Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wrestling preview: Kittatinny at Warren Hills

What: Kittatinny Cougars at Warren Hills Blue Streaks.

Where: Warren Hills Regional High School, Washington Township.

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Conference: Independent.

Records: Kittatinny 4-0; Warren Hills 3-2.

Coaches: John Gill (453-141-5, 32nd season); Jarrett Hosbach (80-70, seventh season).

Series history: Kittatinny leads 15-7 dating to 1982, including a 45-24 victory in the last meeting on Jan. 22, 2009, to stretch its win streak to seven in this rivalry. Cougars won by an average margin of 30 points in those last seven contests. Warren Hills' last win was 38-29 in 1997. The teams met continuously from 1982-95, but have wrestled only eight times since in the series

Note: Kittatinny wrestlers listed first with season records in parentheses.

106 -- So. Christian Silva (6-4) vs. Fr. Max Nauta (7-1).

113 -- So. Nick West (4-5) vs. So. Tai Adetula (9-1).

120 -- Jr. Dave Popek (8-3) vs. Sr. Chris Greenwald (8-1).

126 -- Sr. Avelino Jacinto (5-1) vs. So. Justin Pidoto (3-4).

132 -- Fr. Tom Murphy (7-3) vs. Sr. KC Wanamaker (6-3) or Jr. Joe Kratochvil (3-5).

138 -- So. Nick Romyns (9-1) vs. Wanamaker or Kratochvil.

145 -- Fr. Brandon Olsen (5-6) vs. So. Nate Detrick (4-3).

152 -- Sr. Clarke Moynihan (9-1) vs. Sr. Brandon Cruse (3-4).

160 -- So. Kieran Gerrity (8-1) vs. So. Ryan Ostir (4-5).

170 -- Jr. Jake Brook (7-4) vs. Jr. Xavier Adetula (3-3).

182 -- So. Garrett Armstrong (6-3) vs. So. Steve Cleaver (4-2) or Sr. Ryker Kern (3-2).

195 -- So. Dylan Wunder (8-2) vs. So. Ryan Witner (4-5).

220 -- Sr. Jake Drelich (5-5) vs. Sr. Dan Smith (7-0) or Jr. Andrew Papanastasiou (0-3).

285 -- So. Tom Smith (3-5) vs. Jr. Tyler Bridygham (1-2) or Fr. Andrew Pacheco (0-0).

Breakdown: Nice to see this match back on both teams' schedules after a two-year hiatus. Blue Streaks haven't had their full lineup, and won't until junior 138-pounder Kevin Bundschuh returns in early January. Kittatinny ace Jacinto is still battling shoulder problems and did not wrestle in the Cougar Classic on Tuesday, but is expected to wrestle. Straight up, I think the visitors are favorites from 126-160, except a tossup at 145, and have a slight edge at 182 and 195. If the Cougars get all of those, that's seven. Warren Hills has the edge down low from 106-120 and at 220 with a Smith-Drelich matchup that it will need to possibly win the match. Murphy and Romyns vs. either Wanamaker or Kratochvil are bouts to watch as well. I see the Streaks needing the flip to control 220 matchup and winning four of five (145, 170, 182, 195 and 285) to pull this off. That's a lot to ask. This one will be decided from 170 through 285.

Prediction: Kittatinny, 33-24.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wrestling: Goles, Cougar Classic don't disappoint

Here are some thoughts and highlights from Tuesday's John Goles Invitational and the Cougar Classic at Kittatinny.

I was in attendance at Warren Hills for the 54th annual Goles, which showcased some really good individual talent in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area.

Delaware Valley claimed the team championship with 162 points, while North Hunterdon edged Warren Hills by a half-point, 152 1/2 to 152, for second place.

The Terriers crowned four champions, Matt Gilmore (120), Mike Pongracz (126), Derek Zehnbauer (138) and Forrest Wooden (285). Gilmore, a junior who placed fourth in District 17 last season, looked really good in claiming his first Goles championship, while Pongracz rolled through his weight class for a second straight title while earning the OW award.

Personally, my OW vote went to Newton's Steven Churchill, a two-time Goles champ who dominated the 132-pound class. Churchill beat 2010 runner-up Mike Ciavarro of North Hunterdon, 8-1, in the finals, avenging a 6-4 OT loss to Ciavarro in last year's opening round.

Churchill, whose brother, Kevin, was a state placewinner for the Braves, is now healthy after battling some past shoulder problems and is looking real tough early on. I expect him to return to Atlantic City in March and possibly make some noise. Steven Churchill (8-0) is now 84-19 in his career, making the Churchill brothers a combined 235-37. Kevin holds the school record with 151 wins.

Liam Korbul of North Hunterdon took home a pair of awards after winning his first Goles title at 182. His three pins in a total time of 6:27 earned him the prestigious Ryan M. Storm Memorial Award for most falls in the fastest total time by a tournament champion. Korbul also won the award for most team points scored by an individual, joining Wooden, who also scored the maximum of 26.

Warren Hills heayweight Tyler Bridygham posted the fastest pin of the tournament (17 seconds).

Freshmen Max Nauta of Warren Hills and Ryan Pomrinca of North Hunterdon, at 106 and 113, respectively, won their first titles and look to one day join a select list of four-time Goles winners.

Both wrestlers impressed me.

Nauta defeated the top three seeds en route to the championship, beating North Hunterdon region qualifier Matt Moncourtois, 1-0, as a second-period escape was the difference. Pomrinca, a big and solid 113-pounder, scored a 4-2 decision over West Morris freshman David Migliaccio in the finals.

There have only been six -- Warren Hills' Steve Kasza (who won three titles at Belvidere and one for the Streaks in 1984), Edison's Joe Duhigg (1986-89), Warren Hills' Ryan Kanewski (1993-96), Delaware Valley's Dan Hutchins (1998-2001), Edison's Mike Franco-Bandiero (2005-08) and Newton's Kevin Churchill (2006-09) -- to win four individual titles in the tourney's long history.

For all the historical information on the Goles, visit

Cougars tough in their den

Host Kittatinny claimed the team title for the fourth straight year and was led by 138-pound champion Nick Romyns, one of six Cougars in the championship round. Freshman Tom Murphy (132), Clarke Moynihan (152), Kieran Gerrity (160), Dylan Wunder (195) and Jacob Drelich (220) all finished second.

Romyns received a forfeit win in the finals over Pequannock's R.J. DeGeorge, who has been hampered by an ankle sprain. Question is, why was DeGeorge even entered with a bum ankle?

Moynihan fell, 4-1, to Roxbury sophomore Dillon Artigliere in a battle of Region 1 stars. Gerrity, a tough sophomore, lost 3-1 in overtime to Mendham's Kevin Button.

Belvidere ace Dylan Thorsen claimed the 132-pound title with a gritty 4-3 win over rookie sensation Murphy. In the quarterfinals, Thorsen reached the 100-win mark for his fine career. Younger brother, Jesse, posted a 4-2 win over Mendham's Eric Freidman in the 126-pound final.

Juniors Evan Bray and J.B. Lawson won titles at 182 and 220 pounds, respectively, as Belvidere finished fifth in the team race.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Goles, Cougar Classic highlight tourney action

The holiday season is a time for family, friends.....and, of course, wrestling. Most of the teams in Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex counties will compete in several events this week, some tougher than others.

Action kicks off on Tuesday with the 54th annual John Goles Invitational at Warren Hills and the rugged Cougar Classic at Kittatinny.

Let's take a closer look at both tournaments which figure to be packed with great mat action:

John Goles Invitational

When: Tuesday.

Where: Warren Hills Regional High School, Washington Township.

Times: Preliminaries and first round, 10 a.m. Finals approximately, 5 p.m.

Teams: Bangor (Pa.), Delaware Valley, Edison, Millburn, Newton, North Hunterdon, Pope John, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, South Brunswick, Warren Hills, West Morris.

Returning champions (projected weights): Jr. Mike Pongracz, Delaware Valley (126), Jr. Brandon Carcuffe, West Morris (132), Sr. Steven Churchill, Newton (132, 2008 champ), Sr. Mike Steinfeld, Scotch Plains-Fanwood (145), Sr. Beau Vrancken, North Hunterdon (160), Sr. Will VanDoren, Delaware Valley (160), Jr. John Sickles, West Morris (170), Sr. Dan Smith, Warren Hills (220).

Others to watch: Jr. Matt Moncourtois, North Hunterdon (106), Fr. Ryan Pomrinca, North Hunterdon (113), So. Jordan Pagano, South Brunswick (126), Sr. Derek Zehnbauer, Delaware Valley (138), Sr. Tyler Jaramillo, South Brunswick (145), Sr. Joe Emering, Pope John (152), Sr. Simon Levin, Millburn (170), Sr. Jake Connelly, Newton (195).

Notes: Bangor, guided by former Phillipsburg coach Rick Thompson, and South Brunswick are new additions to make this an 11-team field. Bangor competed in this event for years and returns for the first time since 1987. ... Pongracz is the only returning state placewinner, finishing eighth as a sophomore. ... The team race figures to be wide open, with last year's winner North Hunterdon, along with host Warren Hills, Delaware Valley and South Brunswick vying for top honors. West Morris, coached by Ken Rossi, also has a number of talented wrestlers. ...Sickles, now at 170, won the 130-pound title a year ago. Connelly also makes a big leap after placing second at 152 in 2010. Vrancken, last year's 152-pound champ, was the OW. Pomrinca and Warren Hills' Max Nauta (106) are two freshmen to keep an eye on.

Cougar Classic

When: Tuesday.

Where: Kittatinny Regional High School, Hampton Township.

Times: Preliminaries and first round, 9 a.m. Finals approximately, 4 p.m.

Teams: Belvidere, DePaul, Franklin, Kittatinny, Mendham, Minisink Valley (N.Y.), North Warren, Pequannock, Roxbury, Shawnee.

Returning champions (projected weights): So. Connor Muli, Shawnee (120), Sr. Dylan Thorsen, Belvidere (2008, 2009, 2010) (132), Sr. R.J. DeGeorge, Pequannock (2009, 2010) (132), Sr. Clarke Moynihan, Kittatinny (2008, 2009, 2010) (152); Jr. Austin Wetterau, Shawnee (160), Sr. Ryan Harrington, Mendham (2008, 2009, 2010) (170); Sr. Keith Lemengello, Pequannock (170); So. Evan Bray, Belvidere (170); So. J.B. Lawson, Belvidere (220),  Sr. Mike Spencer, Pequannock (285).

Others to watch: So. Matt Ritchie, North Warren (113), Jr. Vince Pallone, Mendham (113), Sr. Chaz Coppa, Pequannock (126), Jr. Jesse Thorsen, Belvidere (126), Sr. Jake Balestrieri, Franklin (132), Jr. Mason Ryzoff, North Warren (138), Sr. Tim Garripoli, Roxbury (145), So. Dillon Artigliere, Roxbury (152), Sr. Nathan Dow, Belvidere (160), Sr. Mike Staufenberger, North Warren (160), Sr. Kevin Button, Mendham (160), Sr. Keith Lewis, Franklin (182).

