Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wrestling: Sussex preview capsules

High Point Wildcats

Coach: John Gardner (248-69-2, 15th season).

2011-12 record: 16-6, 7-0 NJAC American Division and North 1, Group 2 champions.

Returning starters (11): Jr. Chris Auer (12-10) 126; Sr. Connor McHugh (10-6, D4) 126; So. Mike Derin (32-6, D1) 132; Sr. Collin Grimm (10-11, D2) 138; So. Jason Gaccione (26-6, D1) 145; Jr. Tommy Hooker (11-20, D4) 152; Jr. Antonio Porraspita (11-17) 170; Jr. Drew Bye (12-13, D4) 182; Jr. Kyle Stoll (28-7, D1, R3) 195; Jr. Gunther Wassong (15-11, D3) 220-285; Jr. Bobby McDonnell (10-6) 220-285.

Key losses: John Torppey (19-13, D2); Alec Alvino (20-13, D4); Benjamin Mendiburu (10-5, D2); Kevin Pettenger (19-12, D1); Chris Epperly (9-17, D4).

Key returnees: So. Dom Gallo (16-9) 113; Jr. Colby Brands 138; Jr. Brett Picher 138-145; Jr. Brien Alvino 145-152; Sr. Moses Yasin 160.

Promising newcomers: So. Trevor Risdon 106; So. Leo Haines 113; Fr. Jared Kobis 120; So. Ryan Cullen 132; Jr. Chris Campbell 285.

Outlook: Wildcats are still a force in the county and statewide after finishing with 16 wins a year ago, despite losing several of the program's greatest wrestlers, including four state champs in 2011. This year's group has balance up and down the lineup, with super talented sophomores Gallo, Derin and Gaccione, and junior Stoll anchoring a solid group of upper weights. McDonnell showed real promise last year before a season-ending injury. Expect this bunch to be the favorites for a Group 2 championship after last season's run to the semifinals.

Hopatcong Chiefs

Coach: Eric Fajerman (110-170-3, 13th season).

2011-12 record: 3-19, 1-4 NJAC Freedom Division (fifth).

Returning starters (7): So. Joe Aumann (9-11) 106; Sr. Joey Spaziani (21-11, D1) 120; Jr. Victor Cotto (9-17) 132; Sr. A.J. Bongiovanni (22-9, D4) 145; Jr. Tommy Donnelly 170; Jr. Troy Bongiovanni (13-18, D4) 182;  Sr. Victor Burgos (D4) 285.

Key losses: Joe Cruz (31-5, D1, R1); Aric Webster (11-19, D4).

Key returnees: So. Joey Ioffredo (8-7) 113; Sr. Eric Hughes 138.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Robert Guerra 126; Jr. Adam Kiely 152; Jr. Danny Cappiello 160; Jr. Randall Candelaria 195; Fr. Christian Burgos 220; So. Brian Franklin 220.

Outlook: Chiefs have struggled in recent years as far as dual meets are concerned. Lack of bodies has contributed to that, as Fajerman lost seven wrestlers for unnamed reasons who would have been back this season. Regardless, Spaziani and A.J. Bongiovanni are two of the top wrestlers in District 2, while Burgos is solid at 285. Wins will be tough to come by, but this team should have some individual success along the way.

Kittatinny Cougars

Coach: John Gill (465-146-5, 33rd season).

2011-12 record: 16-5, 5-0 NJAC Freedom Division champion, Group 1 runner-up.

Returning starters (11): Jr. Christian Silva (18-15, D4) 113; Jr. Kevin Jelinek (3-8) 126-132; So. Tom Murphy (21-17, D2) 138; Jr. Nick Romyns (27-10, D1, R4) 145; Sr. Dave Popek (22-15, D2) 152-160; So. Brandon Olsen (10-19) 152-160; Jr. Kieran Gerrity (31-10, D1, R3) 170; Jr. Garrett Armstrong (20-12, D3) 182-195; Sr. Jake Brook (25-14, D2, R3) 182-195; Jr. Dylan Wunder (27-9, D2) 195-220; Jr. Tom Smith (9-17) 285.

Key losses: James Elphick (18-3, D1, R3); Clarke Moynihan (37-4, D1, R1, S4); Jacob Drelich (22-12, D2).

Key returnees: Jr. Nick West (6-10, D2-2011) 120-126; Sr. Zac Zgola 132; Sr. Justin Sibblies 132; Sr. Rich "Connor" Zandarski 145-152.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Jake Van Wingerden 106; Fr. Adam Reffi 106; Fr. Nick Klinger 113-120; Fr. Austin Scrivani 126-132; Jr. Liam Hinks 285.

