Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wrestling: 'Cats, 'Liners, Streaks roll in sectional semis

You really can throw out the records when it comes to High Point's wrestling team.

It may not look pretty on paper, but the Wildcats received victories from six wrestlers sporting double-digit losses in rolling to a 56-17 win over Jefferson on Wednesday night in a North 2, Group 2 sectional semifinal in Wantage.

High Point (14-4), the top seed which won 11 bouts, will host No. 2 River Dell -- a 47-18 winner over Parsippany in the other semifinal -- on Friday in the championship match. The 'Cats are seeking a Sussex County-record 24th sectional title overall and their fifth in a row. Coach John Gardner's squad also is the defending Group 2 champion.

"Some people don't understand the reason why we wrestle the [tough] schedule that we do," said Gardner, who has guided his alma mater to 11 sectional championships in 16 seasons. "It doesn't always look pretty, and a lot of times we force kids to go out whether they're ready or not. Regardless of the record, we want kids that can go out and wrestle hard for six minutes."

Sans a forfeit to Jefferson state placewinner Bryan Damon at 126 pounds, High Point dropped only two bouts on the mat and actually had some positives in those defeats. Wildcats senior Brett Picher was pressed into duty at 160 pounds against state qualifier Luke Bohn, and Picher, a heavy underdog, scored a reversal in the first period before Bohn pulled away for a technical fall victory to knot the team score at 5.

That's when High Point went to work, winning the next six bouts -- including five straight pins -- to essentially put the match out of reach. Senior Colby Brands (14-15) started the run by decking Frank Avallone at 170 before Antonio Porraspita disposed of Tyler Zimmerman, using a power half for a pin in 5:15, in a battle of Region 1 qualifiers at 182.

Porraspita (20-11), who led 1-0 at the time of the fall, had beaten Zimmerman, 5-0, in last year's District 3 semifinals and was very familiar with his opponent.

"We wrestled a lot in the offseason and I knew his style," said Porraspita, a district runner-up as a junior. "I was a little surprised [with the pin], but you always have to expect the best out of yourself. Going into the third period it was a tight match and my mentality is to work harder [than the opponent] and always look for bonus points."

Kyle Stoll kept the pinfest going with an eight-second fall at 195 for his 94th career victory, while senior Bobby McDonnell, the Region 1 runner-up at 220 last season, reversed Robert Hajnos to his back for the fall in 2:12 to give High Point a commanding 29-5 lead through six bouts.

"Once we get on a roll as a team it's pretty tough to stop us, and I think that showed tonight," said McDonnell, who has 14 pins among his 17 victories this season. "I pinned him in districts last year and I just wanted to go out and wrestle my match."

Gunny Wassong's pin at 285 made it 35-5 midway through and freshman Chase Babus capped the streak by converting three takedowns in a 7-2 win over Anthony Antoneck at 106. Chris Shrieks added to the Falcons' total with a pin at 113, but High Point junior Dom Gallo rolled to a 7-0 win over freshman Mark Bohn in the featured bout at 120. Gallo (24-5), a District 3 champion, racked up three takedowns -- two were sweet duck-unders -- in the victory.

After the teams traded forfeits at 126 and 132, juniors Ryan Cullen and Jason Gaccione closed it out for the Wildcats with wins at 138 and 145, respectively. Cullen was impressive in a 6-0 win over Region 1 qualifier Matt Tripodi, while Gaccione decked Anthony Avellone in 1:31 for his 94th career victory.

It wasn't all good news for High Point as it is dealing with key injuries. Sophomore 126-pounder Jared Kobis (3-1) aggravated his hand injury and will not return this season, while senior 160-pounder Tommy Hooker sustained a hairline fracture in his right ankle over the weekend. Hooker was originally thought to be done as well, but will suit up for Friday's match and attempt to compete, according to Gardner.

"Injuries are part of the sport," Gardner said. "We're not the only team with bumps and bruises. There are always challenges and obstacles that arise."

The 'Cats are looking forward to Friday and a victory that would send them to Toms River on Sunday to battle for a second straight Group 2 title. High Point has never won back-to-back titles -- claiming its Group 3 titles in 2008 and 2011.

"We're just looking at it one match at a time ... Obviously, we know in sectionals if you lose, you're done," McDonnell said. "Myself and everyone else is confident that if we perform, we'll be at Pine Belt Arena [on Sunday]."