Notes: Dylan Thorsen, Moynihan and Harrington all vying for their fourth titles. DeGeorge is going for his third, losing to Thorsen, 2-1, in the 112-pound final when both were freshmen. ... Two-time champion Johnny Walker (2009, 2010) has yet to appear in the lineup for Mendham this season. ... Franklin, fresh off its 30-28 win at The Pit in Phillipsburg, is making its debut in the tournament. ... Keep an eye on Pequannock, which could challenge Franklin and host Kittatinny for team championship. ... Harrington is a returning state champion, winning the 160-pound title last March in Atlantic City. He's expected to go 160 for the postseason. ... Potential rematch at 170, where Harrington could meet Lemengello for the second time in two weeks. Harrington won, 3-1, when they met in the finals of the Mount Olive Tournament on Dec. 17.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Cats staying hungry against Sussex foes

Those who waited for the wave of supreme talent to leave High Point's wrestling program may be sadly disappointed to see this season's all-new version. The juggernaut that included four state champions is gone, but their winning legacy still lives on.

A young and hungry group of Wildcats put on quite a show Friday, dismantling a game Newton squad, 60-11, in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference clash in Wantage.

High Point (3-0) captured 11 of 14 bouts in its home opener, as every one of its former state champions were on hand to see the program extended its conference win streak -- including SCIL matches -- to 56 straight.

"So far we're doing good and we have a lot of confidence," said junior 113-pounder Collin Grimm, who registered one of the team's six pins. "We need to keep striving to improve on the things we need to work on."

Grimm (3-2), one of those wrestlers who has waited in the wings for his turn, built a 5-0 first-period lead against sophomore Anthony Brown before earning the fall in 2:36.

"I think it's going to be a big advantage, getting those varsity matches," Grimm said of getting 13 varsity bouts the past two seasons. "We want to keep up the High Point tradition."

Veteran coach John Gardner is pleased with how his team is shaping up early in the season, a 14-man squad that on Friday had a collective total of 77 varsity wins.

"The kids who have been around [the program] know what the expectations are," said Gardner, whose teams are 101-9 over the last five seasons. "We're back in dual meets now and we're going to have struggles as we go. It isn't going to be easy and we'll do the best we can."

Freshman Mike Derin (120), sophomore Chris Auer (126), senior Alec Alvino (138), along with sophomores Antonio Porraspita (160) and Robert McDonnell (285) also had pins in the victory.

Newton (0-2), which is battling injuries in the early going, sent only 11 wrestlers to the mat. The Braves would have been up against it even at full strength, as they saw their losing streak in the series reach nine straight since a 31-27 win in 2003.

Seniors Steven Churchill (132) and Jake Connelly (195), along with junior Josh Sibblies (152) were the lone winners for Newton.

Churchill, a state qualifier last season, earned an 8-2 decision over freshman Jason Gaccione in one of the night's best bouts. Gaccione, whose brother, Joe, was a three-time district and region champ for the 'Cats, fell behind, 5-0, in the first period, but hung in there the rest of the way.

After forfeiting the opening bout at 182, Connelly, fourth in Region 1 at 145 last season, got Newton on the board with a workmanlike 11-2 major of sophomore Drew Bye. The Braves forfeited again at 220 before McDonnell helped set an early tone by decking Brandon Grant at 285.

Freshman Dom Gallo also took the wind out of the Braves' sails with a thrilling 5-3 decision -- his first varsity win -- over senior Ashley Iliff, who was fourth in District 3 last season.

Iliff got the opening takedown for a 2-0 lead after one period and it stood until Gallo broke through late in the third for his own takedown and a stalling point to take the lead. Iliff escaped with nine seconds left, but Gallo converted the winning takedown -- again off a duck under -- with two ticks left on the clock.

Grimm started a run of three straight pins that stretched High Point's lead to 39-4 through eight bouts. The 'Cats clinched the match despite the loss at 132.

High Point 60, Newton 11

182 -- So. Kyle Stoll (3-0), HP, forfeit.

195 -- Sr. Jake Connelly (5-0), N, md. So. Drew Bye (2-4), 11-2.

220 -- So. Gunther Wassong (2-2), HP, forfeit.

285 -- So. Robert McDonnell (3-0), HP, p. Sr. Brandon Grant (2-2), 5:38.

106 -- Fr. Dom Gallo (1-2), HP, d. Sr. Ashley Iliff (1-3), 5-3.

113 -- Jr. Collin Grimm (3-2), HP, p. So. Anthony Brown (0-1), 2:36.

120 -- Fr. Mike Derin (3-0), HP, p. Sr. Connor Huber (0-3), :35.

126 -- So. Chris Auer (5-2), HP, p. Jr. Jason VanDerGroef (0-2), 5:36.

132 -- Sr. Steven Churchill (5-0), N, d. Fr. Jason Gaccione (2-1), 8-2.

138 -- Sr. Alec Alvino (4-3), HP, p. So. Niko Grello (3-3), 1:29.

145 -- Jr. Eric Snure (1-0), HP, d. Sr. Logan Morales (0-4), 6-2.

152 -- Jr. Josh Sibblies (5-1), N, md. So. Thomas Hooker (1-5), 15-4.

160 -- So. Antonio Porraspita (3-2), HP, p. Fr. Ben Sibblies (0-1), 4:47.

170 -- Sr. Kevin Pettenger (1-4), HP, forfeit.

Records: Newton 0-2; High Point 3-0.

Official: Tim Vanderhoof.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Preview: North Hunterdon at Hunterdon Central

What: North Hunterdon Lions at Hunterdon Central Red Devils.

Where: Hunterdon Central Field House, Flemington, N.J.

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Conference: Skyland Delaware Division.

Records: Hunterdon Central 1-0; North Hunterdon 1-0.

Coaches: Steve Gibble (297-104, 21st season); Tim Flynn (27-16, third season).

Last meeting: Hunterdon Central posted two wins last season, 31-23, on Jan. 28 and 30-28 on Feb. 9. North rebounded to best its Hunterdon County rival for the District 17 team championship. The Lions won the title after the Devils were initially declared the winner due to a computer error. North's last dual win in the series was in 2003.

Note: Hunterdon Central wrestlers listed first with records in parentheses.

106 -- Fr. Kyler Rodriguez (1-0) vs. Jr. Matt Moncourtois (3-1).

113 -- So. Matt Zampeti (1-0) vs. Fr. Ryan Pomrinca (4-0).

120 -- So. Dylan Nace (4-0) vs. So. Eric Martin (3-1).

126 -- So. Collin Boylan (1-0) vs. Sr. Matt Wilson (1-1).

132 -- Fr. Joe Scerbo (1-0) vs. So. Mike Ciavarro (3-1).

138 -- Jr. Dylan Cote (1-3) vs. Sr. Michael Ariemma (1-2).

145 -- Jr. Tyler Cote (3-1) vs. Sr. Matt Doscher (3-1).

152 -- Jr. David Fenton (2-2) vs. Jr. Brandon Loftus (3-1).

160 -- Sr. Tom Scerbo (1-0) vs. Sr. Beau Vrancken (4-0).

170 -- Sr. Ryan Larkin (2-2) vs. Sr. Joe Ragsdale (3-1).

182 -- Fr. Nester Crespo (1-2) vs. Jr. Liam Korbul (3-1).

195 -- Sr. Hunter Greer (1-3) vs. Jr. Dan Pepe (3-1).

220 -- So. Dan Hausman (1-0) or Sr. Anthony Ikotidem (0-3) vs. Sr. Sean Obidike (1-2) or Jr. Brad Straight (0-0).

285 -- Hausman or Ikotidem vs. Obidike or Straight.

Breakdown: Central enters this one short-handed as both junior Tim Higginson (113) and sophomore Gary Dinmore (132) are out with injuries. Higginson is reportedly done for the season, while Dinmore, a district and region champ last season, weighed in against Newton on Wednesday but did not compete. North rates the favorite, despite its recent struggles in the series. Lions get the nod at 106, 113, 126, 132, 160, 182 and 195. Devils are favored at 120, 145 and 285. Figure 138, 152, 170 and 220 as the key bouts. Last two weights (220 and 285) are a bit of a mystery. I think the Lions have the potential for bonus at five weights and that will be the difference.

Prediction: North Hunterdon, 38-21.

Surprising early returns for area wrestling teams

Slow and steady wins the race. So, it's hard to read anything into early-season dual meets. However, we did have a few eye brow-raisers this week.

Delaware Valley had fans and coaches talking after a narrow 31-27 victory over Hopewell Valley on Tuesday. The Terriers were pegged by at least one major outlet to win the Group 2 title in February. Now granted, Group 2 is wide open this season, but knowing coach Andy Fitz, he was certainly less-than-thrilled with that pressure-packed prediction.

Del Val (3-0), like most teams this season, has its share of question marks. The upper weights, for the most part, have been a weakness for this program ever since the Wurst twins graduated some time ago. But this could be a breakout season for senior heavyweight Forrest Wooden, who is off to a 5-0 start. Fitz certainly likes his wrestler's chances to make some noise later in the season.

Once upon a time, teams from Hunterdon County looked down their collective noses at those from Mercer County. Once dubbed by Hunterdon coaches as the "609ers," in reference to that locale's area code, Mercer wrestlers are no longer pushovers in the District 17 Tournament, advancing 14 to Region 5 last season.

Pit-fall for host Stateliners

For many that grew up watching Phillipsburg during its dynasty years, Thursday's 30-28 loss to Franklin was a probably a bit of a stunner. Especially since it was the first home match of the season for second-year coach Dave Post's squad. But Franklin is for real, folks.

Coach Rick Krieger has his Warriors believing and obviously had his kids prepared to wrestle in one of the most difficult venues for an opposing team. The notorious "Pit" has buckled the knees of many opponents over the years. It was the Stateliners' first loss in a home opener since a 39-19 setback against Howell on Dec. 22, 2005. Since 1990, P'burg is a staggering 431-57-1 against New Jersey opponents, but 42 defeats have come in the last 12 seasons.

This was Franklin's first-ever win in 16 matches against Phillipsburg dating to the 1995-96 season when the 'Liners joined the Skyland Conference, and the two teams were forced to wrestle. Previously, a 27-point win in 2004 was the closest margin of victory in the series. All others were complete blowouts, including a 75-0 shutout in 1999.

Krieger, who never won in The Pit as a star wrestler for Delaware Valley in the early 1990s, saw his Franklin team win three of four overtime bouts, including a huge pin by Region 5 champion Jake Balestrieri at 132. Balestrieri trailed, 8-4, against freshman Jim Schuitema late in regulation before tying the bout and eventually earning the fall in OT.

The 'Liners are another team that's had lofty expectations thrust upon them this season. Nothing new there in P'burg, but this team will need some time to gel. The new weight classes have helped this bunch, but there are still a few wrestlers that need to come through in tough matches.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wrestling preview: Newton at High Point

What: Newton Braves at High Point Wildcats.

Where: High Point Regional High School, Wantage, N.J.

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Conference: Northwest Jersey Athletic (non-division).

Records: Newton 0-1; High Point 2-0.

Coaches: Eric Bollette (147-91-1, 11th season); John Gardner (234-63-2, 14th season).

Series history: High Point leads 31-7 dating to 1970, including a 50-15 victory last season on Dec. 23, 2010. 'Cats have won eight straight in the series, their second-longest streak since winning 17 in a row from 1986 to 2002. Newton's last win the series was 31-27 during the 2002-03 season. Braves won five of the first six meetings from 1970-79 and 31-21 in 1985.

Note: Newton wrestlers listed first with records in parentheses.

106 -- Sr. Ashley Iliff (1-2) vs. Sr. John Torppey (4-2) or Fr. Dom Gallo (0-2).

113 -- So. Anthony Brown (0-0) vs. or Jr. Collin Grimm (2-2) or Torppey.

120 -- Sr. Connor Huber (0-2) vs. Fr. Mike Derin (2-0) or So. Chris Auer (4-2) or Grimm.