Outlook: Cougars nearly pulled off a shocker against Bound Brook in the Group 1 semifinals last year and are expected to challenge for state honors once again. Those teams will likely knock heads early at North Warren's Patriot Duals, so that will be a can't miss affair in Blairstown on Jan. 5. Murphy, Romyns, Gerrity, Brook and Wunder are all expected to make a run to Atlantic City at the end of the season, while Popek and Armstrong are solid contributors. Time will tell if this team is the best in Sussex. That will be determined when it hosts High Point on Jan. 4.

Lenape Valley Patriots

Coach: Doug Vetter (148-114-1, 12th season).

2011-12 record: 12-12, 4-1 NJAC Freedom Division (second).

Returning starters (9): So. Peter Lipari (30-4, D4) 126; So. Glenn Haines (33-7, D2, R2) 132; Sr. Matt Benvenuto (33-6, D1, R4) 138; Jr. Dominic LaBell (15-13) 145-152; So. Joe LaBell (16-18) 160; So. D.J. Barrett (15-18) 170; Sr. Kristian Barrett (16-11) 195; Sr. Dante James (13-16, D4) 220; Sr. Bobby Sperling (11-8, D3) 285.

Key losses: Chris Olivo (15-9, D3); Andrew LaBell (18-14, D2).

Key returnees: Jr. Alberto Montalva (6-13) 113; Sr. Michael Naranjo 145; Sr. Logan Merkey 152; Sr. Mike Chletsos 182; Sr. Billy Underwood 182; Sr. Rob Thomas 220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Zach Merkey 106; Fr. Aaron Merkey 113; Fr. Aaron Arzon 120; Jr. Adam Chavarria 126; Fr. Dorian Hernandez 145; Fr. Dylon Frazier 152; Fr. Brayan Rodriguez 152; Fr. Sam Palumbo 160; Fr. Nick Seck 160; Fr. David Ottoson 170; Fr. Scott Prior 170; Fr. Ralph Hall 182.

Outlook: Patriots struggled a bit last season in the dual-meet portion, but a solid group of youngsters and proven seniors will look to change that this winter. Lipari and Haines had excellent freshman campaigns, while Benvenuto is among the top wrestlers in the county. A good group from the youth ranks should blend in nicely. Vetter has to love 11 freshmen on the roster. This is a team to watch and should be solid No. 2, along with Jefferson, behind Kittatinny in the division.

Newton Braves

Coach: Eric Bollette (153-111-1, 12th season).

2011-12 record: 6-21, 2-3 NJAC Freedom Division (fourth).

Returning starters (6): Sr. Jason VanDerGroef (6-11) 126-132; Jr. Michael Larsen (10-14) 126-132; Sr. Julio Maidana 152; Jr. Garrett Richards 170; Sr. Josh Sibblies (12-5) 182; So. Gus Protogeropoulos (6-17) 195.

Key losses: Ashley Iliff (13-9); Steven Churchill (35-2, D1); Logan Morales (17-14); Jake Connelly (41-2, D1, R1).

Key returnees: So. Trevor Morales (4-9) 106; So. Ryan Brigante 113; So. Robert Reese (3-7) 138; Jr. Jeremie Lerch 152; So. Benjamin Sibblies 160.

Promising newcomers: So. Eddie Medina 120; Sr. Bryan Velez 145; Fr. Brian Zakrzewski 145; Fr. Tyler Pittenger 195; Fr. Ethan Reczka 220; Sr. Brandon Alemany 285.

Outlook: This season sort of starts off where last year ended as talented junior Niko Grello (20-19, D3) is out for the season with a knee injury. Injuries decimated this team a year ago, as Josh Sibblies sustained another season-ending knee injury. When healthy, he's one of the top wrestlers in the area. This is a relatively green group, but this excellent coaching staff always gets the most out of its wrestlers. This year will most certainly be a challenge.

Pope John Lions

Coach: Bob Stewart (first season).

2011-12 record: 5-15, 2-5 NJAC American Division (T-fifth).

Returning starters (7): Jr. Austin Sisco (18-17, D3) 113; So. Liam Sax (3-15) 132; Jr. Billy Van Dyke (8-16) 145; Sr. Anthony Gignatelli (11-14) 152; So. Deriam Guridy (11-9, D3) 170; Sr. Steve Adrianzen (3-11) 182; Jr. Noa Merritt (15-15, D3) 285.

Key losses: C.J. Sarao (13-10, D3); James Bohn (13-10); Joe Emering (25-9, D1).

Key returnees: So. Dominic Koert (5-0) 106; Jr. Tyler Mastrogiovanni 132; Sr. Bruce Bott 145; So. Hunter Guzzo (2-11, D4) 160.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Caleb Lewie-Cepero 113-120; Jr. Zeke Lewie-Cepero (10-18, transfer from Vernon) 113-120; So. Nick Esposito 126; So. Anthony Azzaritti 132; Fr. Billy Koenig 138; So. Richard Peterson 160; Jr. Isaiah Bryant (1-7, D4, transfer from Jefferson) 220.

