Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wrestling: Paetzell, Pacheco plotting for gold in 2015

Here are a few random stats, quotes and miscellaneous tidbits as we close the book on another state tournament and wrestling season.

It's always an eventful three-day affair at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. I thought last year's set of finals was perhaps the most exciting that I've witnessed in person since my first tournament in 1984. But this year's championship round was even better, highlighted by the 152-pound final between Hunterdon Central's Gary Dinmore and St. Augustine Prep's Jack Clark, who won a 3-1 decision in sudden victory overtime.

Paetzell shows P'burg passion

Phillipsburg sophomore Brandon Paetzell was devastated following a 1-0 loss to Delbarton's Ty Agaisse in the 106-pound title bout. To his credit, Paetzell composed himself enough and was extremely gracious in speaking with media members following his toughest defeat to date.

"My goal was to be a three-time state champion. It's heartbreaking not to achieve that," said Paetzell (39-3), who placed fifth last year at 106 and joins Rick Thompson as the only Stateliners to earn state medals in their freshman and sophomore seasons. Thompson, who also served three stints as the Warren County school's head coach, placed fourth at 98 pounds as a freshman in 1970 and first at 98 pounds as a sophomore in '71.

Extremely good on his feet, Paetzell was unable to secure the potential go-ahead takedown against Agaisse with about 50 seconds left in the period. Paetzell attempted to lock up a cradle off a front head-and-arm in order to have a chance at gaining two points. In six periods vs. Agaisse, neither has scored an offensive point, as the Delbarton wrestler won a 1-0 decision in a dual meet last season at The Pit.

Much like their first meeting, Agaisse, who placed seventh last year, was simply too strong. Paetzell only got to his feet once on bottom as he was ridden out the entire second period of this one. Agaisse needed just 13 seconds to escape in the third.

"You always have to get off the bottom -- every single time. He was much stronger than me," Paetzell said. "I doubt [I can make 106] so next year, I'm going to try and get as big as possible. I want to wrestle in college at 125 pounds."

Heavy medal for Pacheco

Warren Hills junior heavyweight Andrew Pacheco admitted he was a bit too one dimensional this season in pursuit of the 285-pound state title. But he's bound and determined next season to end the Blue Streaks' championship drought since Justin Colaluce won back-to-back gold medals in 1997-98.

"I need to work on getting more shots [from the neutral position]," said Pacheco, known mainly for his deadly throws. "Against this kind of competition, you just can't throw anybody ... I have a couple of shots, I just didn't think to use them. Most of my matches, I'm not used to needing takedowns with getting escapes here and there. These guys are so strong and so athletic."

After beating the guy who ended his sophomore season in the wrestlebacks -- 5-3 decision over Hanover Park's Nick LaShell in the quarters -- Pacheco, leading 2-1 at the time, was pinned in Saturday's semifinals by Robbinsville's Tyler Gildner in 4:52. Pacheco went 0-2 on Sunday -- dropping decisions to Bound Brook's Stephen Johnson (7-2) and Raritan's Patrick Toal (4-3).

Pacheco (35-5), who finished sixth, did end one slide by becoming the Warren County school's first medal winner since Jon Slack took third at 285 in 2010.

They are among 10 heavyweights to earn state medals for the Streaks -- joining Pete Perini (first in 1945, second in '46), Enzo Marinelli (first in '49), Carl Everly (second in '50), Bill Oberly (first in '51), Johnston Oberly (fourth in '54, second in '55 and '56, first in '57), Henry Barends (third in '59), Dale Baldwin (first in '69) and Dan Slack (third in '76, first in '77).

"It's nice having a medal and being able to stand on that podium," said Pacheco, now 76-18 overall. "[Next year] it will be nice getting that gold instead of just having a medal."

Finding their places

In addition to Paetzell and Pacheco, seven other wrestlers from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area took home state medals.