126 -- Jr. Jason VanDerGroef (0-1) vs. Jr. Connor McHugh (0-0) or Derin or Auer.

132 -- Sr. Steven Churchill (4-0) vs. Fr. Jason Gaccione (2-0).

138 -- So. Niko Grello (3-2) vs. Sr. Alec Alvino (3-3).

145 -- Sr. Logan Morales (0-3) vs. So. Brien Alvino (1-0) or So. Brett Picher (0-3).

152 -- Jr. Josh Sibblies (4-1) or Sr. Justin Hu (0-1) vs. So. Thomas Hooker (1-4).

160 -- Sibblies or Hu vs. So. Antonio Porraspita (2-2).

170 -- So. Garrett Richards (0-3) vs. Sr. Kevin Pettenger (1-3).

182 -- Open vs. So. Kyle Stoll (2-0).

195 -- Sr. Jake Connelly (4-0) vs. So. Drew Bye (2-3).

220 -- Open vs. So. Gunther Wassong (1-2) or So. Robert McDonnell (2-0).

285 -- Sr. Brandon Grant (2-1) vs. Sr. Chris Epperly (0-3).

Breakdown: First big showdown in the Sussex County area this season. High Point is off to a 2-0 start with just about an all-new cast and rates as the favorite in this one against a Newton team that is battling injuries and inexperience at several weights. Torppey-Iliff at 106 would be a battle between District 3 placewinners. Torppey earned a 9-1 major over Iliff in last year's dual. The Braves are only favored in four weight classes with Region 1 placers Churchill and Connelly, along with Sibblies and Grant. Grello-Alvino at 138 could be interesting. High Point would be heavily-favored in all others, likely getting forfeits at 182 and 220. 'Cats have not lost a conference dual since 2005 -- a 39-18 loss to Kittatinny on Jan. 22. High Point is 50-0 overall in both SCIL and NJAC matches dating to the 2005-06 season and has a 54-match conference win streak.

Prediction: High Point, 49-23.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Early season's big meetings on HWS mats

We're just getting started and there are several big matches this week to serve as early holiday gifts for all of you hardcore wrestling junkies.

Wednesday's action includes a pair of juicy showdowns, including a matchup between two of New Jersey's most storied programs, as Hunterdon Central makes the long trek to Sussex County for a showdown with Newton.

On Thursday, Franklin travels to the notorious Pit in Phillipsburg for a key Skyland Conference clash in front of what should be a boisterous sell-out crowd.

Here's a closer look at some of the big mid-week meets. In talking to several coaches over the weekend, it appears several teams have had issues with wrestlers and the hydration process. As a result, we may not see guys at their lowest weights until at least January or not at all in some cases.

Check back here later in the week as we take a look at two big duals on Friday. Newton travels to High Point for a key NJAC meeting, while North Hunterdon visits Hunterdon Central in a battle of county rivals.

Hunterdon Central at Newton, 6 p.m. on Wednesday

Plenty of questions surrounding the two teams as both may be without some starters. 

Central only entered 10 wrestlers in last weekend's Caldwell Tournament, where the Red Devils finished sixth out of eight teams. Reportedly, sophomore star Gary Dinmore, who finished fourth at 132 pounds, was injured and may sit this one out. The district and region champ forfeited his third-place bout.

In addition, coach Steve Gibble's team did not enter anyone at 106 or 113. Sophomore Dylan Nace, who won the 120-pound title, is expected to drop to 113. Gibble is four dual wins away from 300 overall.

Newton is coming off a third-place finish at the Mount Olive Tournament. Coach Eric Bollette's team is looking for the program's first win over Central since the 1972-73 season. The schools have met only three times since, with the Red Devils winning all three (53-6 in 1989), (37-24 in 2010) and (38-20 last season). Hunterdon Central leads the all-time series, 11-9, dating to 1956.

Seniors Steven Churchill (132) and Jake Connelly (195) lead the Braves into this one, but junior Josh Sibblies may be involved in the biggest bout of the night at 152 against Central's David Fenton. Sibblies was expected to have a breakout sophomore campaign before suffering a season-ended knee injury, while Fenton placed third in District 17 last season.

This match should be decided in the upper weights, though Newton will likely forfeit at 220. In addition, the Braves have the potential for more bonus-point wins. Should be a good one.

High Point at Jefferson, 7 p.m. on Wednesday

Another intriguing matchup as both teams seem a bit mysterious right now.

High Point, which won 98 dual meets the last four seasons, is no longer a juggernaut and finished 31st out of 32 teams this past weekend at the rugged King of the Mountain Tournament. The Wildcats were without several starters, however, including Region 1 qualifier Jason Snider. His status is unknown.

District champion John Torppey (106) is one of only three returning starters. We could get our first look at talented freshmen Dom Gallo (106), Mike Derin (120) and Jason Gaccione (132). The 'Cats have not lost a conference dual since 2005 -- a 39-18 loss to Kittatinny on Jan. 22. High Point is 49-0 in both SCIL and NJAC matches since the 2005-06 season and owns a 53-match conference win streak.

Jefferson, which finished eighth among 13 teams at the TCNJ Pride Tournament on Saturday, also was hit hard by graduation. But the Falcons have some quality wrestlers such as sophomore Bryan Damon (106), senior Pat Ferguson (132) and senior Ryan Higgins (138). Damon won a TCNJ title, and blue-chip freshman Luke Bohn finished second at 145. Junior Steve Dallicardillo was fourth at 182.

Franklin at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m. on Thursday

The Warriors are on the upswing under the direction of former Delaware Valley state champion Rick Krieger, who previously served as the head coach at Wilson (Pa.).

Franklin returns a wealth of talent from last year's squad that went 19-3, including senior Jake Balestrieri (district and region champ) at 126, junior Ryan Kaplan (district and region placewinner) at 138, sophomore Mike Fagg-Daves (region champion) at 152 and junior Anthony Messner (district champ, region second) at 195.

Phillipsburg is fresh off an impressive fifth-place showing at the King of the Mountain and second-year coach Dave Post's squad is primed for a run at the Group 4 title. But first thing's first and that's getting past a dangerous opponent.

Senior Brandon Hull (220) finished second at the KOM and was eighth in the state tournament a year ago. He anchors a solid group of upper weights. Senior V.J. Delmonico (152) also took a silver medal at KOM, while freshman Jim Schuitema placed fifth at 132. He could square off with either Balestrieri or Fagg-Daves. Delmonico-Kaplan and Hull-Messner could also be quality matchups.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wrestling: Saturday notes and tidbits

The first Saturday of the 2011-12 season was quite a mix of dual meets and tournaments involving teams from Hunterdon-Warren Sussex. Here's a rundown of all the day's events:

Caldwell Tournament

Clarke Moynihan, Kieran Gerrity and Dylan Wunder all won individual titles as Kittatinny stormed to the team championship. Coach John Gill's Cougars easily outdistanced runner-up Paramus, 212 to 187. Hunterdon Central finished sixth in the eight-team field with 100 points, while Hackettstown took last with 57.

Moynihan decked Randolph's Sean Rodgers in 50 seconds for the 152-pound crown. Gerrity pinned Paramus'  Nick Bucci in 3:05 for the 160-pound title and Wunder stuck Paramus' Lirodon Maloku in 3:10 for the 195-pound gold.

Avelino Jacinto (126), Nick Romyns (138), Garrett Armstrong (182) and Jacob Drellich (220) all finished second for Kittatinny. Jacinto, a state placewinner in 2009, reportedly suffered another shoulder injury in the finals and had to default against Somerville's Nick Wahba. Shoulder problems have plagued Jacinto the last two seasons.

Central sophomore Dylan Nace won the 120-pound title, while teammate Tyler Cote finished second at 145.

King of the Mountain
V.J. Delmonico
(152) and Brandon Hull (220) each finished second for Phillipsburg in the rugged tournament at Central Mountain High School in Pennsylvania.

The Stateliners placed five wrestlers in all. Anthony Pare was third at 285, Zach Fisher took sixth at 113 and freshman Jim Schuitema placed fifth at 132. P'burg finished fifth in the team standings with 137 points. Erie McDowell (Pa.) (190), Massillon Perry of Ohio (187), Parkland (Pa.) (159) and Greater Latrobe (Pa.) (137 1/2) were the top four teams.

Delmonico was majored by Massillon Perry state champ Zack Dailey, 17-3, in the final. Hull, who finished eighth at New Jersey states last season, dropped a 10-8 decision to Pennsylvania state placewinner Tyson Searer, who was seventh in Class AAA at 215.

High Point, which finished No. 1 in New Jersey last season, had a rough tournament and finished 31st out of 32 teams. The Wildcats were missing several starters, including senior Jason Snider. Coach John Gardner said earlier in the week that he planned to hold out freshmen Dom Gallo (106), Mike Derin (120) and Jason Gaccione (132).

District 3 champion John Torppey went 2-2 at 106 pounds for the 'Cats, as did Collin Grimm at 113, Chris Auer at 120 and Alec Alvino at 138. No other High Point wrestler won more than one bout.

For brackets and team standings, click here:

Hopatcong Invitational

Highly-regarded freshman Ryan Pomrinca was among three individual winners that carried North Hunterdon to the team championship in Hopatcong.

Pomrinca edged Bobby Jordan of Woodbridge, 2-1 in overtime, to claim the 113-pound title. Teammates Beau Vrancken (160) and Dan Pepe (195) also won for the Lions, who earned 116 1/2 team points. Eric Martin (120) and Joe Ragsdale (170) finished second for coach Tim Flynn's squad.

St. Joseph-Montvale was second with 98 1/2 and Wayne Valley third with 90. Belvidere placed sixth as a team with 66 points, Hopatcong eighth with 15 and Sparta was last with 10 points.

Senior Dylan Thorsen (132) and junior Ryan Appleby (285) were champions for the County Seaters.

Thorsen defeated North Hunterdon sophomore Mike Ciavarro, 7-3, while Appleby beat St. Joseph's Matt Marcazo, 8-6.

Mount Olive Tournament
Steven Churchill
(132) and Jake Connelly (195) rolled to individual titles as Newton finished third in the annual Mount Olive Tournament.

Ashley Iliff (106), Niko Grello (138) and Josh Sibblies (152) all finished second for the Braves, who amassed 118 points. Pequannock claimed the team title with 172 points, while Mendham finished second with 153.

Churchill won by injury default over Pequannock star R.J. DeGeorge, who suffered an ankle injury and could not continue after the second period. Churchill, who was third in Region 1 last season, was winning, 6-2, at the time of the default.

Connelly earned a 7-3 win over Old Tappan's Keith Rodman in a battle of region placewinners. Connelly was fourth in Region 1 last season at 145, while Rodman competed at 285 in Region 2. What a difference a year makes.

Sibblies lost a tough 5-4 decision to Region 1 qualifier Tyler VanDyke of Pequannock.

In a great matchup at 170, Mendham state champ Ryan Harrington earned the title with a 3-1 win over Pequannock's Keith Lemongello. Pequannock's Chaz Coppa was named the OW following a 2-0 win over Madison's Patsy Davis in the 126-pound final.

Dover Tournament

Junior Matt Benvenuto claimed the 126-pound title and was among five finalists for second-place Lenape Valley in Dover.

Benvenuto, a Region 1 qualifier last season, pinned Roxbury's Jake Legotte in 1:32. Dom LaBell (132), Joe LaBell (138), Andrew LaBell (170) and Kristian Barret (182) all finished second for the Patriots.

Roxbury won the team championship with 165, 24 points better than Lenape Valley.

