Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wrestling: Bernstein, Dinmore fall short in title bids

Try as they might, a state championship just wasn't in the cards this weekend in Atlantic City for Hunterdon Central's Gary Dinmore and Voorhees' Jadaen Bernstein.

The pair of Hunterdon County wrestlers were the lone Open Mike area representatives in Sunday's championship round of the 80th New Jersey State Championships before a sellout crowd of 11,149 at Boardwalk Hall.

Dinmore carved a spot in New Jersey state wrestling history regardless of the outcome on Sunday.

Needless to say, Dinmore would’ve preferred it to be on the winning side, as he dropped a 4-2 decision to South Plainfield star Anthony Ashnault at 138 pounds.

Bernstein, who was second in 2011, came up short in his bid for a title with a 5-2 loss to Hawthorne’s Ethan Ramos at 170.

“Everyone thinks I had a game plan [to beat Ashnault], but my game plan was to just wrestle,” said Dinmore, who lost to Ashnault, 5-2, in last year’s 126-pound final. “I think I could’ve made [the score] closer, but there’s no point if you’re not going to win.”

Ashnault capped one of the greatest high school careers as the first New Jersey wrestler to win four titles and go unbeaten at 170-0. He’s the third four-time champion -- joining Delbarton’s Mike Grey (2003-06) and Bound Brook’s Andrew Campolattano (2008-11).

“There are a lot of emotions going through my mind right now,” said the Rutgers-bound Ashnault, who earned the Donald Ringler Outstanding Wrestler Award in his final Atlantic City appearance. “Ever since
eighth grade, I set this goal. It seemed realistic and I made it come true. It feels really great.”

The first 169 wins for Ashnault seemed much easier, as Dinmore made the South Plainfield wrestler work extra hard for No. 170. After being ridden out the entire second period, Ashnault gave up an escape to tie
it at 2 with 1:41 left in the third period.

Ashnault converted the go-ahead takedown with 13 seconds left -- a deep double-leg shot and finish to the delight of what seemed like thousands of fans clad in green South Plainfield No. 1 T-shirts. In the first period, Ashnault took a 2-0 lead with a nice snatch single-leg attempt for a takedown.

“He’s a great opponent. I just came out on top today,” Ashnault said. “I knew I could take him down. I just kept attacking. I knew I could get to his legs again and again. Sooner or later I was going to
finish.”

Dinmore (36-1), who is Central's 39th finalist and 27th runner-up, landed on his head while somersaulting out of bounds to defend a single-leg shot by Ashnault early in the third period and injured his right shoulder late while attempting a throw.

“He pulled my arm really hard and I heard something pop [in my shoulder],” said Dinmore, who is Central’s first repeat state finalist since Todd Patton in 1983-84. “I was a little anxious in the first period trying to get that first takedown. It didn’t work out in my favor.”


Caught up on defense


Bernstein (42-1) was looking to end Voorhees’ 15-year title since John Brienza won at 130 in 1998. A runner-up as a sophomore and seventh as a junior, Bernstein got away from his own offensive attack while
trying to defend single-leg shots by Ramos, who was fourth in the state at 170 last year.

With the match tied at 2 after two periods, Ramos escaped early in the third and converted a takedown off a great scramble with 16 seconds left to ice it. Bernstein actually had Ramos in trouble with his own
single-leg attempt, but somehow Ramos managed to come out on top for the biggest takedown of his season.

Ramos (40-0) is Passaic County’s 20th state champion and Hawthorne’s first since Rusty Read won its only other title at 140 pounds in 1994.

“I knew he had that little shot, and I tried to work my two-on-one, but he kept backing out of it,” said Bernstein, who finishes his career as Voorhees’ all-time wins leader (135-19) and the second to
place three times in the state tournament along with coach Eric Hall (7/8-1994, fourth-1995, second-1996).

“I didn’t want to move forward too much and step into [Ramos’] shot. If he did get angles, I could get out of bounds. He got to his shots before I got to mine."

