Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wrestling: Bernstein, Dinmore going for state gold

Hunterdon Central junior Gary Dinmore and Voorhees senior Jadaen Bernstein have waited one long year for their shots at redemption. It's finally here, and both are one victory away from making history.

Both are the only wrestlers from the Open Mike area (Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex) going for state titles on Sunday at 3 p.m., when the 80th New Jersey State Wrestling Championships conclude at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The tournament resumes at 10 a.m., with the wrestleback semifinals, followed by the consolation finals for third, fifth and seventh places at noon.

Newton's Josh Sibblies and High Point's Kyle Stoll sustained tough losses in Saturday's semifinal round. Both wrestlers will compete in the consolation semifinals at 182 and 195 pounds, respectively.

Dinmore set up a rematch with three-time champ Anthony Ashnault of South Plainfield, who at 169-0, is looking to become New Jersey’s third four-time winner and the first to go unbeaten all four years. Last year, Dinmore (36-0), who defeated Watchung Hills’ Matt Coppola, 5-2, in the 138-pound semifinals before a crowd of 10,777 on Saturday, dropped a 5-2 decision to Ashnault (39-0) in their 132-pound title tilt.

“Last year, I didn’t see the final coming,” said Dinmore, who is Central’s first repeat state finalist since Todd Patton finished second in 1983 and first in ’84. “This year I’ve focused everything I’ve done on getting to the state finals … not placing … winning.”

Very few are giving Dinmore -- Central's 39th state finalist -- a chance to pull off what would be one of, if not the greatest, upsets in New Jersey wrestling history. It seems to be fueling the Hunterdon Central junior, who has looked forward to facing Ashnault all season. The first opportunity at redemption -- in a regular-season tri-meet on Jan. 23 -- never materialized because Ashnault was nursing an ankle injury and did not compete against the Red Devils after wrestling earlier in the day against Bridgewater-Raritan.

Ashnault sitting that one out prompted all kinds of speculation that he was ducking Dinmore and did not want to risk his unbeaten record competing at less than full strength.

“I was so ready to wrestle him [on Jan. 23],” Dinmore said. “I knew I had to get this one. This is my last chance to do something this big. Next year [in the finals] won’t be near as big. All I will say is that I’m ready this time.”

Bernstein, who posted a 5-1 decision over Don Bosco’s Luke Farinaro in the 170-pound semifinals, has been itching to get back to the finals since his surprise runner-up finish at 160 pounds in 2011. The Voorhees senior, who was seventh at 160 in 2012, is trying to become the Hunterdon County school’s fifth champ and first since John Brienza won the 130-pound crown in 1998.

“I’m back [in the final]. It feels good,” said Bernstein, whose coach, Eric Hall, was a runner-up in 1996. “I feel like I’m wrestling my best right now. I have one match left in my high school career and I want to make it count.”

Bernstein (42-0) will take on Hawthorne’s Ethan Ramos (39-0), who finished fourth last year at 170, in a much-anticipated finals showdown. Ramos defeated Bernstein last year at the Junior Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va.

“I had an idea of who I was going to get when I looked at the brackets,” Bernstein said. “It was really hard to step that far down on the podium last year. I need to finish this off. I have six more minutes of hard wrestling.”

Bernstein is among seven Voorhees wrestlers to make the finals and joins Glenn Hall as the only Vikings to make two appearances in title bouts. Hall, the Hunterdon County school's first champion, won in 1981 and finished second in '82 against the same opponent, Millville's Doug Taylor.

Sibblies, who is Newton's first state semifinalist since his father, Ted, took second in 1989, was rolling until getting headlocked and pinned by Hammonton's David Williams in 55 seconds. The two physical specimens were locked up in a bearhug, when Williams hit a headlock near the edge and drug Sibblies back in to get the fall. Sibblies will face New Egypt's Brad Schwarze in the consolation semifinals.

Diaper dandy

Phillipsburg freshman Brandon Paetzell continued his march through the long and winding road known as the state wrestlebacks. After the toughest possible draw -- meeting Bergen Catholic finalist and state favorite Nick Suriano in the pre-quarterfinals on Friday.

Paetzell (36-6) won four times on Saturday to reach the consolation semifinals at 106 pounds. Guaranteed of at least a sixth-place medal, Paetzell is the first freshman to place at states since Mike Fania finished sixth at 130 pounds in 2000, and also broke the Warren County school's record for wins by a ninth grader, eclipsing Rylan Watson's total of 32 in 2008.

"I knew Suriano was tough, ranked No. 1 in the country, obviously," said Paetzell, who dropped a 11-1 decision to Suriano. "[After the loss] I just wanted to let it fly. I had a good season, and I wanted to try and come back to get on the podium and I did."

Paetzell, who is keen on Phillipsburg's rich wrestling traditon, is pleased to be among the best ninth graders in Stateliners history. He's one of only four freshmen -- including Bob Jiorle, Rick Thompson and John Rutledge -- to win region titles their rookie seasons.

"It feels great. I'm happy that I placed," Paetzell said. "Third is the goal. But I'm in the top eight, so I'm happy."

Still going for bronze

Nine area wrestlers have secured top-eight status in AC. Among them are three High Point wrestlers, as Mike Derin (132), Jason Gaccione (145) and Kyle Stoll (195). 

Derin dropped a 4-1 decision to Ocean Township's Zach Hertling in his last bout on Saturday and will face Connor Burkert of St. Peter's Prep for seventh place.

Gaccione kept his third-place hopes alive with a 6-4 win over Howell's Ashanti Maurice. The High Point sophomore also avenged an earlier loss with a 5-3 decision over Hunterdon Central's Tim Higginson, who beat Gaccione, 8-7, in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex quarterfinals. Gaccione will meet Trenton Central's Maaziah Bethea, seventh last year at 132, in the consolation semis.

Gaccione's brother, Joe, finished third at 145 in 2011, the same tournament in which the Wildcats crowned four state champs (Nick Francavilla, Drew Wagenhoffer, Ethan Orr and Billy Smith).

Stoll, who lost, 11-6, to returning champion Razohnn Gross of Don Bosco in the semifinals, will face Brick Memorial's Matt Moore in the consolation semifinals.

Delaware Valley senior Mike Pongracz, who finished eighth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior, will face 2012 state champion Mike Magaldo of Watchung Hills in the 126-pound consolation semifinals.

Lenape Valley's Peter Lipari will wrestle Nutley's Robert Trombetta for seventh at 120 pounds.

Crunching the numbers

Region 2 was the big winner on Saturday with a tournament-best seven finalists among 16 medal winners. Regions 3 and 5 were next with five finalists, while Region 7 has four in the championship round. Region 8 has three and Region 6 has two. Regions 1 and 4 bring up the rear with one finalist apiece.

South Plainfield has four of Region 3's five finalists and will try to match High Point's total of four champs from 2011. In addition to Ashnault, Corey Stasenko (126), Scott DelVecchio (132) and Troy Heilmann (145) will battle for state titles. Heilmann was a runner-up in 2011 and '12, while DelVecchio won it all last year at 132. Stasenko was sixth at 145.

Region 3 has the most state medal winners with 18, followed by Region 2's total of 16. Regions 5 and 6 are next with 15, while Region 7 has 13. Regions 1 and 4 have 12 apiece, while Region 8 is last with 11.

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