9-6), 9-3.
182 -- Jr. Austin Roth (9-7), P, d. Sr. Max Catalano (4-6), 3-0.
195 -- Jr. Tyler Pellechia (13-10), E, d. Sr. Shamyr Brodders (6-11), 5-4.
220 -- Sr. Jacob Frank (17-7), E, d. So. Cody Cruts (5-10), 3-1.
Records -- Phillipsburg 6-2; Easton (Pa.) 7-1.
Officials -- Rick Solofsky and Larry Dieter.
Brad Weaver Award (Most outstanding) -- Evan Gleason, Easton.
Easton Lions Club Award (Most aggressive) -- Isaiah Reinert, Easton.


What's the deal with these ever-changing quads this season? It's bad enough they're on the schedule to begin with, but not knowing which teams are involved or the order of matches is adding insult to injury.

Case in point was on Saturday when No. 10 High Point traveled to Toms River North for a quad that was supposed to involve No. 4 Paulsboro, according to multiple schedules. Well, Paulsboro never made the trip to Pine Belt Arena and the 'Cats made a very long bus ride to score wins over Delsea (41-28) and Toms River North (31-22).

High Point coach John Gardner told Open Mike on Tuesday that he was unsure of the location and exactly which teams were to be in the quad. The 'Cats schedule on the NJAC site listed Asbury Park and Toms River North as their opponents also heading to Paulsboro. Since Delsea and Paulsboro are scheduled for a single dual on Wednesday, it made no sense they'd be together in a quad.

In any case, the real shame is High Point (14-1) not getting a chance to face a very strong Paulsboro squad, which blitzed a good field at Newton's Boresch Duals earlier this month. On a positive note, senior Hunter Flores (195) returned to the lineup for the 'Cats, who are still without junior Devin Flannery (120). They'll need to get Flannery, who is sidelined with an elbow injury, back soon as they look to win the North 1, Group 2 sectional title -- which also includes Newton, Kittatinny and Jefferson -- and perhaps challenge Hanover Park -- the 'Cats look to match up well against coach Tyler Branham's Hornets -- for a Group 2 title next month.

In or out?

Newton, Kittatinny and North Hunterdon -- Nos. 18, 19 and 20 in the NJWWA Top 20 -- all suffered disappointing losses in recent days. As did No. 6 Hunterdon Central, which dropped a 29-28 decision to No. 17 Emerson-Park Ridge on Saturday.

Newton, which finished fifth at the Jack Welch Duals, fell, 36-22, to unranked Kingsway, while Kittatinny came up short in a 31-29 loss to Jefferson on Thursday. North Hunterdon won just three bouts in a 48-16 loss to unbeaten Watchung Hills, which was tied with the Lions for the 20th spot.

Southern posted a 29-26 win over South Plainfield on Saturday in a good independent matchup. That result is notable because the Rams will travel to Phillipsburg next Saturday for a key showdown. It's a big week on tap for coach Dave Post's Stateliners, who will face Warren Hills (Monday), North Hunterdon (Wednesday) and Parkland (Pa.) on Thursday before taking on Southern. And the 'Liners need all three Jersey matches to get the required minimum of 10 in order to qualify for sectionals before next Saturday's cutoff date. As of now, there's no snow in next week's forecast.

Pope John rolled to a 59-12 victory over No. 16 St. John Vianney on Saturday as part of a quad in Sparta. The Lions (10-1) also knocked off Delaware Valley (Pa.) and Don Bosco Prep, while senior Jake Rotunda (22-4) became the school's all-time wins leader. As noted in our team rankings last Sunday, Rotunda, now 112-22 overall, surpassed Brian Unkert (109-8-1 from 1986-90).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Wrestling: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex standings

 (Through Thursday's matches)

Skyland Conference
Delaware Division
Watchung Hills
Raritan Division
Hunterdon Central
North Hunterdon
Delaware Valley
Bound Brook
Warren Hills
Valley Division
North Plainfield
Rutgers Prep
Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Freedom Division
High Point
Lenape Valley
American Division
Pope John
Mount Olive
Morris Hills
Colonial Division
North Warren
Wallkill Valley