152 -- Sr. Chris Auer (18-11), HP, tf. Sr. Antonio Letizia (14-13), 15-0, 5:21.
160 -- Jr. Luke Bohn (23-3), J, tf. Sr. Brett Picher (2-8), 18-2, 5:11.
170 -- Sr. Colby Brands (14-15), HP, p. Sr. Frank Avallone (15-7), 1:58.
182 -- Sr. Antonio Porraspita (20-11), HP, p. Sr. Tyler Zimmerman (23-9), 5:15.
195 -- Sr. Kyle Stoll (26-5), HP, p. Fr. Cole Benfatti (0-4), :08.
220 -- Sr. Bobby McDonnell (17-14), HP, p. Sr. Robert Hajnos (24-7), 2:12.
285 -- Sr. Gunny Wassong (12-5), HP, p. So. Avery Sheruda (8-10), 1:48.
106 -- Fr. Chase Babus (13-16), HP, d. So. Anthony Antoneck (18-10), 7-2.
113 -- So. Chris Shrieks (20-8), J, p. Fr. Derek Sarapuchiello (0-1), 4:48.
120 -- Jr. Dom Gallo (24-5), HP, d. Fr. Mark Bohn (25-7), 7-0.
126 -- Sr. Bryan Damon (29-2), J, forfeit.
132 -- Jr. Mike Derin (25-6), HP, forfeit.
138 -- Jr. Ryan Cullen (13-12), HP, d. Sr. Matt Tripodi (25-7), 6-0.
145 -- Jr. Jason Gaccione (27-4), HP, p. So. Anthony Avellone (2-10), 1:31.
Records -- Jefferson 19-6; High Point 14-4.

Elsewhere in semifinal matches involving teams from the Open Mike area:

Kittatinny 50, Lenape Valley 12 -- The top-seeded Cougars advanced to their 15th straight sectional final behind pins from Jake VanWingerden (126), Austin Scrivani (138), Dylan Wunder (182) and Garrett Armstrong (195). Senior Nick Romyns secured his 99th career win with a 9-7 decision over Dominic LaBell  at 160. Kittatinny, which has won 18 sectional titles, will next host No. 3 Emerson-Park Ridge in the North 1, Group 1 title match. Coach John Gill's squad also defeated Lenape Valley, 58-15, on Jan. 8.

Phillipsburg 59, Watchung Hills 12 -- In a match that lasted just one hour, the Stateliners racked up eight pins in the North 2, Group 4 semifinal win to reach the program's 35th consecutive sectional final. DJ Wissing (120), Garrett Wolfinger (145), Jimmy Schuitema (152), Max Elling (160), Broderick Bupivi (170), Jake Kocsis (182), Kyle Markus (106) and Brandon Paetzell (113) had falls and Joe Maso (195) had a technical fall win for P'burg (15-0), ranked No. 3 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Top 20. The top-seeded 'Liners, now 21-0 all-time vs. Watchung Hills, will next host No. 3 Hunterdon Central in the title match.

Hunterdon Central 29, North Hunterdon 27 -- Freshman Peter Nace recorded a huge 7-1 decision over District 17 champion Paul Robinson at 106 pounds and junior Kyler Rodriguez sealed the win with a 3-1 triumph over Matt Mohan in the last bout at 120, as the third-seeded Red Devils advanced to the North 2, Group 4 final. Central, which won its 19 sectional crown a year ago, earns a finals rematch with P'burg at The Pit on Friday. Coach Steve Gibble's team also avenged a 28-27 loss to North Hunterdon at home earlier this season. Joe Scerbo (170) and Nick Suk (220) also earned one-point wins against the Lions in this one.

Warren Hills 45, Mendham 20 -- Matt Valli (113), Max Nauta (132), Shane Deemer (160), Ryan Ostir (170) and Andrew Pacheco (285) all had pins to help the second-seeded Blue Streaks make a return trip to the North 2, Group 3 final. Nauta (23-5), who dropped to 132 for the first time this season, earned his 85th career win by decking Harrison Mauer in 35 seconds. Coach Jarrett Hosbach's squad will face No. 1 Roxbury for the championship -- a rematch of last year's semifinal, won by the Streaks, 31-30, in Washington. Warren Hills is seeking a sixth sectional title and its first since 2007.

South Plainfield 30, Voorhees 24 -- The Vikings were denied in their bid to repeat as North 2, Group 2 champions, dropping three bouts decided by two points or fewer, with the loss to last year's Group 3 champs. South Plainfield won four of the last five bouts, including key decisions at 145, where Raymond Jazikoff beat Christian Okulicz, 3-0, and 160, where Jordan Handwerger beat Devon Thomas, 3-1, in overtime.

Long Branch 30, Delaware Valley 18 -- In a rematch of last year's sectional final, Del Val dropped four of the final five bouts, including a 3-2 decision in a key bout at 170 pounds, as the Terriers were denied on "Gold Rush Night" in their bid for the program's first sectional title since 2006. Nick Menkin got the ball rolling for the Green Wave with a pin at 152 and Arturo Rios scored the win over Nour Mays at 170 to make it 27-15 with two bouts left. Long Branch is now 3-0 all-time vs. Del Val, including 31-23 wins in the 2008 and '13 sectional title matches.

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