Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wrestling: High Point adds Cheesehead, P'burg in '14

High Point's wrestling team is beefing up an already tough schedule by adding a trip to the prestigious Cheesehead Tournament for the 2013-14 season.

Wildcats coach John Gardner confirmed on Sunday that tournament officials accepted his team's bid to participate in the 16th annual event -- an individual tournament -- for the first time in program history. Gardner also said that an official contract has yet to be received and signed off on.

The 2014 tourney will be held on Friday, Jan. 3 and Saturday, Jan. 4 at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin.

"I think it will be a great thing. Our kids still talk about attending the Clash [in 2009]," said Gardner, who opted for the Cheesehead over the Clash for next season.

According to the Cheesehead web site, 12 teams from Wisconsin and seven from Illinois, including nationally-ranked Montini Catholic, were among last year's field. National Minnesota powers, Apple Valley, winner of a record five Cheesehead team titles, and Simley, also attended in 2013.

The 2013 Cheesehead championship finals aired on FOX Sports North.

High Point will not be attending the much-publicized Newark Academy Invitational next season in light of its commitment to the Cheesehead. The 'Cats will compete in three other tournaments -- Colt Classic, Mustang Classic at Brick Memorial and the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex -- and it will force them to go light on the dual meets with the 30-match limit.

P'burg heading to Wantage

Gardner also confirmed that High Point will host Phillipsburg in a dual meet on Saturday, Jan. 18 in Sussex County. This one will be an evening match, so the place should be packed. The two New Jersey powers have not wrestled since High Point's 30-22 victory at The Pit on Jan. 31, 2009.

Phillipsburg leads the series, 15-1, including six postseason meetings in the Group 3 semifinals and finals. The Stateliners' last win was 45-22 in the Group 3 semis on Feb. 22, 2003. The series began in 1989 and was continuous through '99. The schools have met just twice since, including that one regular season clash in '09. P'burg is 5-0 in High Point's home gym, including a 49-12 win in its last match there on Jan. 2, 1999.

Mugs Media Awards

The annual Mugs Media/Eastern Propane Winter Sports Banquet for Sussex County schools (Jefferson and North Warren also eligible) was held on Saturday at the Blue Ribbon Inn on Culver Lake.

The following took home awards in wrestling:

Team of the Year -- High Point.

The Wildcats finished 20-4 and ranked No. 11 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20. Coach John Gardner's team captured the North 1, Group 2 sectional title and the Group 2 state title -- the program's third championship and first in Group 2 after winning Group 3 titles in 2008 and '11. The 'Cats also won their fourth straight NJAC division title and are 27-0 in those matches since joining the conference in 2009-10. High Point crowned five district and three region champions while having three wrestlers earn medals in the state tournament.

Coach of the Year -- Frank Battaglia, Sparta.

In his second season, Sparta finished 15-9, matching the program's combined win total for the previous three seasons in which it went 15-53. The Spartans qualified for the sectional tournament for the first time since 2000 with their berth in the North 1, Group 3 draw. Battaglia was named District 3 Coach of the Year and was among four finalists for Region 1 honors. After not having a wrestler win a bout at districts in 2010 and '11, the Spartans have sent three wrestlers to Region 1 the last two years, including sophomore Ian Burke (126) and freshman Al Falco (160) this season.

Wrestler of the Year -- Josh Sibblies, Newton.

The senior overcame season-ending knee injuries the last two years to win Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex and Region 1 titles, while placing fifth in the state tournament at 182 pounds. The District 3 runner-up, as the No. 7 seed, defeated the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 en route to becoming the Braves' 34th region champ, while joining his father, Ted, in winning the Outstanding Wrestler Award. Josh is also the first state semifinalist for Newton since his father finished second at 130 pounds in 1989.

Back points

There is serious discussion about realignment for the district and region tournaments in New Jersey. According to one apparent rumor, denied by one school official, Phillipsburg has been trying to move out of Region 1 for a few years now and could land in another region and district for the 2014-15 season. The request to move seems odd since P'burg would likely try to host Region 1 -- when and if its new high school along Belvidere Road is built. Mount Olive, which hosts District 1 along with P'burg and Warren Hills, also is still vying to become a host site for regions.

In addition, the Stateliners are entertaining the idea of a one-day District 1 Tournament when they host in 2014. Long travel considerations for Mount Olive, Mendham and West Morris are the genesis behind it. I can't imagine fans liking the idea, especially those from 'Liner Nation. We also used to have Saturday night finals, though a one-day event will likely push the championship round back to approximately 6 p.m.

Phillipsburg has informed the King of the Mountain Tournament that it will not be able to attend this season due to conflicts with official start dates in New Jersey. The Stateliners had competed in the rugged event the last four years, but because this year's tournament will be held on Dec. 13-14, a week before the Garden State opens, they will be forced to make other plans. Because Thanksgiving is late this year (Nov. 28) the first official practice in New Jersey is Monday, Dec. 2.

Looks like the Warren Hills quad, involving High Point, Howell and Timber Creek, is done after just one tremendous event. The John Goles Invitational will be on a Friday (Dec. 27) this year and according to coach Jarrett Hosbach, the Blue Streaks only have one Saturday date (Feb. 1) still open. There is a possibility of a quad with Warren Hills taking place that day at High Point, according to Gardner, but that is still in the discussion stages.

Newton coach Eric Bollette confirmed that South Plainfield, New Jersey's top team the last two years, will return to the Henry Boresch Duals next season on Saturday, Jan. 4. Raritan, Waldwick-Midland Park, Morris Knolls are also slated to attend. Hanover Park and Livingston have not committed to returning in 2014 as of yet, so there will be at least one opening to fill in the eight-team field.

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