Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wrestling: Ten best shots at medals in Atlantic City

Here is a look at the Open Mike area's best shots at capturing a medal this weekend in the 80th New Jersey State Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall. In all, there are 30 qualifiers from Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex schools.

Brandon Paetzell (32-5), Phillipsburg -- The freshman captured District 1 and Region 1 titles in impressive fashion. He drew the toughest possible first-round opponent in Bergen Catholic freshman Nick Suriano (34-0), the consensus favorite for the 106-pound state championship. Paetzell, who is P'burg's first freshman to win a region title since John Rutledge in 1977, needs one victory to become the winningest ninth-grader in Stateliners' history. He only has one loss to a New Jersey opponent -- 1-0 to Delbarton's Ty Agaisse on Jan. 2 at The Pit.

Career mark: 32-5.
Previous state appearances: None.

Max Nauta (31-4), Warren Hills -- The sophomore has really been on a roll this postseason with District 1 and Region 1 titles already in hand. Nauta sustained three of his New Jersey losses the first week of the season -- including decisions to Clearview's Zack Firestone and Timber Creek's John Amato who are both going to Atlantic City -- while adjusting to making the weight. He's in the upper half of the draw with Don Bosco Prep's Luis Gonzalez, the state favorite, and Clifton's Jean DuBois. Nauta said over the weekend at Wallkill Valley that he considers himself the favorite in every tournament. Armed with confidence and a great set of hips, the Blue Streak will be a tough out.

Career mark: 61-11.
Previous state appearances: Pre-quarterfinals at 106 (2-2 in 2012), did not place.

Ryan Pomrinca (35-3), North Hunterdon -- The sophomore is no stranger to AC after a seventh-place finish last year at 113 pounds. Talk about a tough road, Pomrinca had to navigate through a brutal Region 5 class that included three other 2012 state placewinners in Craig De La Cruz of Bound Brook, Bishop Ahr's Kyle Brady and JFK-Iselin's Carl Buttitta. Pomrinca lost in UTB to De La Cruz in the quarterfinals before beating Buttitta, 6-3, in the consolation semis and decking Brady in the third-place bout. Pomrinca certainly proved his mettle with those clutch wins.

Career mark: 74-8.
Previous state appearances: Seventh place at 113 in 2012.

Mike Pongracz (31-0), Delaware Valley -- Tough to enter a state tournament unbeaten and twice as tough when you're in arguably the deepest weight class in AC. The senior is a two-time medal winner and reached the semifinals last year at 126 -- falling, 8-2, to three-time champ Anthony Ashnault of South Plainfield. A quarterfinal date with South Plainfield's Corey Stasenko (36-1), sixth at 145 last year, likely awaits on Saturday morning. The winner of that one has a great chance to be in the finals on Sunday.

Career mark: 144-14.
Previous state appearances: Did not place in 2010 (1-2), Eighth at 119 in 2011 (2-3), Fifth at 126 in 2012 (4-2).

Mike Derin (16-3), High Point -- The sophomore is on fire this postseason and is a dangerous opponent for those in AC. He was a round away from placing at 120 last year, going 2-2, with both losses to state placewinners (third-place Zack Hertling of Ocean Township and fourth-place Ricky Carter of Timber Creek). Derin is looking at potential quarterfinal round matchup with Livingston's Jason Estevez (36-0), a semifinalist who finished third at this weight last year. That mental break earlier in the season did a world of good for Derin, who doesn't let opponents off their backs.

Career mark: 48-9.
Previous state appearances: Did not place at 120 (2-2).

Gary Dinmore (33-0), Hunterdon Central -- There may not be a more anticipated rematch than the Red Devils junior and unbeaten South Plainfield senior Anthony Ashnault (36-0 this season and 166-0 overall), who beat Dinmore, 5-2, in last year's 126-pound final to claim title No. 3. But that's certainly putting the cart before the horse as Dinmore must negotiate his way through a tough bottom half of the draw with Jackson Memorial's Brian Hamann (fourth at 126 in 2012, fourth at 103 in 2010) and Timber Creek's Brandon Keller (seventh at 112 in 2010, fifth at 125 in 2011 and second at 132 in 2012) posing as potential spoilers.

