Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wrestling: Examining the HWS champs, title bouts

We had some tremendous bouts in the championship round of the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament on Saturday.

Keep in mind, eight of the winners return next season, and a total of 10 former champs will be back if you include 2012 winners, Peter Lipari of Lenape Valley and Dylan Nace of Hunterdon Central.

Note: We had several former county champions in the building this weekend, including North Hunterdon coaches Tim Flynn (1993, 130 pounds) and Bobby Piccione (1994-96), who is one of only four three-time winners for Phillipsburg. Hunterdon Central assistant Pat Strizki won three titles (2005-06) for the Red Devils, while Warren Hills coach Jarrett Hosbach won two titles (1993, '95) for the Stateliners, as did P'burg coach Dave Post (2001, '03). Voorhees coach Eric Hall won the 152-pound title in 1995.

HWS computer man Matt Thompson won the 171-pound title for Hunterdon Central in the H-W's inception in 1992.

Here's a look at each champion crowned this weekend at Hopatcong High School:

106 pounds

Brandon Paetzell, Phillipsburg -- The talented freshman had a great tournament, beating Dom Gallo of High Point, 3-1 in sudden victory in their much-anticipated semifinal. That was the final. Paetzell completed his run with a lopsided 13-5 major of North Hunterdon's Paul Robinson, who was pinned by Paetzell in their dual meet encounter. This could very well be the first of many titles for the Stateliner. Looking forward to a possible rematch with Gallo at Region 1. Career record: 15-5.

113 pounds

Max Nauta, Warren Hills -- The sophomore came alive in the finals with a thorough domination of Phillipsburg senior Zach Fisher. Nauta, a district and region runner-up last year, turned Fisher five times (four with a power half) en route to a 16-2 major. Styles make fights, or bouts in wrestling, and these two have very similar styles. Unfortunately for Fisher, he's up against a superior mat wrestler. It made his choice of bottom in the second period all the more puzzling -- though that is where he scores most of his points. The last place he needed to be was on bottom. Nauta became the school's second HWS champ and first since Anthony Gaito in 2010. Could be the first of several meetings this season, and the rematch may occur on Thursday at The Pit. Career record: 42-11.

120 pounds

Ryan Pomrinca, North Hunterdon -- The talented sophomore had just enough to hand High Point freshman Jared Kobis his first loss of the season. A locked hands no-call in the ultimate tiebreaker prevented Kobis from securing the victory over last year's seventh-place state finisher at 113. Pomrinca was able to keep Kobis down for the win in a bout that featured zero offensive points. Think Kobis is going to be a good one? Career record: 55-6.

126 pounds

Joe Kratochvil, Warren Hills -- The district champ and region runner-up had a solid tournament, scoring a 2-1 win on a rideout in the finals -- another final with zero offensive points -- against 2012 champion Dylan Nace. Kratochvil posted a big 5-4 win over Phillipsburg sophomore Corey Zinsmeister in the semifinals -- hitting a switch at the edge for a reversal with 5 seconds left on the clock. The Blue Streak's only loss this season was up a weight to Delaware Valley's Matt Gilmore at 132, so keep an eye on Kratochvil moving forward. Career record: 58-50.

132 pounds

Mike Pongracz, Delaware Valley -- The senior capped his final HWS Tournament with a second straight championship and back-to-back Outstanding Wrestler Awards. Moving up to 132, Pongracz dominated the field with two pins, including the final against Lenape Valley's Glenn Haines, a Region 1 runner-up. Pongracz got a quick takedown and buried a half for the fall in 39 seconds. Pongracz didn't surrender a point in three bouts, as he also scored a 4-0 decision over Hunterdon Central's Collin Boylan in the semis. He's the second Del Val wrestler to win two HWS titles (Cody Barbiche in 2010-11) and only the eighth Terrier to win multiple county titles. Career record: 124-14.

138 pounds

Gary Dinmore, Hunterdon Central -- The state runner-up was head-and-shoulders above the field here as the junior rolled to his first HWS title after finishing third last year and second in 2011. Dinmore dominated 2011 champion Matt Benvenuto, 11-3, in their title bout. Four takedowns were the difference. Dinmore also posted an impressive 11-2 win over Phillipsburg state qualifer Max Elling in the semis. He certainly stated a case for OW votes with majors over quality opponents. Career record: 72-11.

145 pounds

Jesse Thorsen, Belvidere -- Hard to see this coming after a lackluster 5-4 win on Friday night against Pope John's Anthony Gignatelli in the pre-quarterfinals. Thorsen rebounded with close decisions in his next two, including a 3-2 win over Hunterdon Central's Tim Higginson in the semis. Higginson was coming off an 8-7 win over 2012 finalist Jason Gaccione of High Point. Thorsen, the No. 6 seed, hit a beautiful duck-under attempt for the winning takedown with 28 seconds left in a 3-1 win over Phillipsburg's Andrew Kaluzny, the No. 6 seed who beat No. 1 Tyler Kozimor of Hackettstown on a controversial takedown late in the semis. In my opinion, this was the toughest weight class in the tournament. Thorsen and older brother, Dylan, last year's 132-pound champ, are the only siblings to win HWS titles. Career record: 68-20.