Bernstein, who gave up only five escapes in three previous wins this weekend, said he made a critical mistake in trying to get that go-ahead takedown in the final 20 seconds.

“I had the leg hooked and I had a cradle locked, but I put my hip down for a split-second and he slid his arm in and got two,” Bernstein said. “I got a little overzealous coming around. Props to him, he kept 
going to the end until he got it. I should've tried to break his grip instead of trying to snake my arm in. He kept knee-sliding and I had to bail out because I was going to my back.”

Bernstein, despite the bitter taste of disappointment, handled himself as graciously in defeat as he did in victory the last three years. He'll continue his career at the U.S. Naval Academy after prepping for a year.

"It's been a great ride. This is the end of one chapter ... a big chapter," said Bernstein, who is Voorhees' ninth state finalist and 27th placewinner overall. "I wouldn't have wanted to wrestle anywhere else. I have a great coaching staff behind me and a lot of community support. I really wanted that state title, but I'll use it as motivation to get to the top of the NCAA podium."

His coach, along with everyone else in the Voorhees program, will be sorry to see the classy Bernstein leave.

"Win or lose, we walk away proud of him as we ever would," Hall said. "Ultimately, he didn't win, but he walks away as a winner. That's the kind of kid he is."


Back points

Lenape Valley, which has never had a state champion, may have a shot the next two years after sophomore Peter Lipari finished seventh at 120 pounds. At least Lipari is shooting for that distinction.

"I just want to keep training to become Lenape Valley's first state champ," he said on Sunday. "It felt awesome to know I won the match [6-4 in sudden victory against Nutley's Robert Trombetta] and came home with a seventh-place medal. Seventh is better than eighth."

Patriots coach Doug Vetter (second in 1990) is among three of the school's state finalists, along with Chris Ressa (2001) and D.J. Russo (2006).

Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic matched South Plainfield with a pair of champions in Luis Gonzalez (113) and Razohnn Gross, who won his second title at 195. Gross was the school's first winner in 2012. 

Freshman Nick Suriano (106) and junior Johnny Sebastian (182) made it eight titles overall for Bergen Catholic, as Sebastian won his second straight championship. Bergen County has 105 winners, second only to Union (129) and Sussex (113).

South Plainfield, which had four finalists, saw Ashnault and Scott DelVecchio (132) repeat as champs, while Corey Stasenko (126) and Troy Heilmann (145) finished second. Heilmann is a three-time runner-up -- losing in 2011 at 119 and in 2012 at 120.

Alex Thompson became Haddon Heights' first state champion in winning the 285-pound title. Mel Leary, who finished fourth at 171 pounds in 1999, was the previous highest finisher for the Camden County school, which began the program in 1963-64. Thompson is the county's 56th champion.

Craig De La Cruz, who won a loaded 120-pound class at Region 5, is Bound Brook's 19th state champion and first since Andrew Campolattano won his fourth title in 2011.

It's been 30 years, but North Bergen finally has it's second state champion in Anthony Giraldo (126). He joins John Bott, who won at 170 in 1983. Giraldo also is Hudson County's fifth champion, making it back-to-back years with a winner following Alexander Richardson of St. Peter's Prep, who became his school's first in 2012.

Roxbury junior Dillon Artigliere made it 56 champions for Morris County as he won the 160-pound title on Sunday. He's the first for the Gaels since Ryan Fikslin won at 103 in 2005. Roxbury joins Randolph and Delbarton atop the county leaderboard with eight apiece.

Wayne Stinson -- Burlington County's 24th state champ and the 960th in New Jersey history -- made it back-to-back years with a winner for Northern Burlington with his impressive run to the 152-pound title. Cody Melton won at 285 last year, while Andy Zuckerman is the school's first and only other winner (108 in 1977).

Bryan Dobzanski is the eighth state champion for Delsea and its first since Anthony Baldosaro in 2008.

Bordentown's Justin McTamney (sixth at 132) and New Egypt's Brad Schwarze (fourth at 182) are their school's highest state finishers, as is Mike Russo (fourth at 106) for Jackson Liberty.

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