Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wrestling: Region 1 finals recap, tidbits

Another outstanding Region 1 Tournament is in the books. Absolutely my favorite event of the season.

Phillipsburg freshman Brandon Paetzell won the first of what could be several championships with his workmanlike run through a talented 106-pound weight class. Paetzell (32-5), by virtue of his 6-3 win over Roxbury's Stephen Caserta, matched Rylan Watson's school record for wins by a freshman.

Paetzell is well aware of the great P'burg tradition is happy to be included among the Stateliners' total of 114 region champions. Sophomore Jimmy Schuitema was the other 'Liner to win on Saturday, as he steamrolled through the 152-pound field. In all, P'burg advanced a tournament-best five wrestlers to Atlantic City for next weekend's state tournament.

The 2013 Region 1 champions -- including 10 from the Open Mike area.
"My coaches always like to let me know if I'm close to any records," said Paetzell, who was feeling a bit under the weather this weekend. "It's pretty cool that [P'burg] has that tradition."

Paetzell showed no ill-effects of an illness in the finals after getting sick during a tough semifinal -- a 4-3 win over Morris Knolls freshman Garrett O'Shea. In fact, it appeared as if Paetzell got somewhat of a second win against Caserta -- racking up three impressive takedowns in the process.

"I was a little sick [in the semifinals]," Paetzell said. "In the finals I feel like I got over it a little bit. I wrestled my best in the finals."

Believed to be the only P'burg wrestler to place in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman on the Cadet level in Fargo, N.D., Paetzell is a firm believer that freestyle wrestling all these years has helped make him the champion he is today.

"First, it's fun. Second, it makes you a much better folkstyle wrestler," he said. "Freestyle has definitely made me better on my feet. You have to get takedowns [to win]."

Once, twice, three times for High Point

There were plenty of ups and down for High Point's program on Saturday, but the Wildcats closed it out in style by crowing a tournament-high three champions to give the Sussex program a total of 41. Sophomores Mike Derin (132) and Jason Gaccione (145), along with junior Kyle Stoll (195), all won their first titles.

Derin (16-3), a two-time District 3 champion, ran roughshod through a brutal upper half of the draw -- beating returning runner-up Anthony Johnson of Phillipsburg, 12-8, in the quarterfinals, before decking 2012 champion Sam Tareky of Wayne Valley with a low-leg cradle in the semifinals. He capped the run by decking Roxbury's Jake Legotte with an arm bar in 2:41 -- avenging a 5-2 loss to Legotte on Jan. 19.

Gaccione (37-4) also redeemed himself with a 6-5 win over Kittatinny's Nick Romyns, who won their District 3 final, 11-6. This time, Gaccione hit a sweet double-leg takedown from his knees with 1:06 left in the third period to go up, 6-4.

"It feels great," said Gaccione, who joins his brother, Joe, and his uncle, Wildcats coach John Gardner, as a region champ. "Nick Romyns is a very good wrestler and it was a tight match in the districts. I wrestled as hard as I could and last time it wasn't my day, it was his day. This time it was my day."

Joe Gaccione won three titles for High Point from 2009-11, while Gardner is one of three to win four titles in this region (1987-90) Between the three, there is a healthy rivalry and now eight region titles. But Jason Gaccione needs a state medal to go along with his family members. Joe Gaccione was a third-place finisher his senior season, while Gardner won a state title in '90.

"When I try to start anything with my brother, I can't beat him," said Jason, who won tight quarterfinal and semifinal bouts to reach his first final. "And it usually ends up in a wrestling match. I wanted to get four district titles, but that didn't happen. now I want to get three region titles."

Stoll also added a region title to his family, as his father, Joe, won the heavyweight championship for Vernon in 1984. Stoll methodically worked his way through the 195-pound draw, capping things with a 3-2 win over Wayne Valley's Anthony Landberg. It was the second straight year that Landberg lost to Sussex County opponent by the same scores, falling to Newton's Jake Connelly in last year's final at 195.

Twice as nice for County Seaters

Belvidere seniors J.B. Lawson (220) and Ryan Appleby (285) claimed their first region titles -- Nos. 18 and 19 for the Warren County school.

Lawson (29-4) earned a 3-0 decision over High Point's Bobby McDonnell -- earning career win No. 95 in the process.