152 pounds

Mike Ciavarro, North Hunterdon -- Without a doubt the most uneventful final of the 14. That's because Ciavarro won by medical forfeit over Phillipsburg's Jimmy Schuitema, who reportedly was nursing a sore shoulder and was held out of the finals as a precautionary measure. As a side note, Warren Hills' Evan Butka finished third here, as the junior earned a 2-1 win on a rideout against No. 3 seed Dylan Cote of Hunterdon Central in the quarters. Schuitema beat Butka, 7-0, in the semis. Career record: 55-23.

160 pounds

Jake Kocsis, Phillipsburg -- The junior No. 4 seed had quite the run to his first HWS title -- beating Delaware Valley's Kody Eichlin, 4-3, in the final. Kocsis -- Open Mike's choice to win this weight -- converted a takedown with 24 seconds left in the second period that was the difference. How about that ridiculous stall warning on Kocsis in the third period that prompted 'Liners coach Dave Post to make a trip to the head table? What bout was that official watching? Including the H-W Tournament, P'burg now has 60 county champions. Career record: 33-18.

170 pounds

Jadaen Bernstein, Voorhees -- In my opinion, Bernstein was the best wrestler in the gym this weekend. I'd like to see the 170-pounder that beats him in New Jersey. The senior, who is headed to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, is on another level right now. Bernstein pinned three opponents and nearly majored Kittatinny state qualifier Kieran Gerrity, 12-5, in the finals. It was the exact same score as their 2012 final at Hunterdon Central. Safe to say that Gerrity will be glad to see Bernstein graduate, as he also lost, 10-5, to the Viking in the HWS semifinals in 2011. Bernstein is the first three-time HWS winner. The former Hunterdon-Warren event produced 12 three-time winners and one four-timer in Del Val's Dan Kelly. Career record: 113-18.

182 pounds

Josh Sibblies, Newton -- As I wrote in the recap, seeing Sibblies win his first HWS title was a feel-good story as the senior lost most of the last two seasons with knee injuries. With only 53 career matches, Sibblies (16-2) is rounding into form. He avenged a previou loss to North Hunterdon state placewinner Liam Korbul, 5-3, in sudden victory in the semis, before posting a 1-0 win over Kittatinny state qualifier Jake Brook in the finals -- another bout that featured zero offensive points. Sibblies also beat Voorhees' Nick Ruggiero, 5-4, in the quarters. Another really tough weight here. Keep an eye on the son of former Braves star Ted Sibblies as we head down the road. Career record: 31-22.

195 pounds

Kyle Stoll, High Point -- The junior capped a strong weekend with a 3-1 win over North Hunterdon's Dan Pepe -- the No. 1 seed -- in the championship round as a second-period takedown provided the winning margin. Stoll also knocked off Kittatinny's Dylan Wunder, 5-1, in the semifinals which was much appreciated by the Wildcats fans in the crowd. The other delight for HP fans was seeing Kittatinny go 0-for-3 in the finals. Stoll, a sound defensive wrestler, did not yield an offensive point in four bouts at HWS. His father, Joe, was a region champion for Vernon Township High School in 1984. Career record: 49-14.

220 pounds

J.B. Lawson, Belvidere -- The senior avenged an earlier loss to Kittatinny's Garrett Armstrong with a 3-2 win on a rideout in the finals. Armstrong beat Lawson, 2-0, a few weeks ago at the Cougar Classic. Lawson looked strong all weekend with two pins and a 7-3 decision over Voorhees' Emilio Guevara in the semifinals. After a third-place finish in Region 1 last year, Lawson should be hungry to state his case as the region's No. 1 220-pounder. Career record: 79-41.

285 pounds

Andrew Pacheco, Warren Hills -- Only a sophomore, this kid has all the potential to be a dominating force at heavyweight the next two years. He exploded out of the gate for five points against Phillipsburg's Jarrett Williams and had to battle the rest of way in a 12-10 victory that went to the ultimate tiebreaker. Pacheco nearly had Williams decked in the first, but credit the Stateliner for getting off the mat in a big way. It's scary to think how good Williams would be had he wrestled at all before last year. He's so athletic. Pacheco, who had a 23-second pin in the semis, has been highly touted since he started in eighth grade, so maybe this was the win that gets him going. Even better is that the rematch could occur on Thursday at The Pit. Career record: 24-9.

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