Friday, March 7, 2014

Wrestling: Business as usual for HWS title hopefuls

ATLANTIC CITY -- For Phillipsburg sophomore Brandon Paetzell and Hunterdon Central senior Gary Dinmore, it was just another evening at the office on Friday here in the 81st New Jersey State Wrestling Championships.

The pair of state title contenders led the charge for the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area, which saw eight wrestlers win their bouts in the pre-quarterfinals before a crowd of 9,212 at Boardwalk Hall.

"I don't really think about seedings and rankings too much," said Paetzell (37-1), the overall No. 1 seed at 106 pounds, who scored a 3-1 decision over Don Bosco Prep's Evan DeLuise. "I'm looking to go out and wrestle every match like it's the state finals."

Also moving into the quarterfinals were North Hunterdon's Ryan Pomrinca (126) and Mike Ciavarro (152), High Point's Jason Gaccione (145), Phillipsburg's Jake Kocsis (170), Warren Hills' Andrew Pacheco (285) and Pope John's Noa Merritt (285).

There are 20 wrestlers still going in the wrestlebacks, which kick off Saturday's action at 10 a.m. The quarterfinal round begins at noon, with the semifinals and third round of wrestlebacks slated for 5 p.m.

Front and Central

Dinmore, who rolled to a 16-0 technical fall win in 4:36 over Holy Cross' Avery DiNardi, isn't following the crowd at 152 pounds. Despite being a two-time state runner-up and No. 1 overall seed, Dinmore, who turned DiNardi three times with tilts for three backs off each move, isn't considering himself the frontrunner for state gold.

"I wouldn't say [I'm the favorite]," said Dinmore (37-2), who is trying to become just the second Central wrestler to appear in three state finals, joining Tom Gibble (1979-81). "Maybe I'm the favorite with my family. I don't try to read the [newspaper] articles. I came here to win."

It's certainly not the norm for a two-time runner-up to not be considered the title favorite, but a lot of the attention has been centered on St. Augustine Prep senior Jack Clark, a former Maryland state champ and highly regarded on the national scene. Clark (23-0) scored a 14-5 major over Westfield's Nick Velez in their pre-quarterfinal.

Dinmore certainly welcomes the challenge. The last two years here, the Central star didn't shy away from his clashes with South Plainfield's Anthony Ashnault, who beat Dinmore for two of his four state titles.

"I keep hearing about this Clark kid ... bring it on. It's good competition," said Dinmore, now 132-14 overall. "I'm trying to win a state title for myself and no one is pushing me except for myself."

It seems as if Dinmore is right on schedule as far his performance and peaking for the final title run.

"I always seem to do that," he said. "My best wrestling seems to come when it matters. I got some bad matches out of the way earlier this season and I had some minor injuries before the postseason."

'Liners are double trouble

Paetzell, as expected, is in the quarterfinals at 106, and joining him is Kocsis, who earned a 3-2 decision over Hammonton's Kellen Whitney at 170. Whitney entered the bout at 41-0.

The road certainly gets tougher as Kocsis will next face Delbarton's Josef Johnson, the No. 2 seed in the bottom bracket, in the quarters.

Paetzell took another step closer to an anticipated finals match with Delbarton's Ty Agaisse -- in a match that was surprisingly close as far as the margin of victory. Paetzell converted a takedown with 47 seconds left in the first period against DeLuise (30-11) and managed just a second-period escape the rest of the way.

"I knew who [DeLuise] was and I'm sure he knew who I was. He was trying to keep it close from the get-go," said Paetzell, who finished fifth in the state last year at 106. "I tried to go out and not get frustrated, and get my takedowns. He was still kind of backing up at the end and I was trying to score at that point. It was 3-1 with 43 seconds left, so I had to be smart. I was satisfied with moving on."

Gaccione rescues 'Cats

It was a tough night overall for High Point, which went 1-3 in the pre-quarters, but junior Jason Gaccione kept the Sussex County school alive in the winners' bracket with a 3-1 win over Roxbury's Craig Roumes.

"I'm in the same place I was last year," said Gaccione, who reached the quarters and placed fourth at 145 in 2013. "I'm hoping to win it all. No match is easy. I lost 5-2 to [South Plainfield's Troy] Heilman last year and he went to the final. From here on out, I have to wrestle my match and wrestle to win every position."

Gaccione, the nephew of High Point coach and former state champ John Gardner, was the beneficiary of some words of wisdom from his uncle and older brother, Joe Gaccione, a former Wildcats star and third-place finisher at 145 in 2011 who is wrestling at Johnson and Wales and recently qualified for the NCAA Division III nationals.

Jason Gaccione, now one of the favorites at this weight, isn't preparing any differently this time around in AC. In fact, he's extremely loose on the mat. He will next face Delbarton's Dan Reed in the quarters.

"There's no such thing as pressure," he said. "There isn't a 50-pound weight on your back. The only pressure is what you put on yourself."

Streak-ing along

Warren Hills junior Andrew Pacheco continued his quest to join the school's all-time greats at heavyweight -- decking Howell's Kyle Cocozza in 1:03. Pacheco (34-2) will get a rematch with Hanover Park's Nick LaShell in the quarters. Last year. LaShell won their wrestleback clash in the ultimate tiebreaker.

"If I treat it as any other match ... it should be a lot better outcome than it was last year," said Pacheco, now 75-15 overall.

Pacheco is among the contenders at a very wide open 285-pound class. He's looking to become the Streaks' 47th champion and first since Justin Colaluce won back-to-back titles in 1997-98 -- which would place his name alongside the school's other legendary heavyweights -- Bill and Johnston Oberly, Dale Baldwin and Dan Slack.

"It would be great to get up on [the school's state champs banner on the gym wall]," Pacheco said. "It's been a long time. While I'm here, I'm looking for nothing but gold. I have to go out as if I can beat anybody. Warren Hills deserves [a state champ]."

Region breakdown

Regions 2 advanced the most wrestlers to the quarterfinals with 19. Region 5 is next with 16. Regions 3, 4 and 6 have 15, while Region 8 has 12. Region 1 is next-to-last -- for the second straight year -- with 11 and Region 7 has only 9 in the Round of 8.

Region 3 (20) has the most quarterfinalists a year ago.

Quarterfinal matchups (HWS only):

106 -- Paetzell vs, Paco Robles (36-4), Emerson-Park Ridge
126 -- Pomrinca vs. Marc Mastropietro (37-1), Hasbrouck Heights
145 -- Gaccione vs. Reed
152 -- Dinmore vs. Patrick DePasque (35-9), Clifton; Ciavarro vs. Maaziah Bethea (34-0), Trenton Central
170 -- Kocsis vs. Johnson
285 -- Pacheco vs. Nick LaShell (31-0), Hanover Park; Merritt vs. Kevin Wilkins (28-2), St. Joseph-Montvale

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