Appleby (30-4) went one up in his rivalry with Warren Hills' Andrew Pacheco by posting a 5-3 win -- the second in three meetings this season and the third in five matchups dating to last year. Pacheco pinned Appleby in last weekend's District 1 finals.

This time, Appleby avoided Pacheco's devastating lateral drop. He converted two takedowns to build a 4-2 lead after one period, making sure to take and finish shots low to avoid getting dropped. Pacheco nearly hit it several times off the mat in what was a very entertaining bout.

Senior Evan Bray sustained a double-dose of heartbreak as he dropped a 6-4 decision to DePaul's Nick DePalma in their third-place bout at 182. The second loss to DePalma this season knocked Bray, one of three returning champions who failed to advance, left Bray stuck on 99 career wins.

Like father, like son

The feel-good story of this tournament was Newton senior Josh Sibblies' march to the 182-pound title. Sibblies had to go through the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds to do it -- beating Morris Knolls senior Michael Burns, 4-1, in the finals for the gold medal.
Coaches Andy Iliff, Eric Bollette, Dave Young and Ted Sibblies with Josh Sibblies.

The win, which avenged a 3-2 loss to Burns in early January, also earned Sibblies the Outstanding Wrestler Award. His dad, Ted, a Newton assistant coach, was a region champion and OW for the Braves in 1989.

"He's a great role model and has helped me become the man I am today," Josh said of his father.

Josh Sibblies, who is Newton's 34th region champ, will try to match his dad as a state finalist next weekend in AC. The last two years were major disappointments after knee surgeries ended his sophomore and junior seasons. He goes to states with nothing to lose.

"It's an awesome opportunity," Sibblies said. "I will give it my all and take nothing for granted. I just want to wrestle hard and stay on a roll, and continue to wrestle one match at a time."

Back points

Lenape Valley senior Matt Benvenuto was a two-time winner on Saturday, as he captured his first region title with a 3-2 win over Phillipsburg's Max Elling at 138 pounds. Benvenuto (34-6), who finished fourth in 2012, also was awarded the Josh Tresslar Memorial Scholarship presented annually to a deserving senior wrestler.

With his first ticket to AC firmly in hand, Benvenuto, who is the Patriots' first champ since Andrew Wrede in 2008 and their 11th overall, hopes to come away with his first state medal at Boardwalk Hall.

"If I wrestle well I can definitely end up on the podium," said Benvenuto, now 116-37 overall and six wins shy of matching D.J. Russo (122-31 from 2002-06) for the school victories record.

Kittatinny had a tough Saturday -- going 2-4 in the semifinals and 4-7 in the wrestlebacks, including fourth-place finishes for Tom Murphy (138) and Dylan Wunder (195). Senior Jake Brook (182) and junior Garrett Armstrong (220), who own wins over the champs at their respective weights, did not place.

The Cougars, who have 32 champions in their history, failed to produce at least one champion for only the fifth time since 1998. On the bright side, former Kittatinny state champion Roman Fleszar was inducted into the Region 1 Hall of Fame prior to the finals.

Sophomore Max Nauta became the first Warren Hills wrestler to reach the finals in his first two seasons since Dave Richmond won the first of three titles in 2004. And Nauta celebrated by decking Jefferson's Bryan Damon -- a defensive pin -- in the 113-pound final.

The third-seeded Nauta improved to 31-4 this season and 61-11 overall and certainly did it the hard way by beating the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds. He needed a reversal in the final seconds to pull out a 3-2 win over Randolph's A.J. Vindici in the semifinals. Vindici, who was seventh in the state last year at 106, finished third.

Senior Joe Kratochvil (126), one of three Blue Streaks in the finals, dropped a 3-2 decision to DePaul's David McFadden, a region champ and state finalist in 2012.

It was a tough ending to a great rookie season for High Point's Jared Kobis, who sustained a serious elbow injury in his 11-8 loss to Lenape Valley's Peter Lipari in the 120-pound semifinals.

Kobis (36-2), the top seed, took an 8-6 lead in the third period, before Lipari hit a four-point move late to pull out the win in thrilling fashion. Kobis injured himself on a takedown earlier in the third that gave him a 7-4 lead.

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