Friday, December 28, 2012

Wrestling: John Goles wrapup, observations

The holiday tournament season is in full swing and the 55th annual John Goles Invitational on Thursday  -- the granddaddy of tourneys in the Open Mike locale -- provided plenty of excitement and storylines.

Warren Hills wrapped up its first team championship since 1997 -- the Blue Streaks' 21st overall since the event's inception 1958 -- as senior 220-pounder Tyler Bridygham brought the crowd to their feet with a pin of Delaware Valley's Brian Baehr in the finals. Baehr could have delivered an 11th title in 15 years to the Terriers with a pin of his own. The team race was that tight down the stretch.

Here are some other notables from an action-packed Thursday:

1. Bridygham stunned the field by winning his title as the No. 8 seed at 220 -- pinning the No. 1 seed (returning Goles placewinner Andrew Lumsden of Bangor) and Baehr, the No. 2. The Blue Streak also decked No. 4 seed Carlos Botero of Edison. Bridygham rightfully earned outstanding wrestler honors -- nipping Delaware Valley's Mike Pongracz -- a three-time Goles champ -- for the honor. He's the first at the Washington school to be named OW since Dave Richmond in 2005.

Not a bad day for Bridygham, who only began in the sport four years ago. It came after a tough weekend in the Warren Hills quad, which involved High Point, Howell and Timber Creek.

"It felt great [to win the Goles title]," said Bridygham, who entered the day with a 1-5 record. "I just tried to do my best. I started wrestling as a freshman. I've gotten a lot of help from my teammates and coaches. They've all helped me equally. I was upset [after losing three times last Saturday] and I didn't want to lose anymore, so I worked harder."

Bridygham offered the quote of the day when asked how he viewed the other top seeds in his draw as a decided underdog: "We're all humans. We're all equal."

Warren Hills coach Jarrett Hosbach didn't seem surprised to see Bridygham win a title.

"We know he has ability," the coach said. "It's taken awhile for him to find his way after playing football. He could have benefited from the expanded practice time. He's a kid who's working hard to make things happen and he did that today. We're proud of him. Hopefully he didn't peak today."

2. Warren Hills finally broke the long drought between team titles in its own event as the Blue Streaks crowned two champions in Bridygham and sophomore 113-pounder Max Nauta. Four others finished second -- Austin Pidoto (106), Joe Kratochvil (132), Ryan Ostir (170) and Andrew Pacheco (285). Warren Hills, formerly Washington High, has won or shared 21 team titles. The last one in 1997 was the sixth in a 10-year span from 1988-97.

"We talked about it and set it as a goal," Hosbach said. "We had a lot of kids make sacrifices, moving around in weight classes, so we could put out a team of 14 strong. I was impressed with the guys who lost early and came back to take thirds. These team tournaments are won in the wrestleback rounds. It's easy in a tournament this early in the season to put your head down after a loss. They bounced back and showed a lot of intestinal fortitude."

Tai Adetula (126), Kevin Bundschuh (138) and Evan Butka (160) were third-place winners for the Streaks.

3. Nauta was among five of six wrestlers to repeat as Goles champions -- joining North Hunterdon's Ryan Pomrinca (120), Delaware Valley's Pongracz (126) and Matt Gilmore (132) and South Brunswick's Ali Yaldiz (182). Nauta is the first Blue Streak to win titles in his first two seasons since four-time winner Ryan Kanewski (1993-96). Yaldiz beat 2011 winner, Liam Korbul of North Hunterdon, 5-4, in the only matchup between former winners. Yaldiz was impressive and earned serious OW consideration for his efforts at a very tough 182-pound class that included Newton's Josh Sibblies and Delaware Valley's Luke Zehnbauer. Sibblies, who has missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, gave Korbul all he could handle in a 5-1 semifinals loss. The bout was 1-1 late, when Korbul, a returning state medalist, hit a four-point move for the winning margin.

4. Newton had two wrestlers earn third-place finishes -- Sibblies at 182 pounds and up-and-coming sophomore Gus Protogeropoulos (195). The Braves had a tough day overall, finishing ninth in the 10-team field. It was the first Goles -- a span of 12 years -- under coach Eric Bollette that the Sussex County school failed to produce a finalist. I was impressed with several wrestlers and the team seems to be coming along under a great staff that includes former Goles winners Ted Sibblies and Andy Iliff.

Newton is second in Goles history with 83 winners and holds the record for most team points with 254 in 2008.

5. Delaware Valley and North Hunterdon ran neck-and-neck all tournament in the standings. The Terriers earned second by a narrow margin -- 176 to 171 1/2. Two-time Goles champ Gilmore helped Del Val's cause with his stunning pin of Kratochvil in their 132-pound final. Pongracz became just the 32nd wrestler to win three or more titles with an impressive technical fall win over District 17 champ Matt Moncourtois.

Gilmore -- three pins in 8:36 -- was the recipient of the Ryan M. Storm Memorial Award, presented to the champion who records the most pins in the least total time. He's the fifth Del Val wrestler to earn the honor -- joining Bob Brunner (1997), Dan Hutchins ('98, 2001), Dan Kelly (2003, '04) and P.J. Steinbeiser ('07). Gilmore's 25-second pin in the quarters was the second-quickest fall behind Scotch Plains sophomore Tommy Cunningham's 22-second pin in the wrestlebacks.

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