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
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.
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.