Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wrestling: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

As we get set for the first full week of dual meets, here's our first edition of the team rankings in the Open Mike area.

Some big matches this week, starting on Wednesday when Phillipsburg travels to North Hunterdon for a Skyland Conference Raritan Division matchup. On the same night, Lenape Valley hosts Kittatinny in a match that very well could decide this year's winner in the NJAC Freedom Division.

We close out the week strong with a great quad at Warren Hills on Saturday, including High Point, along with Timber Creek and Howell. In the afternoon a few miles down Route 31, Hunterdon Central takes on Voorhees.

1. Phillipsburg (0-0) -- Stateliners opened the season in impressive fashion with a fourth-place finish at the rugged King of the Mountain Tournament. Super sophomore Jimmy Schuitema finished second at 152 pounds and was among eight medal winners for coach Dave Post's squad. P'burg has its sights set on another run to the Group 4 championship and a potential rematch with Brick Memorial, which has several wrestlers out with injuries right now. By the way, anyone else notice that former Hamilton West standout Jared Staub, third in Region 7 last year, is now wrestling for the Mustangs?

Up next: at North Hunterdon on Wednesday; at Franklin on Thursday.

2. High Point (0-0) -- Wildcats opened the season with a strong showing at the CBA Colt Classic, as sophomore Dom Gallo (106) and freshman Jared Kobis (120), along with sophomores Mike Derin (132) and Jason Gaccione (145) and junior Kyle Stoll (195) all won individual titles. Connor McHugh (126), Chris Auer (132) and Gunny Wassong (220) finished second, as High Point advanced 12 to the semifinals. High Point will face some stiff competition on Saturday at Warren Hills, so we'll get a good look at coach John Gardner's team which figures to contend for a Group 2 title.

Up next: Pope John at home on Thursday; at Warren Hills quad with Howell and Timber Creek on Saturday.

3. Warren Hills (3-0) -- Blue Streaks opened with three wins in South Jersey on Saturday -- beating Egg Harbor, Clearview and Voorhees. State qualifier Joe Kratochvil (132) went 2-0 on the day, which wasn't without some bad news as junior Justin Pidoto (138) sustained a head injury and is unavailable for at least this week. Keep an eye on sophomore Austin Pidoto (106), who started the season 3-0. He was behind state qualifier Max Nauta last season and is very talented. Nice Warren County matchup with the County Seaters on Friday night before Saturday's big quad.

Up next: at Belvidere on Friday; High Point, Howell and Timber Creek at home on Saturday.

4. North Hunterdon (0-0) -- Lions also had a nice showing this past weekend at the King of the Mountain Tournament, as state medal winners Ryan Pomrinca (120) and Liam Korbul (182) finished second and fourth, respectively. Matt Moncourtois (126) and Mike Ciavarro (145) also placed at KOM. Coach Tim Flynn's squad only had 12 wrestlers in the tourney. They'll take on a very strong P'burg team this week in what's become a bit of a grudge match with Flynn and assistant coach Jason Hawk being former Stateliner wrestlers. It will have division implications now with P'burg moving into the Raritan.

Up next: Phillipsburg at home on Wednesday; Bridgewater-Raritan, JFK-Iselin and Somerville at home on Saturday.

5. Voorhees (2-1) -- Vikings went 2-1 on Saturday, beating Egg Harbor (55-12) and Clearview (36-28) before a 33-28 loss to Warren Hills in South Jersey. Senior Jadaen Bernstein (170) started off 3-0 and enters the week four wins shy of 100 for his career. Coach Eric Hall's squad will give plenty of teams trouble this season. Always hungry for Hunterdon County wins, the Vikes are gearing up for the first of several in-county encounters as they go up against Hunterdon Central on Saturday as part of a tri-meet with Hillsborough. Should be a good one.

Up next: at Somerville on Wednesday; Hillsborough and Hunterdon Central at home on Saturday.

6. Hunterdon Central (0-0) -- Red Devils opened their season with a strong second-place showing at the Caldwell Tournament, finishing one spot and two points ahead of Kittatinny. Senior Tim Higginson set the place on its ear with a title at 145 pounds and earning the outstanding wrestler honors in the process. He missed most of last season with a broken hand. State runner-up Gary Dinmore (138), Dylan Cote (152), Tyler Cote (160) and David Fenton (170) also won titles. Central might have a better tournament team than a dual meet squad this season, but it can cause matchup problems for opponents.

Up next: at Ridge on Wednesday; at Voorhees with Hillsborough on Saturday.

7. Kittatinny (0-0) -- Cougars started their season off with a third-place finish at the Caldwell Tournament on Saturday. David Popek (152), Kieran Gerrity (170), Dylan Wunder (182) and Jake Brook (195) all finished second. Coach John Gill's squad features some talented freshmen and it may take awhile for this group to get going. The season is dedicated to former assistant coach Linn Crawn, who died unexpectedly over the summer. This team will get better as the season progresses with a tough schedule that includes a potential showdown with Bound Brook on Jan. 5 at the Patriot Duals -- a rematch of last year's Group 1 final won by the Crusaders.

Up next: at Lenape Valley on Wednesday; Wallkill Valley at home on Thursday; Governor Livingston and Mahwah at West Milford Duals on Friday.

8. Lenape Valley (0-0) -- Patriots finished second at Dover's Kris Hicok Memorial Tournament on Saturday, as Matt Benvenuto (138), Dominic LaBell (152) and Kristian Barrett (195) captured individual titles. Freshman Aaron Merkey (113), D.J. Barrett (170) and Dante James (220) finished second. Region 1 runner-up Glenn Haines was third at 145. Coach Doug Vetter's troops open the NJAC slate with a tough one at home against Freedom Division favorite Kittatinny on Wednesday. For you Sussex County fans, the match will be taped for replay on Service Electric's Channel 10.

Up next: Kittatinny at home on Wednesday; Delaware Valley and North Warren at home on Saturday.

9. Delaware Valley (0-0) -- Terriers started off slowly with a fourth-place finish at Princeton's Garden State Classic on Saturday. The big story was the absence of two-time state medal winner Mike Pongracz, who is out indefinitely with an illness, according to coach Andy Fitz. Making matters worse, Kody Eichlin (170) was also out with an illness, while Nour Mays (160) and Luke Zehnbauer (182) each wrestled one bout before exiting with injuries. Heavyweight Marat Tomanek is out for awhile with a broken wrist, so the Terriers were down five starters on opening day. They'll need to get healthy quick as it doesn't get any easier with the state's top team coming to Alexandria Township on Friday.

Up next: at Hopewell Valley on Tuesday; South Plainfield at home on Friday; at Lenape Valley with North Warren on Saturday.

10. Belvidere (0-0) -- County Seaters enjoyed a nice showing at the Hopatcong Tournament on Saturday as Jesse Thorsen (145) and Evan Bray (182) won titles, while J.B. Lawson (220) and Ryan Appleby (285) finished second. Coach Dan McIntyre's team is primed for another run to the finals in the North 2, Group 1 section, which also features defending champion Hanover Park. The Seaters open the week with a Skyland Conference Valley Division clash before turning their attention to the Blue Streaks in what is a good old-fashioned local showdown on Friday.

Up next: Bernards at home on Wednesday; Warren Hills at home on Friday.

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