Monday, February 17, 2014

Wrestling: Melise helps 'Liners 'roll' in Group 4 final

Talk about a reversal of fortune.

In one of the most stunning turns, unheralded freshman Robert Melise pulled off one of the most dramatic upsets and added to a long running chapter of Phillipsburg wrestling history with his pin at 285 pounds that sent the Stateliners on their way to a 32-21 victory over Southern on Sunday in the Group 4 championship match at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.

Melise used a wrist roll to deck senior Jesse Bauta in 3:34 -- sending the loud and proud P'burg faithful and most of the gym into a frenzy. Bauta (23-6) was seemingly well on his way to a victory, leading 6-2 at the time of the fall. In fact, the only one more surprised than those in attendance was the wrestler who pulled it off.

"It was a complete shock to me, as much as anybody in the stands" said Melise, who entered the pivotal bout with a 2-4 record -- both wins via forfeits. "My approach was to not get pinned. Before I went out there my coaches told me to have fun, and not give up bonus points. I knew if I just clammed up that [Bauta] would pack me easily. He is a strong dude."

It was the icing on the cake for Phillipsburg (18-0), which completed it first campaign with zero losses since the 1969-70 squad capped a run of three straight unbeaten seasons under legendary coach Thad Turner.

Melise said he learned the winning move from teammate and practice partner Tim Hinkle, a junior who earlier in the day picked up a victory in Phillipsburg's 46-15 win over Clifton in the semifinals. Melise figured it might be a good time to try it out.

"I hit it and I was like, 'Wow, it actually works," Melise said. "When I got up, I had so many thoughts buzzing through my mind. I didn't realize I actually won until my hand was raised. I was in such a state of shock."

So was the Southern bench and its plethora of fans in the bleachers. The Rams (22-1), who earlier knocked off Howell, 34-24, in the semifinals, now needed 14 points in the final three bouts to pull off a win. But with P'burg lightweight hammer Brandon Paetzell up next at 106, that became almost as far-fetched as Melise's stunner. Paetzell, who placed fifth in the state as a freshman, cruised to a 9-1 major decision and the Stateliners' 18th Group title, and first unbeaten season in 44 years was in the books.

"Robert made a big sacrifice for us," said coach Dave Post, who guided the 'Liners to a Group 4 title in 2012 -- thanks largely to the heroics of 113-pounder Zach Fisher, who knocked off state placewinner Joe Ghione, 6-4, in the final bout of a 29-27 win over Brick Memorial. "We've wrestled the season without a heavyweight and he weighed 177 at the start of the season. Today, he weighed 199. He drank a gallon of water just to be able to wrestle and be in that position. It was hard on his body to do it, but that's his commitment to the team. He wanted to be out there."

Phillipsburg had quite a few other clutch performances to help set the stage for Melise. Senior Broderick Bupivi scored a 3-2 upset-win -- behind a third-period takedown -- over Gerardo Jorge at 170 pounds, while junior Jimmy Schuitema bested former state placewinner Zach Wilhelm, 6-2, at 145. Junior Steve Friedman also gave the 'Liners an early boost with his 5-3 decision over Bryan Brown in the second bout at 132.

"Our seniors have given us great leadership," said Post, whose three captains, Jake Kocsis, Garrett Wolfinger and Bupivi have all come through with big wins this season. "I couldn't do my job and my staff couldn't do their job without strong leadership. We have such a proud tradition."

Southern was in good shape early on behind wins from Andrew Tonneson at 126 and Matt Wilhelm's 10-8 come-from-behind win over Corey Zinsmeister at 138. Wilhelm trailed 4-0 after one period before getting two of his five takedowns in the second period. Down 5-4 to start the third, Wilhelm dominated on his feet in the final two minutes as Zinsmeister ran out of steam near the end of the previous period.

After Schuitema's win, Nick Racanelli gave the Rams a huge lift with a surprising pin of Wolfinger at 145. The unexpected bonus points gave Southern a 12-6 lead five bouts in. That's when P'burg went to work.

Max Elling came through with a major decision at 160, while Kocsis added a pin at 182 in a match where bonus points were at a premium. Junior Joe Maso capped a four-match win streak with his 4-0 decisiob over Mason Fazekas at 195, giving P'burg a 22-12 advantage with five bouts left.

