Friday, February 28, 2014

Wrestling: Region 1 quarterfinals recap, tidbits

We're down to the Final Four here on the winners' side at Wallkill Valley Regional High School. And on the eve of one of toughest and most grueling days of the season, let's take a look at what went down in Friday's quarterfinal round.

1. How 'bout them High Point Wildcats? After entering the quarters with a tournament-high 10 wrestlers, coach John Gardner's 'Cats have a tourney-best six alive in the semifinals. Dom Gallo (120), Mike Derin (132), Jason Gaccione (145), Tommy Hooker (160), Kyle Stoll (195) and Christian Campbell (285) are still in the championship hunt.

Gallo got things rolling with another epic battle against Kittatinny's Nick Klinger, getting a five-pointer for a 7-2 victory in the third overtime. Gallo got in deep and lifted Klinger high off the mat before bringing him down to his back for two and three after Klinger got the escape to tie it at 2. Gallo (30-7), who earned a 5-2 win in their dual meet clash, avenged a loss in UTB on Saturday in the District 3 semifinals.

Derin, Gaccione and Stoll continued their march toward repeating as champions -- all with pins -- while Hooker continues his gutsy effort with a bad ankle, decking Mount Olive's Anel Kadiric after getting put to his back early on. Campbell, one of five No. 5 seeds to advance, also got a pin to win against North Warren's Will O'Connell.

2. District 1 was lagging for much of the quarterfinal round -- advancing just four wrestlers through seven weights. But the district picked up steam in the upper weights, with nine winners from 152 through 285 -- two each at 152, 170 and 220. Districts 2 and 4 also had 13 winners, but District 3 bested the field with 17 moving into the semifinals.

Phillipsburg's Brandon Paetzell (106), Max Elling (152) and Jake Kocsis (170) aided D1 with victories, along with Warren Hills' Max Nauta (132) and Andrew Pacheco (285). Belvidere's Kevin Merle (170) continued his quest by decking Sparta's Al Falco for the second time in their three meetings this season.

Paetzell (34-1), now 71-8 overall, is on another level at his weight class, scoring a 9-2 win over West Morris' Shane Metzler to reach the semifinals for a second straight season. The Stateliner is looking to join Rick Thompson (1970-71) as the only P'burg wrestlers to win titles in both their freshman and sophomore campaigns.

Nauta and Pacheco are bidding for return trips to the finals as well. Nauta (28-5) got his 90th career win in style with a spladle to deck Phillipsburg's Steve Friedman, while Pacheco (31-2) needed just 25 seconds to erase Wayne Valley's Austin Behrens.

3. In addition to High Point, Sussex County enjoyed a fine Friday evening as Kittatinny pushed five of eight wrestlers through, while Pope John's two No. 1 seeds -- Austin Sisco (113) and Noa Merritt (285) -- kept their title hopes alive. Hopatcong's Joe Aumann (106), Lenape Valley's D.J. Barrett (182), Newton's Gus Protogeropoulos (220) and Sparta's Walker Schmitzer (145) also won in the quarters.

Paving the way for coach John Gill's Cougars were the upper weights -- Kieran Gerrity (170), Dylan Wunder (182) and Garrett Armstrong (195). Austin Scrivani (132) and Nick Romyns (152) also moved into the semifinal round.

Romyns avenged his loss in last weekend's District 3 semifinals with a 4-3 win over High Point's Chris Auer -- setting up a Saturday morning showdown with Elling, the top seed. Both were runners-up last year.

Sisco (31-3) had to come off his back early on to score a 9-7 win over dangerous Jefferson freshman Mark Bohn, who hit a nice headlock for five in the first period. He was among two No. 1 seeds, along with Hooker, to fight off their backs early in their bouts.

Protogeropoulos (33-5) maintained his mastery over High Point's Bobby McDonnell with a 7-5 victory -- his third in their three meetings this season. The Newton wrestler needed a takedown with 11 seconds left in the bout to pull it off. That's where he won this one, converting two takedowns in the first period.

4. Usually a lot is made of the seeding process used at regions, but the brackets are certainly holding true through two rounds. All 1s and 2s are in the semifinals, along with 11 No. 3s and nine No. 4s. That leaves five No. 5s and three No. 6s to round out the semis. A total of eight weights have all top four seeds left in the brackets.

Roxbury's Dillon Artigliere (37-0) is among the top seeds still kicking along as he decked Hopatcong's Troy Bongiovanni in the 170-pound quarters. The win extended Artigliere's win streak to 81 dating to 2012 and he was among five Gaels to advance, along with Troy Stanich (106), Devon LaFranco (132), Jake Legotte (138) and Craig Roumes (145).

David McFadden, the top seed at 145, needed just 1:24 to pin Montville's Edward Marucci, as DePaul sent five of its nine quarterfinalists into the semifinals. Joining McFadden are William Kui (120), Matt Noble (126), Brandon Kui (138) and Nick DePalma (182). McFadden is bidding to become the school' second three-time champion, joining former state champion Steve DePetro (1980-82).

Back points

Mendham, which features top seed Sam Button at 182, advanced four to the semifinals -- going 4-for-4 in the quarters -- for what is believed to be the first time in school history. Eric Friedman (138), Aaron Flitcroft (195) and Tim Byrne (220) also won for the Minutemen.

Wayne Hills, which is looking for its first region champion, also had a perfect night as Mojahed Hamdeh (113) and Daniel Kilroy (160) moved on.

Region 1 Hall of Fame inductions will take place Saturday prior to the finals. The Class of 2014 is a good one with former DePaul star Gene Mills, along with Kittatinny's Matt Valenti and former Washington/Warren Hills coach John Goles. Carmine and Sam Rossi will also be inducted during the ceremony. The Class of 2015 also will be announced here on Open Mike after the semifinals.

Phillipsburg was voted the No. 1 team in the region on Friday. High Point and Kittatinny were next, followed by DePaul, Roxbury, Wayne Valley, Warren Hills, Morris Knolls, Jefferson and West Morris round out the top 10.

Phillipsburg has crowned the most champions -- 114 -- in this region since the tournament's inception in 1961. Washington/Warren Hills is next with 52, followed by Randolph with 42, High Point at 41 and Newton at 34. Kittatinny (32) needs one to match Roxbury for sixth place.

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