Voorhees beat Warren Hills on criteria

In a much-anticipated showdown of top area teams, Voorhees earned the win on criteria No. 8 (most first points scored). The match ended 31-31 on the scoreboard.

A big swing occurred at 182 pounds, where Voorhees junior Nick Ruggiero decked Ryker Kern after being down, 10-3, in the bout. Christian Okulicz also earned a big 3-1 decision over Joe Kratochvil at 132.

Both teams earned wins over South Jersey teams Clearview and Egg Harbor in the quad meet at Voorhees High School.

New weight debate

Here's one for all who hate the new weight classes. In the Mount Olive Tournament, only three wrestlers were entered in the 182-pound bracket.

Wrestling: Streaks pin down Seaters in opener

Warren Hills' wrestling team came up big in the bonus round in the season opener against Warren County rival Belvidere on Friday.

The Blue Streaks won a total of nine bouts, including seven pins, en route to an impressive 48-26 victory in a Skyland Conference clash before a packed house at Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington.

Coach Jarrett Hosbach was pleased with his team's aggressive nature and penchant for finishing matches. Warren Hills has a tough opening week with Voorhees on Saturday, followed by a road trip to Franklin on Wednesday for a pair of Skyland Conference showdowns.

"It seemed like we got a little momentum going early, and the starting weight [285 pounds] helped us," Hosbach said. "It was a packed house and that's the way it should be. When I wrestled at P'burg you always felt that energy [from the home crowd at The Pit]. It was a great night for the sport of wrestling."

Senior Dan Smith started the night with a key 9-4 decision over Belvidere junior J.B. Lawson at 285 and that helped set the tone for the hosts. Smith, who was a third-place finisher in District 1 last season, scored the opening takedown before getting reversed into a four-point move while riding high with the legs in. But he recovered nicely in the second period, turning Lawson and earning a four-point nearfall as the bout was stopped because of Lawson's bloody nose. Smith nearly had what would have been an eighth pin for the Streaks.

Good-looking freshman Max Nauta decked Matt Hambacher in 42 seconds at 106 to trigger a run of three straight pins that gave Warren Hills a commanding 21-0 lead four bouts into the match.

"We expected to see Lawson [at 285] and we were hoping to get that one," Hosbach said. "That really got the ball rolling."

The Thorsen brothers, Jesse and Dylan, stopped the bleeding temporarily as Belvidere attempted to get back into the match. Jesee Thorsen earned a 6-3 win over Justin Pidoto in a battle of Region 1 qualifiers at 126, while Dylan Thorsen pinned Tom Rush at 132 to make it 21-9.

But junior Joe Kratochvil scored a big 3-2 win over promising Belvidere freshman Ken Kane at 138 to swing the momentum back to Warren Hills. The bout was tied 1-1 late in the third when Kane attempted a Konkrete Special that Kratochvil countered for the winning takedown with 20 seconds left.

"One thing Joe did was he kept the pressure on [Kane]," Hosbach said. "He doesn't do anything flashy. He grinds out wins."

Keith Wanamaker and Nate Detrick followed with back-to-back pins at 145 and 152 to make it a 36-9 lead with five bouts remaining.

In the most entertaining bout of the night, Belvidere senior Nathan Dow overcame a 4-2 deficit after one period to deck Brandon Cruse in 3:26. Dow, a fourth-place finisher in Region 1 last season, surrendered two takedowns in the opening period before getting one of his own in the second to tie things at 4 before scoring the fall.

Sophomore Ryan Ostir sealed the match for Warren Hills by decking Tyler Toth in 2:19 at 170.

Warren Hills 48, Belvidere 26

285 -- Sr. Dan Smith, WH, d. Jr. J.B. Lawson, 9-4.

106 -- Fr. Max Nauta, WH, p. Fr. Matt Hambacher, :42.

113 -- So. Tai Adetula, WH, p. So. Kenny Morgan, 1:20.

120 -- Sr. Chris Greenwald, WH, p. Jr. Aaron Castner, 1:03.

126 -- Jr. Jesse Thorsen, B, d. So. Justin Pidoto, 6-3.

132 -- Sr. Dylan Thorsen, B, p. Jr. Tom Rush, 2:37.

138 -- Jr. Joe Kratochvil, WH, d. Fr. Ken Kane, 3-2.

145 -- Sr. Keith Wanamaker, WH, p. Sr. Kelsey Craig, 5:48.

152 -- So. Nate Detrick, WH, p. Fr. Ryan Stephen, 1:41.

160 -- Sr. Nathan Dow, B, p. Sr. Brandon Cruse, 3:26.

170 -- So. Ryan Ostir, WH, p. Jr. Tyler Toth, 2:19.

182 -- Jr. Evan Bray, B, tf. So. Steve Cleaver, 21-6, 4:00.

195 -- Sr. Ryker Kern, WH, p. So. Mark Wolfe, 1:39.

220 -- Jr. Ryan Appleby, B, p. So. Ryan Witner, 5:08.

Records -- Belvidere 0-1; Warren Hills 1-0.

Official -- Russ Scorese.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wrestling preview: Belvidere at Warren Hills

Belvidere County Seaters at Warren Hills Blue Streaks.

Where: Warren Hills Regional High School, Washington Township.

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Conference: Skyland (non-division).

Records: Belvidere 0-0; Warren Hills 0-0.

Coaches: Dan McIntyre (first season); Jarrett Hosbach (77-68, sixth season).

Series history: Warren Hills leads 34-8 dating to 1965, including a 55-17 victory in the last meeting between Warren County rivals on Jan. 31, 2009. Belvidere's last win was in 2001, capping a five-match win streak in the series. The County Seaters' only other wins came in 1973, and '84 and '93. The series was continuous from 1965-94, but the teams did not meet in 1995, 1996, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Note: Belvidere wrestlers listed first with last year's varsity records and postseason accomplishments where applicable in parentheses.

106 -- Fr. Matt Hambacher vs. Fr. Max Nauta.

113 -- So. Kenny Morgan (2-6) or Jr. Zafer Deyer (8-19) vs. So. Tai Adetula (14-18) or Fr. John Fluck.

120 -- Jr. Aaron Castner (14-9, D4) or So. Nick Falzarano vs. Sr. Chris Greenwald (19-16, D4) or So. Justin Pidoto (26-14, D3).

126 -- Jr. Jesse Thorsen (24-11, D2) or Castner or Falzarano vs. Greenwald or Pidoto.

132 -- Sr. Dylan Thorsen (36-3, D1, R3) or So. Tyler Dombrosky (2-7) or J. Thorsen vs. Sr. Keith Wanamaker (22-13) or Jr. Joe Kratochvil (15-16, D4).

138 -- Fr. Ken Kane or D. Thorsen or Dombrosky vs. Wanamaker or Kratochvil.

145 -- Sr. Kelsey Craig (7-18) or Kane vs. So. Nate Detrick (2-4).

152 -- Fr. Ryan Stephen or Jr. Jake Friedmann or Craig vs. Sr. Brandon Cruse (9-14 in 2010) or So. Ryan Ostir (11-18).

160 -- Stephen or Friedmann vs. So. Evan Butka (6-9) or Ostir.

170 -- Sr. Nathan Dow (33-7, D2, R4) vs. So. Steve Cleaver or Butka.

182 -- Jr. Evan Bray (19-12, D3) vs. Sr. Ryker Kern (4-9).

195 -- Fr. John Falzarano or So. Mark Wolfe (1-0) vs. So. Ryan Witner or Jr. Andrew Papanastasiou (0-2).

220 -- Jr. J.B. Lawson (20-10) vs. Witner or Papanastasiou.

285 -- Jr. Ryan Appleby (1-0) vs. Sr. Dan Smith (27-12, D3).

Breakdown: Good to see these longtime rivals hooking up again. First of five big home matches on Friday nights for the Blue Streaks, who are employing a DJ and prize giveaways to bring out the students. Warren Hills rates the favorite in this one. Figure the Streaks to have the edge at 106, 113, 120, 138, 152, 160, 195 and 285. Seaters likely need to steal one and minimize bonus points, because they'll be heavy underdogs at a lot of those weights. Belvidere looking for bonus points at 170, 182 and 220. Good matchup at 126 with Jesse Thorsen against either Greenwald or Pidoto. Dylan Thorsen favored wherever he goes. I think Warren Hills gets too many bonus points and that's the difference.

Prediction: Warren Hills, 42-27.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011-12 Hunterdon-Warren wrestling preview

Belvidere County Seaters

Coach: Dan McIntyre (first season).

2010-11 record: 9-12, 3-2 Skyland Conference Valley Division.

Key returnees: So. Kenny Morgan (2-6) 113, Jr. Zafer Deyer 113, Jr. Aaron Castner (14-9, D4) 120, Jr. Jesse Thorsen (24-11, D2) 120-126, Sr. Dylan Thorsen (36-3, D1, R3) 126-132, So. Tyler Dombrosky (2-7) 126-132, Sr. Kelsey Craig 138-145, Jr. Dave Brewer 132-138, Sr, Nathan Dow (33-7, D2, R4) 152-160, Jr. Evan Bray (19-12, D3) 170-182, Jr. J.B. Lawson (20-10) 195-285.

Key loss: Kyle VanWingerden (19-11, D4).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Matt Hambacher 106, Fr. Ture Leahey 106, Fr. Colt Williams 113, So. Nick Falzarano 120, Fr. Brett Hoffmaster 120-126, Fr. Luke Ciraky 126, Fr. Brendon Leon-Rossi 126, Fr. Kenny Kane 132-138, Jr. Keith Mason 132-138, Jr. Dylan Zelus 138-145, Fr. Rene Sousa 145, Fr. Ryan Stephen 145-152, Jr. Jake Friedmann 145-152, Jr. Tyler Toth 152-160, Jr. Darien Edwards 152-160, Sr. Vinny Pisano 152-160, Sr. Alex McKibben 160-170, Sr. Anthony Pelosi 160-170, Jr. Ryan Appleby 195-285, Fr. John Falzarano 195-220, So. Steven Foster-Morse 195-220.

Outlook: County Seaters enjoyed a resurgence under former coach Tom Noto, who resurrected an all but dead program. Now, Belvidere has numbers and the talent to be a successful team. McIntyre, formerly an outstanding coach at Pleasant Valley
(Pa.), comes out of retirement and inherits a good group poised to make some noise this season. Dylan Thorsen is one of the top wrestlers in Region 1 and is closing in on the school record for victories. At 94-11 overall, Thorsen is 28 shy of matching Tyler Smith's mark of 122. Younger brother, Jesse, along with Dow, Bray and Lawson are all proven winners. If the new kids can hold their own, it could be an exciting season in Warren County.

Delaware Valley Terriers

Coach: Andy Fitz (74-24, fifth season).

2010-11 record: 19-3, 6-0 Skyland Conference Raritan Division champion.

Key returnees: So. Michael Adam (5-2) 113, Jr. Matt Gilmore (22-7, D4) 120, Jr. Mike Pongracz (38-4, D1, R1, S8) 126, So. Austin McLaughlin (3-4) 132, So. Holden Baker (4-4) 132, Sr. Derek Zehnbauer (31-7, D2, R3) 138, Sr. Will Kimball (2-2) 145, Jr. Alex Niemann (9-10) 152, So. Kody Eichlin (18-17, D4) 160, So. Luke Zehnbauer (10-8, D4) 170, Sr. Will Van Doren (29-8, D2, R3) 182, Sr. Don Glorioso 195, Sr. Forrest Wooden 285.

