Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wrestling: Preseason power points rankings

The top 60 teams in New Jersey based on preseason power points rankings by section. Non-public schools are mixed in. All other teams begin with a preseason ranking of 23.00.

Note: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex schools in bold:

North 1
Bergen Catholic
Don Bosco Prep
High Point
St. Joseph-Montvale
Emerson-Park Ridge
North Bergen
North 2
Bound Brook
St. Peter's Prep
Roselle Park
North Hunterdon
Hanover Park
Lenape Valley
Middletown North
Seton Hall Prep
Passaic Valley
Central Jersey
Brick Memorial
South Plainfield
Hunterdon Central
Long Branch
Jackson Memorial
Ocean Township
Delaware Valley
Northern Burlington
St. John Vianney
Bishop Ahr
Old Bridge
East Brunswick
South Jersey
St. Augustine
Christian Brothers
Wall Township
Toms River South
Holy Cross

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Wrestling: Young wrestlers at heart of John Goles

The 58th annual John Goles Invitational is in the books. Here's a quick recap on another tremendous day of wrestling in the second-oldest consecutive holiday tournament in the nation:

Youth definitely served notice in this year's event as nine underclassmen won titles, including talented freshman Joe Aragona, who dominated the 113-pound class while leading Pope John to its first team championship.

The Lions crowned a tournament-high five champions to outdistance host Warren Hills -- 218-186 for first place. Pope John, which returned to the tournament after a three-year absence, had never finished higher than sixth place from 2002-11 and was last in its first six appearances from 2002-06.

Christian Deehan (106), Joe Frumolt (182), Jake Brown (195) and Andrew Nieves (220) also won titles for the Lions on Monday at Warren Hills Regional High School.

Deehan -- who became the Sussex County school's first winner since Joe Emering in 2011 -- won a hard-fought 8-7 decision over talented Warren Hills freshman Cody Harrison. Trailing 7-6, Deehan converted a takedown with 14 seconds left in the third period to win it. Earlier, Harrison took a 7-5 lead on a reversal with 1:01 left in the bout.

Pope John has two of the best 106-pounders in Region 1, as Aragona placed second at the prestigious Super 32 event a few months ago and rolled to a title in the Hopatcong Tournament on the opening weekend.

Tough day for Hunterdon County

For the first time since 2008, neither Delaware Valley or North Hunterdon crowed at least one John Goles champion.

The Terriers went 0-2 in the finals as both freshman AJ DeRosa (113) and Matt Kolonia (132) went in as underdogs. DeRosa dropped a 5-0 decision to Aragona, while Kolonia fell, 6-1, to Edison junior Robert Cleary, a returning Region 5 champion.

Coach Andy Fitz's squad had a solid consolation round with four third-place finishers -- Dylan Uderman (106), Rhys Zigich (145), Chase Bauberger (152) and Kyle Schlittler (195). Three others -- Vito Intili (120), Jake Moore (126) and Jeff Underhill (220) -- placed fourth.

Since joining the Goles in 1994, Del Val has crowned 62 champions, the third most behind Washington/Warren Hills (177) and Newton (85).

North Hunterdon competed in the first tournament in 1958, the only other year it did not have a champion. The Lions returned briefly in 1995 (winning the team championship) and didn't compete again until 2008.

The Lions also went 0-2 in this year's finals as Andrew Gapas (126) and Wyatt Vrancken (170) finished second. Vrancken, who was looking to become just the sixth wrestler at his school to win at least two titles, dropped a 9-2 decision to Millburn's John Serruto.

Coach Tim Flynn's squad came in limping without seniors Brian Smolinsky (152), Derek Ciavarro (160) and Tyler Gapas (182), who all would have been heavy favorites to win championships. Smolinsky and Ciavarro were out due to illness, according to Flynn, while Gapas broke a wrist competing in the Neptune Classic on Dec. 19.

Speaking of Streaks

Warren Hills junior Matt Valli earned his second John Goles title with a 4-3 win over Andrew Gapas in a tight battle at 126. Valli escaped with 1:34 left in the third period and fought off Gapas in the closing seconds.

Valli, who won at 113 as a freshman and did not compete as a sophomore, joins an impressive list of multiple winners for the Blue Streaks.

In all their are 42 to win at least twice for Warren Hills, while four did it when the school was known as Washington. Max Nauta, who was on hand working one of the scorer's tables, is the last of 17 to win at least three titles for the Warren County school. Ryan Kanewski (1993-96) is the only one to win all four years at Warren Hills. Steve Kasza won three at Belvidere before getting his fourth as a senior for the Streaks.