Outlook: Lions have a new coach in Stewart, who replaces Bill Koch, who was unceremoniously dismissed after going 43-63 in five seasons. But a key addition coaching-wise is assistant Mark Piotrowsky, a former standout at Jefferson when the Falcons were among the top teams in the nation. Sisco and Merritt are coming off solid seasons, while the additions of the Lewie-Cepero brothers (transfers from Vernon) and Koening (a Newton product) should help round out the lineup. Also on board is Bryant, who wrestled in the Region 1 Tournament when High Point's Gunny Wassong was unable to compete. Expect a few more wins this season in a tough county.

Sparta Spartans

Coach: Frank Battaglia (8-17, second season).

2011-12 record: 8-17, 0-7 NJAC American Division (eighth).

Returning starters (6): So. Sierra Blasone (8-20) 106; Sr. Jack Velella (18-16, D4) 120; So. Ian Burke (25-8, D3) 126; So. Walker Schmitzer (9-9) 138; Sr. Joe Whitney (2-16) 195-220; Sr. Carlos Goncalves (6-14) 285.

Key losses: Nick Johnson (13-9); Ben Muller (19-12); Alex Muller (20-13, D4).

Key returnees: Jr. Matt Schiumo; So. Connor Lore 160-170; Sr. Ryan May 182; So. Gavin Lally 195; Jr. Zach Kayal 220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Andrew Legge 106; Fr. Grant Gerndt 106; Fr. Garrett Gerndt 106; So. John Uczkowski 138-145; Fr. Al Falco 160.

Outlook: Spartans enjoyed moderate success last season, both on the dual and individual levels. Burke is one of the top wrestlers in the county and enjoyed a fine rookie campaign. Velella also placed in the top four at District 3, as the team ended a two-year drought of zero wrestlers advancing on the first night. Battaglia likes the direction of a program that had struggled with low numbers. With about a dozen incoming freshmen, it appears things are looking up for a history-rich program. Wins in a rugged division will still be hard to come by.

Vernon Vikings

Coach: Bill Cooper (second stint).

2011-12 record: 11-14, 2-5 NJAC American Division (T-fifth).

Returning starters (6): So. Sultan Destani (10-18) 120; Sr. Sami Destani (4-10, D4) 132-145; Sr. Jake Levy (10-19) 145-152; Sr. Ryan Ward (22-10, D2) 152-160; Sr. Peter Granata; (4-20) 160-170; Jr. Jesse Cornwell (17-8) 195-220.

Key losses: Kevin Gocklin (24-7, D2); Tyler Walker (20-9); Zack Levy (22-11, D2); Dave Tlatelpa (25-5, D1) 220, Jon Gemeinhardt (29-4, D1).

Key returnees: Jr. Jerrian Arroyo 132-138; Jr. Pat Thompson 195-220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Hugh Gardner 106; Fr. Mike Campos 113; Fr. Cole Nagle 120-126; Fr. Tim VanLenten 132-138; Sr. Anthony Torres 195-220; Jr. Bobby Chavez 220-285.

Outlook: Vikings took a major hit with the graduation of five 20-match winners from last season -- including four district finalists. But the good news is the return of Ward, a District 3 runner-up who should benefit from the presence of former Kittatinny standout Tyler Branham, now an assistant coach under Cooper. Cornwell gives the team a reliable body up top, but the lack of balance will hurt in the more competitive duals on the schedule.

Wallkill Valley Rangers

Coach: Adam Vazquez (1-23, second season).

2011-12 record: 1-23, 0-5 NJAC Freedom Division (sixth).

Returning starters (9): So. Sean Siek (15-16) 126; Sr. Joe Hocking (24-11, D3) 132; Sr. Steve Siek (12-19) 138; Sr. Jim Lodema (18-10, D3) 138; So. Patrick Endrikat (1-12) 152; Jr. Andrew Reed (7-16) 160; Jr. Tylar Creeden (1-13) 170; Jr. Nick James-McLean (14-14, D3) 182; Sr. Alex Reiman (4-10) 195.

Key returnees: So. Brandon Barnet (3-9) 126; Sr. Sean Carosella 152; Sr. Joe Figueroa (2-2) 285.

Promising newcomers: Fr. William Hurt 106; So. Dan Tomzick 220.

Outlook: Rangers struggled with numbers a year ago and that's expected to be the case once again. Hocking and Lodema are as good a 1-2 punch as any in the area, while the Siek brothers are capable of improving on their wins totals. James-McLean, a pleasant surprise last year, has yet to be cleared from a neck injury sustained in football. His return will be especially important for a team trying to find its way in a tough county.

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