Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wrestling: 'Liners, Blue Streaks good for openers

Here are some thoughts and observations from an eventful opening weekend of high school wrestling in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area:

1. Kudos to the Phillipsburg Stateliners on their fourth place finish at the rugged King of the Mountain Tournament. Despite having zero champions, tough sophomore Jimmy Schuitema finished second at 152 pounds, while Brandon Paetzell (106), Zach Fisher (113), Steve Friedman (120), Corey Zinsmeister (126), Max Elling (138), Jake Kocsis (160) and Jarrett "Big Kat" Williams (285) all took home medals.

The 'Liners competed without two starters -- Region 1 runner-up Anthony Johnson (132) and sophomore Joe Maso (182) -- making their weekend even more impressive. I'm anxious to see Paetzell, a freshman whom I've been hearing about for several years. Have to consider him the early favorite for District 1 and Region 1 titles.

2. In keeping with the KOM theme, North Hunterdon sophomore Ryan Pomrinca opened some eyes by taking Bethlehem Catholic star Darian Cruz to the limit in the finals at 120 -- a 3-2 loss. Pomrinca, seventh in the state last year at 113, reportedly initiated most of the action in the final period, as Cruz escaped for the winning margin. Cruz, a Lehigh recruit, won a PIAA Class AA state title last year and is nationally ranked. Senior Liam Korbul, also a state placewinner, finished fourth for the Lions at 182.

3. Warren Hills started the season off in fine fashion with three dual-meet wins in South Jersey -- 52-18 over Egg Harbor, 37-23 over Clearview -- which some think is a sectional contender in Group 4 -- and 33-28 over Hunterdon-Warren rival Voorhees. The win over the Vikings was a nip-and-tuck affair, as senior Kevin Bundschuh came through with a clutch 2-1 win in an overtime tiebreaker at 145 against Voorhees' Christian Okulicz. Junior Nate Detrick sealed it with a 13-2 major at 152 with one bout left. Senior Joe Kratochvil also added an 18-8 major of Tyler Yarnell at 132.

On a down note, the Blue Streaks may have potentially lost junior 138-pounder Justin Pidoto for the second time in as many seasons with a head injury. Pidoto, a Region 1 qualifier as a freshman, sustained a concussion against Kittatinny early last year and never returned to the mats. It would leave a big void in a very good Warren Hills lineup. Warren Hills coach Jarrett Hosbach said Pidoto will be re-evaluated this week.

4. Delaware Valley finished fourth at Princeton's Garden State Classic on Saturday, but the real eye-opener from that one was the absence of senior Mike Pongracz from the list of finalists. The star 126-pounder and two-time state medal winner is on the shelf with an "illness" according to Terriers coach Andy Fitz, who also was without the services of Kody Eichlin (170), also ill. Additionally, Nour Mays (160) and Luke Zehnbauer (182) each wrestled once before bowing out of the tourney with injuries.

5. The Caldwell Tournament isn't what it once was, but it's starting to pick up steam after appearing to be heading south in recent years. The addition of St. Peter's Prep, which won the team title, was a good one. But the story of the day was Hunterdon Central's Tim Higginson -- who won the 145-pound title and earned outstanding wrestler honors by virtue of his 7-6 win over Region 1 champion Tyler Kozimor of Hackettstown. It's even better when you consider that Higginson sustained a season-ending injury very early a year ago and was 1-3. Another eye-opener was Central's David Fenton's 11-3 major of Kittatinny state qualifier Kieran Gerrity at 170. The Cougars had four in the finals -- David Popek at 152, Dylan Wunder at 182 and Jake Brook at 195 -- but zero champs.

The week ahead

Here are some of the top matches this week:

Wednesday -- Phillipsburg at North Hunterdon; Kittatinny at Lenape Valley

Friday -- Warren Hills at Belvidere

Saturday -- High Point, Howell and Timber Creek at Warren Hills; Hunterdon Central at Voorhees

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