Key losses: Cody Barbiche (39-2, D1, R1, S4), Kevin Guenther (25-9, D4), Mike Rogers (22-15, D3), Nick Maddalena (21-6, D4).

Promising newcomers: Jr. Chris Marra 106, Sr. Tino Intili 138, So. Codey Leh 145, So. Brian Baehr 220.

Outlook: Terriers lost four very solid wrestlers to graduation, but there's plenty in the cupboard to make a strong run at a sectional championship and possibly a Group 2 title. Pongracz is a returning state medalist and boasts 75 career wins. Derek Zehnbauer and Van Doren are also returning state qualifiers. The biggest question, as has been the case for some time now, is the Hunterdon County school's upper weights (195, 220 and 285). If those wrestlers can minimize bonus points it will be a big key. Fitz says Wooden is much improved and that would be a plus. Del Val is also inexperienced in a few of the lighter classes.

Hackettstown Tigers

Coach: Frank Rodgers (162-134-4, ninth season of second stint, 16th overall).

2010-11 record: 16-5, 4-1 NJAC Freedom Division.

Key returnees: So. Tony Figueroy (11-19) 106, Jr. Tyler Kozimor (20-7, D1) 126, Jr. Brandon Rothman (19-14, D3) 132, Sr. Chris Bohm 152, Sr. Jake Deleasa 170.

Key losses: Ryan Nicotra (33-5, D2, R1), Rob Napolitano (22-8), Jordan Perrine (14-15), Matt Malejko (17-13), Jason Rothman (21-5, D4), Robert McGeorge (12-17), Kyle Kathenes (24-9, D3), Fred Jennings (24-9, D4), Steve Giraldo (28-8, D1).

Promising newcomers: So. Matt Nicotra 113 (transfer from Easton, Pa.), So. Khilian Bernard 120, Jr. Ben Wylie 120-126, Jr. Remi Safarpour 160, Joe Clarke 195, Sr. Ismail Saleh 285.

Outlook: Tigers start a major rebuilding effort after a strong seven-year run in which they reached double-digit win totals in each season. That would be an ambitious goal for this season, but the Tigers do have some quality wrestlers to rally behind in Kozimor and Rothman. Other than that, there are lots of question marks for this team entering the season.

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

Coach: Steve Gibble (296-104, 21st season).

2010-11 record: 16-4, 5-1 Skyland Conference Delaware Division.

Key returnees: So. Dylan Nace (30-7, D2, R4) 113, Jr. Tim Higginson (10-5) 120, So. Gary Dinmore (31-3, D1, R1) 126, Jr. Dylan Cote (12-13, D4) 138, Jr. Tyler Cote (18-8, D2) 145, Jr. David Fenton (17-15, D3) 152, Sr. Ryan Larkin 160, Sr. Tom Scerbo (19-10, D4) 160, Sr. Hunter Greer 195.

Key losses: Jr. Grady Orr (17-15, D3 did not come out), Matt Boylan (21-16, D3), Chris Carey (30-7, D1, R3), Jake Maffucci (27-4, D1, R4), Derek Knoop (17-14, D4).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Kyler Rodriguez 106, Fr. Hunter Orr 106, So. Colin Boylan 132, Fr. Joe Scerbo 132, Jr. Kevin Martinez 152, Jr. Paul Rallis 170, So. Arturo Hernandez 170, Fr. Nestor Crespo 182, Fr. Leo Aquino 182, Sr. Anthony Ikotidem 220, Jr. Gabe Barba 220, Sr. Jason Auricchio 285, Sr. Jimmy Lynch 285.

Outlook: Red Devils lost five district placewinners from a year ago, but six others return including Dinmore, a district and region champ as a freshman. Nace also had a fine rookie season and those two will help anchor a young group of lower weights. The middle weights should be fine, but the real question mark is the big boys. How the upper weights fare could go a long way into whether or not Central enjoys a successful dual season. Coach Gibble also is closing in on 300 wins.

North Hunterdon Lions

Coach: Tim Flynn (26-16, third season).

2010-11 record: 16-6, 4-2 Skyland Conference Delaware Division.

Key returnees: Jr. Matt Moncourtois (28-10, D3) 106, So. Eric Martin (3-5) 113-120, Sr. Matt Wilson 126-132, So. Mike Ciavarro (11-12, D3) 132-138, Sr. Matt Doscher (12-14, D3) 138-145, Jr. Brandon Loftus, Sr. Beau Vrancken (33-6, D2, R1) 152-160, Jr. Liam Korbul (20-16, D3) 170-182, Sr. Joe Ragsdale (11-15, D2) 170, Jr. Dan Pepe (4-6) 182-195.

Key losses: Josh Giordano (13-19), Pat Boyle (23-11, D4), Chris Cancelliere (35-6, D1, R2), Andrew Reed (13-16), Kyle Nerger (29-9, D1, R3), Jack Delia (38-1, D1, R1, S2).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Paul Robinson 106, Fr. Ryan Pomrinca 113, Fr. Mike Sicola 120-126, So. Joe Guzzo 160-170, Sr. Konnor Meckler 152-160, Sr. Sean Obidike 195-220, Jr. Brad Straight 220.

Outlook: The defending District 17 champion Lions are always well coached, so they usually have a strong chance to meet or exceed expectations. The loss of seven starters to graduation, including state qualifiers Cancelliere, Nerger and Delia, hurts. Delia, at two-time state finalist and now at Lehigh, was one of the most accomplished wrestlers in program history and leaves a big void at 285. Vrancken is as tough as they come and should be a contender for a state medal this season. With five other region qualifiers returning, expect this group to be successful. If the younger guys can step up, another 15- to 16-win season could very well be within reach.

North Warren Patriots

Coach: Matt Parzero (8-9, second season).

2010-11 record: 8-9, 3-2 Skyland Conference Valley Division.

Key returnees: So. Devon Lyons (4-8) 106, So. Matty Ritchie (22-9, D1) 113, So. Jack Norgard (3-6) 126, So. Johnny Hayes (10-13) 132, Jr. Mason Ryzoff (19-12, D3) 138, Sr. Vinny Orlandi (8-13) 145, Jr. Michael Clothier 145, Sr. Jordan Palanca 152, Sr. Mike Staufenberger (19-11, D2) 160, Sr. Dillon Torppey (11-13) 170, Sr. Dan Hauck (13-11) 182, Jr. Tim Chayka (9-13) 195, Sr. Kenny Hroback (4-7) 220, Jr. Chris Longyhore (15-13, D2) 285.

Key losses: Nick Barzano (13-3), Mike Lascari (12-10).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Zach Jones 106, Fr. Geno Fluri 106, So. Nico Fluri 120.

Outlook: Patriots return all but two from last year's team that qualified for the sectional playoffs, so expectations for a better than .500 dual season are certainly realistic. Ritchie won a district title as a freshman before a disappointing region tournament, so he should be hungry for better postseason results. Ryzoff, Staufenberger and Longyhore are all region qualifiers. If the guys who hovered around .500 or below last season take a step up, this group could enjoy a lot of team success. Time will tell. This is the school's final season in the Skyland before moving to the NJAC for 2012-13.

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Coach: Dave Post (13-6, second season).

2010-11 record: 13-6, 5-0 Skyland Conference Delaware Division champion.

Key returnees: Jr. Zach Fisher (18-15) 113, Jr. Andrew Kaluzny (21-17, D3) 120, Jr. Anthony Johnson (6-0) 132, Sr. Justin Lane (15-16) 138, Sr. Tyler Rehl (14-15, D3) 145, So. Jake Kocsis (1-1) 145, Sr. V.J. Delmonico (25-15, D3) 152, Sr. Joe Moyer (18-18, D1) 160, Sr. Devin Grade (5-8) 170, Sr. Shaun Maloy (4-4) 182, Sr. Larry Giammarco (7-10, D2) 182, Sr. Derek Pierson (11-11, D3) 195, Sr. Brandon Hull (34-9, D1, R2, S8) 220, Sr. Anthony Pare (17-11, D2) 285.

Key losses: Matt Lane (33-8, D1, R1), Rylan Watson (27-12, D1, R4), Dan Brockerhoff (28-11, D1, R2).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Steve Friedman 106, Fr. Max Elling 126, Fr. Jim Schuitema 132-138.

Outlook: Stateliners are in the minority as a beneficiary to the new weight classes. With plenty of strength in the upper weights and balance throughout the lineup, Phillipsburg is primed for another run at the Group 4 championship after losing to Jackson in Toms River last season. Hull is the lone star on this team, which will be a much better dual squad than tournament team. Moyer was a surprise district champion a year ago. Keep an eye on Johnson, who was unbeaten in six varsity matches.

Voorhees Vikings

Coach: Eric Hall (22-5, second season).

2010-11 record: 22-5, 4-1 Skyland Conference Raritan Division.

Key returnees: So. Cody Ihling (1-1) 106, So. Thomas Bieshke 113, Jr. Tyler Yarnell (19-13, D4) 120, Sr. Tim Zehnbauer (4-5) 120, Sr. Walter Gonsiewski (20-9) 126, So. Christian Okulicz (21-11) 132, Sr. Ronnie Honickel (36-3, D1, R1) 145, Sr. Steven Baker (23-10, D3) 152, So. Jordan Juliano 160, Jr. Jadaen Bernstein (39-1, D1, R1, S2) 170, Jr. Nick Ruggiero 182, Sr. Chet Stivers (9-14) 195-220.

Key losses: Mike Busch (3-3), Chris Davis (30-8, D1, R4), Zach Bohn (31-7, D1, R4), Brian Guevara (27-7, D2).

Promising newcomers: So. Dale Hull 138, So. Mike Muscatello 138, So. Will Gonsiewski 138, Jr. Kyle Levy 195, Jr. Emilio Guevara 195, Sr. Max Lamport 220.

Outlook: Vikings are on the upswing under Hall, whose father, Bob, started the program back in 1975. The young and enthusiastic coach has breathed new life into one of the state's most storied programs. After establishing a school record for dual wins last season, Voorhees is anxious to improve on that total. The team put in a lot of work in the offseason, so expectations are once again very high. Bernstein is a returning state finalist and a great success story after finishing 15-14 as a freshman. Honickel, a state qualifier, also seeks a medal in AC this season.

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

Coach: Jarrett Hosbach (77-68, seventh season).

2010-11 record: 12-14, 2-4 Skyland Conference Raritan Division.

Key returnees: So. Taiwo Adetula (14-18) 113, So. Justin Pidoto (26-14, D3) 120-126, Sr. Chris Greenwald (19-16, D4) 120-126, Sr. Keith Wanamaker (22-13) 132, Jr. Joe Kratochvil (15-16, D4) 132, Jr. Kevin Bundschuh (19-17, D4) 138-145, So. Nate Detrick (2-4) 145, Sr. Brandon Cruse 152, Jr. Xavier Adetula 152, So. Ryan Ostir (11-18) 152-160, So. Evan Butka (6-9) 160-170, Sr. Ryker Kern (4-9) 182, Sr. Dan Smith (27-12, D3), Sr. Billy Segreaves 285, Jr. Tyler Bridygham 285.

Key losses: Billy Butka (26-11, D2), Alonzo Widenor (15-14).

Promising newcomers: Fr. Max Nauta 106, Fr. Austin Pidoto 106, Fr. Christian Wanamaker 106, Fr. John Fluck 113, So. Steve Cleaver 170, So. Ryan Witner 195, Fr. Andrew Pacheco 285.