Most of the matchups were closely contested, and in fact, there were only two sets of back points awarded in the entire match -- two for Zinsmeister and two for Southern's James Knoeller in his 8-4 win over Tyler Agans at 113. P'burg also finished with a 23-20 advantage in takedowns.

"Southern is a tough team and well-coached ... they just grind," Post said. "When we got down, we told our kids to have short-term memory and put it behind them, and not harp on it."

Seems like 18 was Phillipsburg's lucky number as its 18th win of the season came with an 18th Group championship -- second only to Paulsboro's 29 titles in Group 1.

"Every practice we finished it off with, "State champs," Post said. "In my weekly emails to the parents and wrestlers, I signed off with No. 18. I guess next year I will have to make it 19."

It's a safe bet that Melise will never again have to pay for a meal or a soft drink in P'burg. Well, he can certainly enjoy a bite to eat after the season, but he may pass on any liquids, at least for awhile. He certainly quenched the Warren County school's thirst for another Group championship.

126 -- Sr. Andrew Tonneson (24-3), S, d. Sr. Tylor Petchonka (15-12), 8-3.
132 -- Jr. Steve Friedman (15-13), P, d. Sr. Bryan Brown (17-6), 5-3.
138 -- Jr. Matt Wilhelm (23-3), S, d. Jr. Corey Zinsmeister (21-7), 10-8.
145 -- Jr. Jimmy Schuitema (23-4), P, d. Sr. Zach Wilhelm (21-4), 6-2.
152 -- Sr. Nicholas Racanelli (23-2), S, p. Sr. Garrett Wolfinger (12-6), 3:34.
160 -- Jr. Max Elling (29-4), P, md. So. Joe Toci (11-8), 15-7.
170 -- Sr. Broderick Bupivi (24-9), P, d. Sr. Gerardo Jorge (22-5), 3-2.
182 -- Sr. Jake Kocsis (31-2), P, p. So. Peyton Blauvelt (11-7), 3:43.
195 -- Jr. Joe Maso (21-6), P, d. Sr. Mason Fazekas (1-4), 4-0.
220 -- Jr. Patrick Ferraro (15-9), S, d. Fr. Drew Horun (20-8), 5-3.
285 -- Fr. Robert Melise (3-4), P, p. Sr. Jesse Bauta (23-6), 3:34.
106 -- So. Brandon Paetzell (30-1), P, md. Jr. Frank Amiano (18-11), 9-1.
113 -- Jr. James Knoeller (25-3), S, d. So. Tyler Agans (9-14), 8-4.
120 -- Jr. Chris Crane (23-3), S, d. So. DJ Wissing (19-12), 8-4.
Records -- Phillipsburg 18-0; Southern 22-1.

(Group 4 semifinals)
120 -- Fr. Kareem Askew (22-0), C, d. So. DJ Wissing (19-11), 7-4.
126 -- Sr. Tylor Petchonka (15-11), P, d. Khalil Zawaide (27-4), 8-5.
132 -- So. Mohamed Farhan (30-1), C, forfeit.
138 -- Jr. Corey Zinsmeister (21-6), P, p. Sr. Maurice Marsilla (24-10), 1:47.
145 -- Sr. Garrett Wolfinger (12-5), P, md. Sr. Jonathan Routis (14-15), 13-2.
152 -- Jr. Jimmy Schuitema (22-4), P, d. So. Patrick DePasque (28-8), 11-5 SV.
160 -- Jr. Max Elling (28-4), P, p. James Sonzogni (20-3), 5:27.
170 -- Sr. Broderick Bupivi (23-9), P, md. Sr. Steven Naideck (21-11), 8-0.
182 -- Sr. Jake Kocsis (30-2), P, forfeit.
195 -- Jr. Tim Hinkle (8-7), P, d. Sr. Daniel Czarnecki (15-11), 7-1.
220 -- Jr. Joe Maso (20-6), P, d. Sr. Mahmoud Allen (8-14), 5-3.
285 -- Fr. Drew Horun (20-7), P, d. Sr. Tarek Awad (21-10), 2-1.
106 -- So. Brandon Paetzell (29-1), P, tf. Fr. Anthony Tuda (21-10), 19-4, 3:28.
113 -- Fr. James Murdoch (25-9), C, forfeit.
Records -- Phillipsburg 17-0; Clifton 19-3.

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