Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wrestling: Sectional and Group championship picks

The NJSIAA sectional wrestling tournaments begin on Monday with first-round matchups at 7 p.m. Winners advance to Wednesday's semifinals and the sectional championships will be contested on Friday.

All sectional winners advance to the Group championships on Sunday at Toms River North High School.

Here's an analysis and predictions for all sections and Groups:

Group 4

North 1 -- Morris Knolls.

North 2 -- Phillipsburg.

Central -- Brick Memorial.

South -- Southern.

Notes -- Phillipsburg is hoping to get healthy for a run at its 18th state title, but must first avenge an earlier loss to Hunterdon Central in order to capture its 33rd sectional championship. That won't be easy, especially if senior 195-pounder Kyle Kinney (elbow) is unable to return. It appears as if Corey Zinsmeister (126) will be unavailable, but junior Tylor Petchonka is a capable replacement. Brick Memorial will have its hands full with Jackson Memorial, which has lost to the Mustangs twice this season, in a tough Central Jersey section. I expect Southern to get past Shawnee or Clearview in South Jersey. The North 1 champ is a tough call, but Morris Knolls, which let me down last year, should get past Clifton in the final. I think Brick Memorial has too much for P'burg this time around in the Group 4 final rematch.

Group 3

North 1 -- Northern Highlands.

North 2 -- South Plainfield.

Central -- Brick Township.

South -- Toms River South.

Notes -- Northern Highlands has wins over Passaic Valley (30-29) and Paramus (34-22) this season. Defending Group 3 champion South Plainfield is head-and-shoulders above all comers here and should roll to the title. Warren Hills will battle Roxbury -- and it should be a tight one -- for the right to face coach Kevin McCann's to-ranked Tigers in the North 2 final. Brick Township and Ocean Township are expected to battle for the Central Jersey title, but keep an eye on Hopewell Valley. Toms River South is too balanced for Timber Creek in the South Jersey section. Kudos to Sparta, the No. 6 seed in North 1, for earning its first sectional bid in over a decade. The Spartans won their second title in 2000.

Group 2

North 1 -- High Point.

North 2 -- Voorhees.

Central -- Long Branch.

South -- Delsea.

Notes -- Of all four Groups, this one is as wide open as it gets. High Point, the 2011 Group 3 champion, and Delsea are the class of those respective sections. 'Cats have won a Sussex County record 22 sectional titles (two in this section in 1984 and 2012). Voorhees is a heavy favorite in the North 2 draw, while Raritan, Delaware Valley and Long Branch are all capable of winning the Central Jersey title. Del Val vs. Raritan in the sectional semifinals should be a humdinger. High Point is rooting for Raritan, which beat the 'Cats in last year's Group 2 semis, because if the Rockets win the sectional title, coach John Gardner's team won't have to face Delsea right out of the gate in this year's semifinals. Voorhees would then face the Central winner in the other semifinal. High Point beat Long Branch, 36-25, on Jan. 5 with the 'Cats using four JVs.

Group 1

North 1 -- Kittatinny.

North 2 -- Hanover Park.

Central -- Bound Brook.

South -- Paulsboro.

Notes -- Like it or not, and most up this way do not, Bound Brook is the clear-cut favorite to win the program's second Group 1 title. Kittatinny, which should easily beat either Lenape Valley or Emerson-Park Ridge to get to Toms River, lost 49-9, to the Crusaders in early January. Paulsboro isn't the power it has been, but should win a weak section. Hanover Park repeats as the North 2 champion by beating Belvidere in a rematch of last year's title match. Kittatinny appears like it can do little to make up a 40-point deficit against Bound Brook, but may win a few of the close ones it lost last time.

Non-Public A

North -- Bergen Catholic over Don Bosco Prep.

South -- St. Augustine over Christian Brothers Academy.

Overall winner -- Just to win the North A section is a monumental task as St. Peter's Prep and Delbarton -- both top 20 teams in the state -- also reside in that killer bracket. Don Bosco is healthy and formidable, but Bergen Catholic finds a way to win it all. St. Augustine has a nice run in the South, but that's the end of the line. Watch out for St. John Vianney, which features former Brick Memorial coaches Tony Caravella and Denny D'Andrea as assistants.

Non-Public B

North -- DePaul over Pingry.

South -- Camden Catholic over Holy Cross.

Overall winner -- Camden Catholic, even in an off year, is too much to handle here. DePaul features some tough wrestlers, including sophomore Dave McFadden (126), a state runner-up last season.

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