Outlook: Lots of excitement in Washington surrounding this team as the Blue Streaks look poised to make a major leap this season. Solid core with Pidoto, Greenwald, Wanamaker, Bundschuh and Smith. Cruse returns after missing all of last season with an injury after showing flashes as a sophomore. Nauta and Pacheco are two good-looking freshmen from a very deep and talented feeder program. This team has a world of potential and needs to make it all come together.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Streaks' field hockey team stands up to cancer

The varsity, junior varsity and freshman field hockey teams at Warren Hills Regional High School recently held a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Coach Laurie Kerr and the Blue Streaks helped raise money in memory of Dawn Flynn, the mother of sophomore field hockey player, Amy Flynn. Dawn Flynn recently lost her battle against lung cancer. The team did a straight donation or pledge for every goal scored this past season from Oct. 10-15.

In all, Warren Hills raised $1,800. Danielle Leonard, the director of special events, presented Warren Hills with a check in that amount on Nov. 21.

Warren Hills produced one of the best seasons in program history this fall, going 22-2 and capturing the Skyland Conference Raritan Division and Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex titles. The Streaks reached the North 2, Group 3 sectional final, falling 3-2 to eventual Group 3 champion Freehold Borough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Skyland Conference Field Hockey All-Stars

Delaware Division


Forwards -- Kim Engelhart, Hunterdon Central, sr.; Caroline Murphy, Bridgewater-Raritan, sr.; Julia Mallozzi, Hillsborough, sr.; Catherine Caro, Bridgewater-Raritan, jr.; Rachel Yaney, Bridgewater-Raritan, jr.; Sam Brown, Ridge, jr.; Nicole Barrett, Hunterdon Central, jr.

Midfielders -- Kristen Givens, Hunterdon Central, sr.; Ashley Hough, Pingry, sr.; Katie Ruesterholz, Pingry, jr.; Taylor Mygatt, Bridgewater-Raritan, sr.

Defenders -- Emma Meany, Hillsborough, sr.; Kayla Sullivan, Bridgewater-Raritan, sr.; Jen Finnott, Watchung Hills, sr.

Goalie -- Christen Piersante, Bridgewater-Raritan, jr.


Forwards -- Rebecca Jaeger, Hunterdon Central, sr.; Jackie Schwankert, Hillsborough, jr.; Brigid Bruno, Pingry, jr.; Nicole Arata, Pingry, jr.; Annie Vreeland, Pingry, sr.

Midfielders -- Julie Earle, Hunterdon Central, sr.; Lauren Belskie, Hillsborough, so.; Maryanne Myers, Hillsborough, sr.; Jess Casterline, Bridgewater-Raritan, sr.; Ellexa Thomas, Ridge, so.

Defenders -- Lauren DeVito, Pingry, jr.; Dayle Paustian, Bridgewater-Raritan, jr.; Rachel Longenecker, North Hunterdon, sr.; Claudia Emaunel, Watchung Hills, jr.

Goalies -- Felicia Heard, North Hunterdon, sr.; Maddie Taddeo, Ridge, jr.

Raritan Division


Forwards -- Katie Decker, Phillipsburg, jr.; Lauren Nunes, Phillipsburg, sr.; Lindsey Schott, Warren Hills, sr.; Erica Hrudowsky, Montgomery, jr.; Antoinette Metzler, Voorhees, sr.

Midfielders -- Niki Miller, Warren Hills, jr.; Shari Jones, Montgomery, sr.; Whitney Kowski, Warren Hills, sr.; Nikki Schott, Warren Hills, so.; Erin Miller, Voorhees, sr.

Defenders -- Allison Mannheimer, Montgomery, so.; Jen Hylkema, Warren Hills, sr.; Taylor Irving, Voorhees, sr.; Brie Petrone, Somerville, sr.

Goalies -- Kimmie Pianucci, Voorhees, sr.; Mary Drabich, Delaware Valley, sr.


Forwards -- Priscilla Howell, Phillipsburg, sr.; Rebecca Ramdeo, Franklin, sr.; Kayla Grater, Warren Hills, sr.; Diane Opeikun, Delaware Valley, sr.

Midfielders -- Philly Lumsden, Montgomery, so.; Molly Zgoda, Phillipsburg, jr.; Cat Chen, Voorhees, sr.; Sara Diacik, Voorhees, jr.; Maria Sacchi, Somerville, sr.

Defenders -- Caitlin Clark, Warren Hills, sr.; Courtney Sisputowski, Franklin, sr.; Natalie Colonna, Montgomery, jr.; Caitlyn Slusser, Delaware Valley, jr.; Alex Barish, Voorhees, so.; Juana Guglielimino, Voorhees, sr.

Goalie -- Katie Wintersteen, Warren Hills, jr.


Forward -- Kat Francis, Voorhees, sr.

Midfielders -- Olivia Brogan, Delaware Valley, jr.; Jess Hopf, Somerville, sr.

Defenders -- Jamie Miller, Warren Hills, sr.; Kaelin Conover, Franklin, jr.; Tori Rudo, Montgomery, jr.

Goalie -- Brittany Lavin, Phillipsburg, sr.

Valley Division


Forwards -- Tiffany McKenna, Belvidere, sr.; Kaycee Zelkovski, South Hunterdon, so.

Midfielders -- Kasey Keenan, Belvidere, sr.; Laura Cheatham, Belvidere, sr.; Kelly Albanir, South Hunterdon, sr.; Karli Ribsam, South Hunterdon, sr.; Sarah Knap, Mount St. Mary, sr.; Emma Christus, Bernards, fr.; KeeKee Winslow, Bernards, sr.

Defenders -- Abby McMorrow, Bernards, sr.; Grace Dienes, South Hunterdon, sr.; Katie Murray, Mount St. Mary, sr.; McKenna Kels, Belvidere, sr.; Laurel Shnider, Bernards, sr.

Goalie -- Geolenne Velasquez, North Plainfield, sr.


Forwards -- Jess Towey, North Warren, fr.; Sarah Dickert, Mount St. Mary, sr.; Jenny Reis, Mount St. Mary, sr.; Alexa Beaumont, Belvidere, jr.; Nicole DeHerde, Belvidere, jr.; Rachel Alberti, Bernards, so.; Amber Dey, South Hunterdon, so.; Becca Hendricks, South Hunterdon, sr.

Midfielders -- Morgan Lucas, Belvidere, sr.; Jenny Reilly, North Plainfield, sr.; Brett Lelie, South Hunterdon, so.

Defenders -- Shannon West, North Plainfield, sr.; Sarah Pakrul, Bernards, sr.; Nicole Corcoran, Bernards, sr.

Goalie -- Josee Ritter, Belvidere, sr.


Forwards -- Liz Martinez, Belvidere, sr.; Annie Maass, Bernards, sr.

Goalies -- Sam Soscia, South Hunterdon, so.; Alyssa Torres, Mount St. Mary, jr.

Bold denotes-- Players from Hunterdon and Warren counties

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NJSIAA: Central's loss doesn't spoil fantastic run

Hunterdon Central's field hockey team wasn't pleased with the outcome on Thursday, but the Red Devils are proud of a season that ended with a championship during one of the greatest comeback stories.

Senior right inner Rebecca Jaeger pulled Central within one goal late in the first half, but it wasn't enough to fuel what would have been an improbable comeback in a 4-1 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan in a Group 4 semifinal contest at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights.

Central (14-10), a No. 6 seed, claimed the North 2 sectional title, the program's first since 2007, just three days earlier to set up a third meeting with Skyland Conference nemesis Bridgewater-Raritan (21-3), who had beaten the Red Devils, 7-1 and 4-1, in regular season meetings.

Coach Kathie DeBonis and the Panthers advance to meet 12-time defending champion Eastern for a seventh straight year in the Group 4 final on Sunday at Toms River East. Bridgewater-Raritan, the North 1 sectional champion, has now won 10 straight over Hunterdon Central dating to 2007. Central's last win was 1-0 on Sept. 10 in a regular season meeting that year, which ended with a 2-1 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan in the Group 4 semis. The Devils have also been outscored, 44-6, in those 10 losses.

"Hunterdon Central, for me personally, when I started coaching, they were the team I aspired to be," said DeBonis, whose teams have won seven straight sectional titles dating to 2005. "Going back to [former coach] Sandy Chronic, they were what we tried to emulate. I have an amazing respect for that program. If you want to be the best you study the best. This program wouldn't be where it is if it wasn't for [Central] beating us all those years."

The Hunterdon County school got back onto the state map this season, following back-to-back losing campaigns in 2009 and '10. A year ago, Central coach Jenn Sponzo's team went 3-12-1 and scored a total of 11 goals.

"It's a humble feeling to go [3-12-1]," said Sponzo, the program's winningest coach who captured her sixth sectional title this season. "Going into this season the girls worked hard every day and worked to get that respect [for the program] back."

The Red Devils trailed 2-0 early after junior forward Rachel Yaney popped in one off the pads of Central goalie Fran Orella for her team-leading 25th goal with 19:54 left before halftime. The Panthers got their first off a corner -- a rocket shot into the right corner by Taylor Mygatt -- just under 8 minutes into the contest.

But Central hung tough the rest of the way and made it a one-goal game when Jaeger redirected a ball from senior forward Kim Engelhart inside the right post with 6:27 to go before the break. Suddenly, the Red Devils had the momentum.

But Bridgewater-Raritan got it back early in the second half. Senior midfielder Kayla Sullivan, who played a fantastic game, all but sealed it when she converted a penalty stroke with 23:14 left in the game. The stroke was awarded when a Central defender stopped a shot with her body near the goal line.

Mackenzie Knouse put the finishing touches on the win with an unassisted goal near the six-minute mark.

"Until the stroke I thought we kept it very respectable," Sponzo said.

Central just couldn't quite duplicate it's solid play from the last 10 minutes of the first half in the final 30 minutes.

"After halftime we realized that this is it and we've got to put two goals in to win," Jaeger said. "Maybe we were trying to focus more on putting the ball [in the cage] than working more as a team."

Jaeger was inspired by her team's comeback this season to get within one game of playing for a Group 4 title after a pair of rare down years at the Flemington-based school.

"I could've only dreamed it after last season," she said. "I'm absolutely proud of how far we've come from last year. We all had the teamwork and desire to be here. Everybody here wants to win. It's what helped us get this far."

Hunterdon Central (14-10)               1                   0             --   1
Bridgewater-Raritan (21-3)              2                   2             --   4


First half -- BR, Taylor Mygatt, 11th, (Kayla Sullivan), 22:17; BR, Rachel Yaney, 25th, 19:54; HC, Rebecca Jaeger, 4th, (Kim Engelhart), 6:27.

Second half -- BR, Sullivan, 6th, (penalty stroke), 23:14; BR, Mackenzie Knouse, 2nd, 6:09.

Shots -- Hunterdon Central 5; Bridgewater-Raritan 12.

Saves -- Fran Orella 7, Emily Zengel 1 (defensive) (HC); Christen Piersanti 2, Emily Howart 1 (defensive), Nicole Braun 1 (defensive), (BR).

Penalty corners -- Hunterdon Central 8; Bridgewater-Raritan 19.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warren Hills finally sees the light with Lockhart

When I heard the news that Bob Lockhart was hired to be Warren Hills' new athletic director, two things came to mind.

Good for Bob Lockhart. Great for Warren Hills.

Lockhart, after being passed over a year ago for the same position, was unanimously approved by the nine-member school board on Tuesday. The same board that shot him down at the end of 2010 when Nick Holgash retired. Rarely do we get a second chance to do the right thing. And make no mistake, this is as right as it gets.

