Sunday, December 28, 2014

Notes: North rolls at Goles; P'burg eyes bounceback

The John Goles Invitational -- the second-oldest consecutive holiday tournament in the nation -- is chock full of wrestling history. Saturday's 57th version added to a lengthy list.

North Hunterdon senior Ryan Pomrinca became just the seventh wrestler to win four titles by dominating the 126-pound class. The two-time state placewinner decked Warren Hills' John Fluck in 1:13, one of Pomrinca's three pins on the day.

Pomrinca collected plenty of hardware, including a plaque commemorating being a four-time champ. His three falls in a total of 5:09 were the most in a least amount of time by a tournament winner and earned him the Ryan M. Storm Memorial Award, along with Outstanding Wrestler honors.

In addition, Pomrinca (6-0 this season and 121-12 career) also won the most individual teams points (26) award in helping the Lions roll to the team title -- the program's third and its first since 2010 -- and ending Warren Hills' two-year reign at the top.

In fact, coach Tim Flynn's squad ran away with this tournament, crowing five champs and rolling up 213 points. West Morris was second with 152, followed by Edison at 137. Delaware Valley was fourth with 109 and Warren Hills fifth with 107.

North's Paul Robinson (113) and Warren Hills' Max Nauta (138) also joined an exclusive list by winning their third titles.

Robinson held on for a 6-5 win over Kade Loughney of West Morris. Trailing 4-0, Loughney got a reversal and had Robinson in trouble with a cradle in the second period, but he was awarded two backs instead of three, much to the chagrin of some West Morris fans. Loughney, down 6-3 in the third, got two more off a cradle with one minute left on the clock.

Nauta surrendered a takedown 43 seconds into his bout with Scotch Plains' JT Beirne, before getting five off a spladle en route to an 18-2 technical fall win in 5:49. Nauta is only the 17th Blue Streak to win at least three titles.

Overall, the Goles was a bit down numbers-wise from previous years. Only four weights had the full complement of 10 wrestlers, while North was the only team with 14. There were three classes with only six, while from 170 on up there were a total of 33 out of a possible 50.

State of the 'Liners

Phillipsburg opened its season with a strong showing in the Beast of the East, but stumbled in its first dual meet test of the season -- dropping a 27-24 decision to Howell last Tuesday. It was the Stateliners' third loss to Howell -- all in December -- in the series that dates to 2004.

Phillipsburg leads 5-3 dating to 2004, including last year's 33-15 win at The Pit. Howell won back-to-back meetings in '05 (39-19 at The Pit) and '06 (38-21 at home). The teams did not meet from 2008-11.

The decision to schedule such a tough match just days after the Beast -- and one that requires another long bus ride -- is one that 'Liners coach Dave Post will likely revisit in the future. No excuses and credit Howell for the win, but that kind of schedule is taxing to say the least.

Post also said recently that senior 195-pounder Joe Maso is away from the team, at least until January, despite rumors swirling around town that Maso has decided not to wrestle. Maso is coming off another successful football campaign, one in which he dealt with an ankle injury.

P'burg will look to rebound in the always tough Bethlehem Holiday Classic this weekend before getting back on the dual circuit against West Morris (Friday at The Pit) and Northampton (Pa.) next Saturday at Schneider Gym.

Injuries galore

Warren Hills is among the area teams that are battling early-season injuries. Freshman Kyle Wulff (106) and sophomore Matt Valli (120) have both been sidelined by knee injuries. Wulff is out indefinitely, while Valli is expected back in the lineup on Tuesday against Mount Olive, according to coach Jarrett Hosbach.

High Point's lineup has been in a state of flux, as expected, and has yet to have standout senior Mike Derin (132-138), who is dealing with a knee issue and was not cleared to wrestle on Saturday. Coach John Gardner expects to have the Region 1 champ and former state placewinner back soon. In addition, senior 152-pounder Jason Gaccione did not wrestle in the Mustang finals after tweaking an ankle injury he sustained in football. Gardner held him out as a precaution.

It will be interesting to see what High Point's lineup will look like down the road. Derin may be at 132 at some point with junior Jared Kobis at 138 and Gaccione at 145. With Dom Gallo at 126, that would be a formidable stretch of wrestlers. Speaking of Kobis, he's off to a great start after claiming OW honors at the Mustang in winning the 138-pound title. When healthy, Kobis is one of the top wrestlers in New Jersey. He's been hampered by shoulder and hand injuries the last two seasons. Don't forget, he waged a classic battle with Pomrinca in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals as a freshman, dropping a 3-2 UTB decision. The key for the 'Cats will be the upper weights, where junior Kevin Lewis, who has been stuck behind the likes of Kyle Stoll and Bobby McDonnell in previous seasons, may be one to keep an eye on.

Growing pains

Both Kittatinny and Newton are enduring the early-season struggles. But expect the Sussex County programs, with excellent coaches, to improve as we go on.

Coach John Gill's Cougars (2-1) sustained their first loss -- 36-29 to Governor Livingston -- at the West Milford Duals. It's expected to be a rare rebuilding season for one of the state's most consistent programs. The last losing season in Hampton was 1988-89, when Kittatinny went 6-9. After going 9-4-1 in 1989-90, Gill's teams have won no fewer than 11 dual meets and posted a combined mark of 287-53 over the previous 14 seasons, including a program record 25 wins in 2004-05.

Inexperience in the upper weights is something relatively new for Kittatinny, which had no 220 or 285 on the first day of practice. In addition, Mark DiGeronimo returned after spending last season at Pope John, otherwise, the Cougars would be forfeiting 106 all season.

Newton was expected to be the favorite for division and sectional titles this season, but the loss of senior 132-pounder Eddie Medina (torn ACL) put a damper on the season before it began. The hits have kept coming as both Trevor Morales (120) and Jake DeLuca (145) are battling injuries sustained in recent tournaments. Already thin in some spots, their return is paramount to a successful season.

My 2 cents

As we get set to ring in the New Year, it's clear more than ever that dual meet wrestling, in these parts at least, is in serious trouble. Most public schools are fighting a losing battle with numbers and a lack of experienced wrestlers. Losing one starter -- be it to injury or other -- in a lineup is enough to spoil a season.

The sport is increasingly becoming more individualized, with kids seeking out programs that compete in bigtime tournaments like Ironman, Beast of the East, Powerade, etc. Kittatinny for example lost two youth wrestlers, now freshmen, who would be impact starters. Same goes for Newton, which also has a pair of wrestlers at Bergen Catholic and another at DePaul.

As a result, losing these quality kids from the youth programs is taking its toll on local teams. Forfeits are still a problem and the lack of quality in teams is showing at the gate where fan attendance is waning even at big matches.

Another big factor is having good upper weights. If you have them, it's a big-time bonus and enables most teams to have a key edge in dual meets.

What's the answer? There may not be a good one. As most coaches tell me, "It is what it is."

1 comment:

  1. I have a 106 pounder that lost a varsity spot by a point. I see there are plenty of teams that need 106 pounders. If this was outside of the school jurisdictions he could move to that team with a hole and develop instead he watches and gets a JV bout from time to time. Maybe it should be more of a college fotmat if you dont make the line up or maybe there is room to create an independent league. System now only works for the kids that make it today. Kids develop if given the chance.