Career mark: 92-11.
Previous state appearances: Quarterfinals, did not place at 112 in 2011 (1-2), Second at 126 in 2012.

Jimmy Schuitema (32-3), Phillipsburg -- The sophomore cruised to District 1 and Region 1 titles and enters this tournament with a ton of confidence. He was a round away from a medal last year at 132. A tough leg rider, Schuitema dropped a tough 6-5 decision to Bergen Catholic's Connor Melde, who finished fourth, in the quarterfinals. The Stateliner, who is 32-0 in New Jersey this season, has a tough one out of the gate against South Brunswick's Jordan Pagano (36-2) and the winner likely gets South Plainfield's Dylan Painton (36-4).

Career mark: 62-15.
Previous state appearances: Quarterfinals, did not place (2-2).

Jadaen Bernstein (39-0), Voorhees -- Hands down the area's best shot at a state title. The senior and two-time placewinner -- a surprise finalist in 2011 -- is the top seed in the upper bracket. Montville's Parker Meytrott (36-1), the Region 1 champ, and Watchung Hills' Mike Carroccia (30-1) are in that same quarter of the draw. Carroccia beat Meytrott, 3-1, on Dec. 15. Bernstein and Meytrott have a common opponent in Kittatinny's Kieran Gerrity, who lost 12-5 to Bernstein and 7-0 to Meytrott. If Bernstein gets past the quarters, a semifinal date with Delsea's Dylan Dobzanski (37-0) likely awaits.

Career mark: 132-18.
Previous state appearances: Second at 160 in 2011, Seventh at 160 in 2012.

Kyle Stoll (33-5), High Point -- The junior rolled to District 3 and Region 1 titles and seems to be peaking at the right time. Stoll, whose father, Joe, won a region title for Vernon in 1984, went one-and-done in last year's tournament at 182 pounds. Governor Livingston's Shane Haddad (34-2), a Region 3 champ, will be Stoll's first opponent on Friday. A tough way to open for sure. They have a common opponent in Kittatinny's Jake Brook, who lost to Haddad, 3-2, on Dec. 21. Brook defeated Stoll, 2-1, in UTB.

Career mark: 66-16.
Previous appearances: Did not place (0-1).

J.B. Lawson (29-4), Belvidere -- The senior captured his first titles in District 1 and Region 1 as he embarks on his second trip to Atlantic City. The County Seaters' last state placewinner was Tyler Smith (third at 189 in 2008). Lawson is in an interesting upper half of the draw -- setting up to be a quarterfinal date with Holy Cross senior Mauro Correnti (12-1), who was injured most of the season and placed fifth after reaching the semifinals at 220 last year. Delsea's Bryan Dobzanski (38-0) is the top seed in the upper bracket. Don Bosco's Zack Chakonis (34-1), who lost to Correnti in last year's fifth-place bout, is the No. 1 seed in the bottom bracket.

Career mark: 95-42.
Previous appearances: Quarterfinals, did not place (2-2).

Other area qualifiers (20):

Belvidere -- Ryan Appelby (285)
High Point -- Jason Gaccione (145), Bobby McDonnell (220)
Hunterdon Central -- Dylan Nace (126), Collin Boylan (132), Tim Higginson (145), Tyler Cote (160), David Fenton (170)
Kittatinny -- Nick Romyns (145), Kieran Gerrity (170)
Lenape Valley -- Peter Lipari (120), Matt Benvenuto (138)
Newton -- Josh Sibblies (182)
North Warren -- Matt Ritchie (120)
Phillipsburg -- Anthony Johnson (132), Max Elling (138), Jake Kocsis (160)
Pope John -- Noa Merritt (285)
Warren Hills -- Joe Kratochvil (126), Andrew Pacheco (285)

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