Lockhart beams with pride for the school he graduated from in 1977. The former star quarterback also served as the Blue Streaks' head football coach, guiding the 2000 team to the program's first and only sectional championship and retiring with the most wins in school history. His teams won three conference titles and qualified for the state playoffs in five of his final six seasons.

Bottom line: Lockhart was a winner on the field and Warren Hills is the big winner today with him heading up its athletic program. Check out what he told me during our phone conversation on Wednesday afternoon and see if you agree.

"I just have so much pride in Warren Hills and the kids are going to see that," he said. "I take pride in the Blue and White. The expectations [with me as AD] will come from us working hard together. I want to see all of our programs be champions. We have a lot of great coaches. The people I've been in contact with make all the work we've done worthwhile."

Lockhart, a 2006 inductee into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, knows winning and he expects all of the sports programs to compete at a high level. Another one of his goals is to get students, parents and other athletes to come out and support all of the teams.

"Our girls basketball coach Meghan Ruppert came up with a great slogan, I think it's from Maryland: 'Twenty-four sports, one team,'" Lockhart said. "I'm full of energy and I want it to be infectious."

Lockhart certainly had a groundswell of support. I've heard from hundreds of current teachers, coaches, parents and former athletes who always supported his hiring and are extremely happy he's finally getting his due. He taught health and physical education at Warren Hills for 25 years and also coached basketball, baseball and track. During his playing days, Lockhart was an All-Conference quarterback at Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey).

It's refreshing to see a school that has seemed to go out of its way not to hire its own people make the right call.

The man known as "Lock" is also the father of two former standout athletes at Warren Hills. A son, Rob, was a star quarterback following in his father's footsteps and led that 2000 team to the championship. A daughter, Stephanie, was a standout defender on three field hockey teams that won sectional titles and played in the Group 3 finals under coach Laurie Kerr.

Still a young man in his early 50s, Lockhart recently became a grandfather. Rob Lockhart's son, Luke, is four months old. In typical fashion, Bob is already grooming the third generation QB.

"I've already got him throwing [a football]," said a proud grandfather.

Luke Lockhart sure sounds like a quarterback's name to me. Bob Lockhart as Warren Hills' athletic director has a nice ring to it as well.

UPDATE: Lockhart excited to be Streaks' new AD

It was a long time coming, but Warren Hills finally approved Bob Lockhart as its new athletic director during Tuesday night's board of education meeting. He was among two finalists, along with an unnamed candidate from the Dayton, N.J. area, for the job.

Lockhart, a Warren Hills alum and former successful football coach, was turned down for the job at the end of 2010. The Warren County school instead hired Clegg "Buddy" Freund, who was removed from the building at the start of the school year. School administrators said that Freund, who was involved in a sexual assault coverup at Roxbury High School as its AD in 2003, resigned for "health reasons."

Lockhart said he attended Tuesday's meeting and was unanimously approved by the nine-member board.

"I'm just happy it happened," Lockhart said on Wednesday afternoon as he was headed to Lafayette College for football practice where he serves as the Leopards' tight ends coach. "It was something I've wanted and I'm excited to have the opportunity now."

Lockhart has some detractors on the current school board, which obviously made the smart decision this time to hire the man who should've gotten the job the first time around. The board would have looked foolish a second time to turn down a Warren Hills icon and a stand-up guy with high values.

Despite being passed over a year ago, Lockhart held no hard feelings and said he only has love for his alma mater.

"It's a place I always wanted to be," said Lockhart, a 1977 graduate of the Warren County school and former teacher. "My feelings the whole time never changed. It's a great place to work. I always enjoyed being at Warren Hills."

During Lockhart's tenure as football coach, he guided the Blue Streaks to their only sectional championship in 2000. He also served as the school's assistant AD under former boss Nick Holgash, who retired in 2010.

"The most rewarding part about coaching is seeing all the men and women you coached and what they turn out to be," Lockhart said.

Lockhart will resume duties as the AD effective Nov. 21. Interim AD Sal Patti has done an excellent job despite poor health issues. Patti, a former AD at Voorhees, is a true gentleman and should be applauded for his efforts under very difficult circumstances.

Longtime secretary Joan Duryea also stepped in between and basically ran that office until Patti came aboard. The school also owes her a ton of thanks.

NJSIAA: Red Devils looking to continue fantastic run

Hunterdon Central's rich field hockey tradition wasn't lost on a group of players that endured back-to-back losing seasons in 2009 and '10. Their mission from the start of preseason was to return the program to its glory days.

Central hopes to continue what has been a remarkable turnaround campaign on Thursday when it meets Skyland Conference rival Bridgewater-Raritan in one of the Group 4 semifinals at Governor Livingston High School. Game time is 2 p.m.

Freehold Township meets 12-time defending Group 4 champion Eastern in the other semifinal on Thursday. The semifinal winners meet for the state title on Sunday at Toms River East. Eastern defeated Central in four straight Group 4 finals from 2001-04.

Senior forward Kim Engelhart was in eighth grade the last time Hunterdon Central (14-9) advanced this deep into the state playoffs. Her second-half goal against No. 1 seed Montgomery on Monday lifted the sixth-seeded Red Devils to a 2-1 victory in the North 2, Group 4 sectional final. It was the Hunterdon County school's 12th sectional title and first since 2007.

"It's amazing. We did the impossible in a way," said Engelhart of her team's title after a 3-12-1 season a year ago in which it scored a total of 11 goals in 16 games. "We really came together as a team this year."

Junior midfielder/back Chloe Maurice has been at the forefront of a defense that's helped pave the way for a championship. Central has allowed two goals in four postseason games and really did a nice job against Montgomery senior Shari Jones, the Maryland-bound midfielder, in the sectional final. The Cougars had 15 penalty corners in that game and managed only two quality shots, scoring their only goal on one in the first half.

"We definitely went in really determined to shut them down," Maurice said. "We wanted to prove to everybody that we're better than a six seed."

Coach Jenn Sponzo, who picked up her sixth sectional title in her 12 seasons, is really proud of the turnaround this season. Her 2010 team posted the lowest win total of any at the Flemington-based school since the 1986 team won two games. You also have to go back to the 1970s for the last time Central endured consecutive losing seasons, doing so from 1970 through '79.

From one highly-regarded coach to another, Sponzo sought out advice on a preseason conditioning regimen from Warren Hills' Laurie Kerr, whose team lost a one-goal heartbreaker in the North 2, Group 3 final on Tuesday.

Sponzo, who this season passed her former coach Sandy Chronic for most field hockey victories in school history, said that being in better shape this season and having dedicated players was critical to the team's success.

"We call it the pursuit of excellence [at Central]," said Sponzo, whose teams are 177-84-16 overall with four losses in the Group 4 final. "We've peaked at the right time. We have nine losses to all quality teams. We knew we had it in us to win a championship. These kids are great."

Central will continue playing the underdog role against Bridgewater (20-3), which defeated Montclair, 4-0, for the North 1 championship. Coach Kathie DeBonis' Panthers, who have lost to Eastern in the last seven Group 4 finals, beat the Red Devils twice this season, 7-1 and 4-1, in Delaware Division matchups.

In fact, Central has lost nine straight to Bridgewater dating to 2007, including a 7-0 loss in the sectional quarterfinals in '09, a 3-2 loss in the '08 sectional final and a 2-1 loss in the '07 Group 4 semis. In those losses, Central has been outscored by a combined margin of 40-5.

The Red Devils' last victory over the Panthers was 1-0 on Sept. 10, 2007.

"[We're the underdog] whether we like it or not," Maurice said. "We're going to play as hard as we can and fight to the finish. Seeds and being the underdog doesn't really matter."

Win or lose, Central has already put the program back on the map.

"We started the season with a goal of winning the first game, which we didn't even do losing to Pingry in overtime [2-1]," said Engelhart, who leads the team with 19 goals. "But we knew we were headed in the right direction. We're back and it feels amazing."

Now Central would love the feeling of once again playing for a Group 4 title.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NJSIAA: Streaks lose heartbreaker in title game

Warren Hills field hockey team made a valiant effort on Tuesday against a strong team with a great player.

But in the end, the Blue Streaks came up short in their quest for a championship.

Senior Emily Wold scored all three goals, including the game-winner with 1:13 left to play, as top-seeded Freehold Borough prevailed with a 3-2 victory over third-seeded Warren Hills in the North 2, Group 3 sectional final in Freehold.

Warren Hills (22-2) saw its 12-game win streak and its bid for the program's 10th sectional crown end with another tough finals loss. The Warren County school, now 9-4 all-time in sectional title games, had a tremendous season -- winning its first Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex championship and establishing a new program record for wins in a season.

Senior forward Lindsey Schott also broke the school's 15-year-old record for goals in a season (27) and finishes her fine career as the all-time goals (72), assists (46) and points (190) leader. She also has the single-season points mark with 70 in 2011 and came within two of tying the assists mark with 16.

"They can't hang their heads," said veteran coach Laurie Kerr, now 5-2 all-time in sectional finals in 12 seasons in charge of her alma mater. "They were down 0-2 and never gave up. These kids were determined. They worked so hard."

Freehold (20-1) picked up its second straight sectional crown and its third, all under coach Jerrilyn Acevedo. The Colonials, who beat the Blue Streaks, 2-0, in the 2007 final, also avenged a 1-0 loss in overtime to Kerr's team on the same field in 2009. They move on to face North 1 champion West Milford (20-1) in the Group 3 semifinals on Thursday in Clark.

Wold, a sophomore on that 2009 Freehold team, almost single-handily kept her team in that one. On Tuesday, she took over the game at its most critical juncture, something that great players often do in big games. She scored all three goals in her team's 3-2 win over Wall in last year's Group 3 final.

All of the scoring on Tuesday came in the second half.

"She's very, very good," Kerr said of Wold. "You can't slow her down. She's quick and all over the place. Emily is probably one of the top players I've ever seen in the state. We came out really tight and on our heels. We were trying to react to them rather than set the tone."

The North Carolina-bound midfielder started the scoring with a penalty stroke early in the second half, awarded after a  shot went off the upper body of Warren Hills senior back Caitlin Clark in front of the cage. Wold followed about nine minutes later with her second goal of the game and 43rd of the season, giving Freehold a commanding 2-0 lead after a scoreless first half.

On that one, Kerr said that the officials ruled that Clark didn't stop the ball before it crossed the goal line.

"The officials said that [Clark's] stick and the ball were over the line," Kerr said. "You don't know if it was a goal or not. Caitlin said that ball didn't go over the line."

That's when Warren Hills mounted its comeback. Senior midfielder Whitney Kowski, who's been outstanding all season, made it a one-goal game when she converted off a pass from junior midfielder Niki Miller on a penalty corner with 5:17 left in the game.

"It was a perfectly-executed corner," Kerr said.

Just as the Streaks were clawing back, Lindsey Schott was hit with a yellow card for a high stick with 3:59 left in the game. Earlier in the half, her sister, sophomore Nikki Schott, received a yellow card for delay of game. Now a player down, Warren Hills charged ahead and senior forward Kayla Grater connected for her 16th goal of the season with 3:30 left to tie it at 2.

"That's the story of her season, her hustle again," Kerr said of Grater.

But Wold was able to find the cage for a third time this season to end what would have been one of the greatest comebacks in Warren Hills' history. Despite the three goals, Kerr said that junior Katie Wintersteen played a strong game and made 18 saves in the loss.

"Katie didn't give up any easy shots," Kerr said. "She played very well and rose to the challenge. She's capable of doing that."