Hunterdon Central had three placewinners in Dylan Nace (fifth at 132), Collin Boylan (eighth at 145) and Gary Dinmore (second at 152), while North Hunterdon had two with Ryan Pomrinca (third at 126) and Mike Ciavarro (sixth at 152). Phillipsburg's Jake Kocsis was fourth at 170 to give the 'Liners a pair of medals for the first time since 2006.

Pope John senior Noa Merritt, who was eighth at 285, was the lone Sussex County wrestler to earn a medal -- the Lions' first since Devin Perez finished second at heavyweight in 2003. Merritt came a long way from a 4-12 campaign as a freshman.

"This was for me and the whole Pope John community," said Merritt, who is going to Boston College on a football scholarship. "It's awesome. Sussex County is known for great wrestling and coach [Mark] Piotrowsky helped me a lot."

Merritt left no doubt that his final match -- getting pinned by St. Peter's Prep's Armond Cox -- was on Sunday as he left his shoes on the mat, signifying the end of a wrestler's career.

Kocsis (41-5) set the P'burg record for wins in a season, while becoming the second in his family to win a medal. His uncle, Mike Kocsis, a three-time district champion, won a region title and finished third in the state at 125 pounds in 1988. Jake Kocsis' fourth-place finish seemed a bit unlikely after going just 1-1 as a freshman before a 19-win season as a sophomore.

"I wish I realized a little earlier that I could be here," said Kocsis, who amassed a 91-30 career mark. "This means a lot to continue the family name a little bit."

Cutting corners

Unfortunately, the shoddy way the 81st tournament was run, on so many levels, took quite a bit away from the outstanding wrestling. From incorrect results and brackets, mispronouncing names of wrestlers (Kyle McFadden, sted David from DePaul during finals intros) and schools (Northern Hunterdon?) by announcers, and a finals mat that seemed very small, not to mention beat up and shabby looking.

It's no secret the NJSIAA is trimming the budget across the board and the marquee event of the entire high school season is starting to suffer from those monetary hits. It didn't go unnoticed, especially by several coaches I spoke with, including Newton's Eric Bollette, who is drafting a letter to send to the NJSIAA on behalf of his brethren.

"For a tournament that claims to be "the best state tournament in the country" there were numerous issues," Bollette said. "Clock problems one too many times. To mispronounce [Roxbury's Dillon] Artigliere, the defending state champion and [saying Kyle instead of David] McFadden during the finals intro and again after he wins the [145-pound] title is unreal. Kids wait their whole lives to be in the finals and hear their name called. How does this happen?

"Also, why are the best officials not officiating? [Vinny] Russo, [Roy] Dragon and [Mark] Sherman in shirts and ties all weekend long -- makes no sense. Figure in the numerous errors by the new announcer, the unannounced start times or order of the rounds ... it was completely embarrassing. Thankfully the wrestling was outstanding."

Consider that a memo to executive director Steve Timko and hope it's received loud and clear. It will have to be sent electronically, you know, with the expensive cost of paper and ink these days.

County gold breakdown

New Jersey has crowned a total of 974 state champions since 1934. Here's a breakdown of winners produced in each county since that first tournament. The 2014 champs for their respective counties in parentheses:

Union 129
Sussex 113
Bergen 107 (Nick Suriano and Johnny Sebastian, Bergen Catholic)
Warren 85 
Ocean 61
Somerset 61 (Craig De La Cruz, Bound Brook, Anthony Cassar, Montgomery)
Morris 59 (Ty Agaisse, Delbarton, Anthony Cefolo, Hanover Park, Dillon Artigliere, Roxbury)
Gloucester 58 (Ronnie Gentile, Paulsboro, Bryan Dobzanski, Delsea)
Camden 57 (Andrew Stevens, Camden)
Middlesex 41 (Jonathan Schleifer, East Brunswick)
Monmouth 37
Hunterdon 36
Essex 34
Burlington 24
Passaic 21 (David McFadden, DePaul)
Atlantic 19 (Jack Clark, St. Augustine Prep)
Cumberland 12
Salem 8
Hudson 6 (Anthony Giraldo, North Bergen)
Cape May 4
Mercer 2

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