Despite losing several talented seniors, including back Jen Hylkema, Kerr firmly believes the Streaks will be back in the championship mix again in 2012. Miller and Nikki Schott both return in the midfield, while talented freshmen Nikki Profita, Amanda Crampton and Sydney Muntone all have bright futures ahead of the them. Just as important, Wintersteen returns for a third season in goal.

"We're going to be just fine," Kerr said. "We lose a lot of talented seniors that have done great things for the program. We'll have to work hard, but we're going to be right back in the thick of things."

Warren Hills (22-2)                          0                   2             --   2
Freehold Borough (20-1)                 0                   3             --   3


Second half -- F, Emily Wold, 42nd, (penalty stroke), 26:05; F, Wold, 43rd, 17:19; WH, Whitney Kowski, 9th, (Niki Miller), 5:17; WH, Kayla Grater, 16th, (Nikki Profita), 3:30; F, Wold, 44th, 1:13.

Shots -- Warren Hills 8; Freehold Borough 21.

Saves -- Katie Wintersteen 18 (WH); Taylor Martino 6 (F).

NJSIAA: Wildcats' run ends in sectional final

High Point's field hockey team finished with the statistical edge in every category on Tuesday, except the only one that counts.

When it was all said and done, the top-seeded Wildcats came up short on the scoreboard, falling 2-1 to second-seeded West Milford in the North 1, Group 3 sectional final in Wantage.

High Point (20-2), seeking its first championship since 2002, finished with advantages in shots (19-6) and penalty corners (16-2), but couldn't make the most of its opportunities. It was the final game for eight seniors, who came up short for the second straight year in the title game -- losing 4-3 in overtime to West Morris in 2010.

"We never expected this, we thought we had it today and could go far [in the postseason]," said senior midfielder Sashal Hagan, who was outstanding for the 'Cats all season. "Having the season end today is the hardest thing I've had to deal with in quite awhile."

Instead it's West Milford (20-1) moving on to the Group 3 semifinals after claiming the program's second sectional crown and first since 1985. Coach Jill Cullen's Highlanders will meet North 2 and defending Group 3 champion Freehold Borough on Thursday for the right to play in Sunday's state title game at Toms River East.

The 1985 sectional title for West Milford was never won on the field because no other team qualified that season in the North 1, Group 4 bracket. So, this is actually the Passaic County school's first victory in a championship game.

"This is my seventh and last season [as head coach] and I said I wanted to go out with a bang," Cullen said. "I didn't know it would be this big of a bang, being Passiac County championss and winning the sectional title. We knew High Point was a good team, but I'm confident in my team."

A ton of credit for the victory goes to West Milford goalie Jenna Bednarovsky, who was sensational in the cage. The junior registered 18 saves, most of which were on point-blank shots sprinkled in with some amazing acrobatic stops as well. The defense fended off 11 penalty corners in the first half, which was completely dominated by the hosts for the first 20 minutes or so.

Regardless, the Highlanders led 2-0 on goals by seniors Samantha Browne and Stacie Csakvary.

Browne struck first on the team's first penalty corner with 6:44 left before halftime, positioned at the left post to receive a perfect pass from Deborah Wolfe for her team-leading 35th goal. Csakvary cashed in nearly four minutes later, redirecting a deflected shot into a wide-open cage.

"Our goalie saved our butts more than once," Cullen said. "This was probably the best game I've seen her play. She was very impressive today. We played a good defensive game in the first half. We were a little sluggish in warm-ups, so I was concerned."

Junior Darby Smith got High Point on the board about nine minutes into the second half with her team-leading 25th goal. It gave her 109 career points, leaving her three shy of the school record held by Lesley Dube (112). Senior forward Nikki Hull was credited with the assist, giving her a final career total of 109 points.

Down by one goal, the 'Cats kept pounding away with 11 shots in the final 30 minutes, but to no avail as the Highlanders fended off one last corner in the final seconds.

"[Bednarovsky] was great, she made some amazing clears," Hagan said. "Good for her. She's a good goalie."

Veteran High Point coach Bev Keur was obviously disappointed with the loss, but not the effort of her team.

"I think we prepared them well and they took some beautiful shots," said Keur, whose teams are 311-113-14 over three stints in 21 seasons. "I thought we made some good adjustments at halftime and put the pressure on. Their goalie did a great job, but we've got to finish. Those two quick goals blind-sided us."

The not-so-small feat of reaching consecutive sectional finals held little comfort for Keur and the seniors afterward.

"We would like to be back-to-back sectional champions," Keur said.

West Milford (20-1)                   2                   0             --   2
High Point (20-2)                      0                   1             --   1


First half -- WM, Samantha Browne, 35th, (Deborah Wolfe), 6:44; WM, Stacie Csakvary, 10th, (Nicolette Rich), 2:54.

Second half -- HP, Darby Smith, 25th, (Nikki Hull), 21:04.

Shots -- West Milford 6; High Point 19.

Saves -- Jenna Bednarovsky 18 (WM); Kelsey Stoll 2, Shannon Havens 1 (defensive), Kelsey Fleury 1 (defensive) (HP).

Penalty corners -- West Milford 2; High Point 16.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NJSIAA: Wildcats set for championship challenge

High Point's field hockey team got its wakeup call in a sluggish semifinal performance.

And the top-seeded Wildcats hope to answer the bell on Tuesday when they host No. 2 West Milford in the North 1, Group 3 sectional final in Wantage.

High Point (20-1) is playing for the program's sixth sectional title and first since 2002. Coach Bev Keur's 'Cats have won five straight since a 3-1 loss to Warren Hills, which is vying for the North 2 title on Tuesday, in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex final on Oct. 22.

"I'm really excited to go to the finals," said senior midfielder Sashal Hagan after High Point's 1-0 win over Northern Highlands in Saturday's semifinals. "I think we have an advantage after last year's loss [4-3 in overtime to West Morris in the title game]. I think we're ready for anyone."

West Milford (19-1) enters the championship game riding a 10-game win streak since a 2-1 loss to Northern Highlands on Oct. 4. a defeat the Passaic County school avenged with a 3-2 win on Oct. 25. West Milford is seeking its second sectional title and first since claiming the North 1, Group 4 championship in 1985.

High Point is looking to get back to form after a sometimes lackadaisical effort on Saturday. The 'Cats feature a well-balanced offensive attack, led by senior forward Nikki Hull (18 goals, 13 assists) and junior forward Darby Smith (24 goals). Both were quiet against a Northern Highlands team that game planned to take them out. Hull (108 career points) and Smith (107) are chasing the school's points mark currently held by Lesley Dube (112).

Senior forward Brittany Papa (14 goals) and junior Maureen Gill (7 goals) have shown they're up for the challenge should opposing defenses key on High Point's leading scorers. Sophomore Carly Satter showed some flashes this season, but has missed the last two games with an illness. She is expected back for the final.

"We have about nine girls that can score," Hagan said. "Teams try to mark, but you really can't with our team because there are so many."

Defensively, senior back Bea Cannavale anchors a unit that has yielded 15 goals all season and has produced nine shutouts. Cannavale is a talented two-way threat with eight goals and seven assists. Goalkeeper Kelsey Stoll made the biggest save of the season when she stopped a penalty stroke on Saturday in the first half of a 0-0 game.

West Milford, which averages four goals per game, is led by outstanding senior forward Samantha Browne (34 goals, 10 assists), along with senior midfielder Deborah Wolfe (14 assists) and senior forward Stacie Csakvary (12 assists). Junior goalie Jenna Bednarovsky has recorded nine shutouts.

The High Point defense, which has been solid in key games this season, must be on top of its game. Veteran coach Bev Keur, who has 311 wins in her 21 seasons, doesn't game plan to stop an opponent's top guns.

"I believe in playing straight up," Keur said.

Skinny: High Point has rebounded nicely from its lone loss this season, but the stakes are raised in this one. No one is really talking too much about a pretty good West Milford team that comes in as the underdog. Hull and Smith must get more involved in this one if the 'Cats are going to claim their first title in nine seasons. Regardless of Keur's defensive philosophy, Browne must be contained. The 'Cats' success may depend on it. I think the 'Cats are the deeper team and get it done at home.

Pick: High Point, 3-2.

NJSIAA: Blue Streaks eyeing championship prize

Warren Hills' field hockey team has been down this same road before en route to a championship.

And the Blue Streaks certainly hope there are a few more trips toward their desired destination.

But first thing's first as third-seeded Warren Hills faces No. 1 seed and defending champion Freehold Borough in Tuesday's North 2, Group 3 sectional final in Freehold. The game is a rematch of the 2009 final, a 1-0 overtime thriller won by the Streaks.

Coach Laurie Kerr's Warren Hills team comes into this one on a major roll having won 12 straight since a 2-1 overtime loss to Voorhees on Oct. 6. The Blue Streaks (22-1), who established a new school record for wins in a 1-0 victory over No. 2 seed Hopewell Valley in the semis, have outscored the opposition, 61-7, during their current win streak which is three shy of another school record.

Warren Hills is shooting for its 10th sectional title and second in three years. The Streaks are playing in their 13th sectional final overall and seventh in Kerr's 12 seasons in charge of her alma mater.

Senior forward Lindsey Schott and junior center midfielder Niki Miller have been the driving forces, along with senior midfielder Whitney Kowski.

Schott is the program's offensive record holder in all major categories, career and single-season. Her 27 goals eclipsed the previous mark that stood for nearly 15 years. She also has 16 assists this season, two shy of the record held by Lauren Cuff (18 in 2002). The Streaks share the wealth offensively, as freshmen Nikki Profita and Sydney Muntone, along with senior Kayla Grater (15 goals) and sophomore Nikki Schott, are all capable scorers.

Miller, a three-year starter, has really opened eyes with her play this season. The talented midfielder has 20 goals and 13 assists this season and assisted on Grater's game-winner in the team's 1-0 victory over second-seeded Hopewell Valley in the semifinals. Grater has four postseason goals.

Miller and Kowski will need to control things in the middle as Freehold features one of the state's top players in senior Emily Wold.

Wold gave the Streaks a major headache with her play in the 2009 final as an up-and-coming sophomore. Last year, Wold scored all three goals in her team's 3-2 win over Wall in the Group 3 final. Coach Jerrilyn Acevedo, whose teams are 159-49-16 in 11 seasons, also guided the Colonials (19-1) to a Group 3 runner-up finish in 2007, beating Warren Hills, 2-0, in the sectional final on the Streaks' home field.

Freehold's lone loss this season was 1-0 to Shore Regional in the Shore Conference final on Oct. 30. Shore knocked off the state's consensus No. 1 team Oak Knoll, 2-1, on Monday in the North 2, Group 1 final. The Colonials also opened some eyes with a 6-1 win over fourth-seeded West Morris in the sectional semis.

Backs Jen Hylkema, Caitlin Clark, Jamie Miller and Amanda Crampton have helped anchor a defense that's produced 13 shutouts this season. Junior goalie Katie Wintersteen also has been exceptional in the cage as the Warren County school has yielded only one goal in its last four games and seven in its last 12.

Skinny: This game will be won in the midfield. Miller vs. Wold is a matchup to keep an eye on and that should be a great battle. Warren Hills' defense, which has risen to the occasion all season, must contain Wold enough to not let her create scoring chances in and around the circle. It also must be quick to the point of attack on corners, where Wold is deadly. The game is on grass and that certainly helps the hosts, but I think the difference in the game will be the well-balanced offensive attack of the Blue Streaks.

Pick: Warren Hills, 2-1.