Here and there

It's clear that West Morris benefited from opening its season at a very tough Wyoming Seminary tournament. Coach Ken Rossi's team, though down in numbers, represented itself well at the Goles, finishing third with just 11 wrestlers. Kade Loughney (138), Marco Gaita (152) and Caleb Isemann (160) and Alex Kaltenhauser (285) joined Shane Metzler (120) as the Wolfpack went 5-for-5 in the finals. Sophomore Michael Caso was impressive in finishing third and will make the drop to 106, according to Rossi. Metzler is the school's sixth two-time champ -- joining Mike Mulrooney (1989-90), John Ferris (1991-92), Scott Cummins (1992, '94) and Marc Villano (2002-03) and Sal Carfaro (2007-08).

Newton missed getting a champion for just the third time since 2000 as Jonathon Borgognoni (152) and Tyler Pittenger (285) lost their finals matchups. Borgognoni had a nice run to his first final as the sophomore majored Bauberger, the No. 2 seed, 9-0 in the semifinals. Wyatt McCarthy, who didn't place after dropping a tough 8-5 decision to fellow freshman Garcia in the quarters at 132, may win a few before he's done.

Keep an eye on Warren Hills sophomore Codey O'Rourke at 120 pounds. The gym was on it collective ear in the semifinals when O'Rourke locked up a tight cradle and nearly decked Metzler, who yelled out while on his back. O'Rourke was awarded four back points, but Metzler, fourth in the state at 106 last season, eventually won by pin in 2:21.

For just the third time in tournament history, there were no pins in the championship finals. The only the other set of finals without a fall were 1964 and '77. There were a total of 60 in this year's event, with Pope John piling up a tournament-best 14, followed by Delaware Valley (9) and Newton (7).

Team standings

1. Pope John (PJ) 218; 2. Warren Hills (WH) 186; 3.West Morris (WM) 155; 4. Delaware Valley (DV) 154; 5. North Hunterdon (NH) 111; 6. Edison (E) 82; 7. Newton (N) 74; 8. Scotch Plains (SP) 69; 9. Millburn (M) 58; 10. Plainfield (P) 16.


106 -- 1-Jr. Christian Deehan (6-1), PJ, d. 2-Fr. Cody Harrison (7-2), WH, 8-7.
113 -- Fr. Joe Aragona (7-0), PJ, d. 1-Fr. AJ DeRosa (6-2), DV, 5-0.
120 -- 1-Jr. Shane Metzler (8-0), WM, d. 2-So. Jake Rotunda (5-1), PJ, 7-3.
126 -- 1-Jr. Matt Valli (8-0), WH, d. 7-So. Andrew Gapas (6-1), NH, 4-3.
132 -- 1-Jr. Robert Cleary (7-0), E, d. 2-Jr. Matt Kolonia (7-1), DV, 6-1.
138 -- 1-Jr. Kade Loughney (6-4), WM, d. 2-Jr. Zach Nauta (6-2), WH, 5-3 SV.
145 -- 3-Jr. Peter Tomasino (6-1), E, d. Fr. Andrew Rispoli (4-2), PJ, 6-1.
152 -- 1-So. Marco Gaita (7-2), WM, d. 3-So. Jonathon Borgognoni (2-1), N, 6-0.
160 -- 2-Sr. Caleb Isemann (9-2), WM, md. 1-Sr. Roger Serruto (5-2), M, 14-2.
170 -- 1-Sr. John Serruto (6-1), M, d. 2-Sr. Wyatt Vrancken (3-1), NH, 9-2.
182 -- 1-Sr. Joe Frumolt (6-1), PJ, d. 3-Fr. Nick Galka (4-3), WH, 3-1.
195 -- 2-So. Jake Brown (6-1), PJ, d. 4-Sr. Kurt Nemeth (7-1), WH, 7-5 SV.
220 -- 3-Sr. Andrew Nieves (4-2), PJ, d. Jr. Brody Oberly (3-5), WH, 5-3.
285 -- 4-Sr. Alex Kaltenhauser (6-4), WM, d. 2-Sr. Tyler Pittenger (4-2), N, 3-2.

Third-place consolations

106 -- 3-Jr. Dylan Uderman (7-2), DV, md. Fr. Michael O'Brien (3-4), E, 12-4.
113 -- 5-So. Michael Caso (3-4), WM, d. 4-So. Kyle Wulff (4-3), WH, 5-4 UTB.
120 -- 4-So. Codey O'Rourke (8-1), WH, forfeit over 3-Sr. Vito Intili (6-2), DV.
126 -- 3-Jr. Ryan Luchs (4-1), PJ, d. 5-Sr. Jake Moore (5-3), DV, 2-1.
132 -- 4-Fr. Robert Garcia (6-1), PJ, p. 3-Sr. Jashmar Philippe (2-3), SP, 1:48.
138 -- 3-Jr. Nick Giordano (5-3), N, p. 5-Jr. Cole Marra (4-2), NH, 2:00.
145 -- 1-Jr. Rhys Zigich (6-3), DV, md. Jr. Christian Trimarchi (2-5), WM, 10-0.
152 -- 2-Jr. Chase Bauberger (4-3), DV, d. Jr. Rashon Wade Taylor (3-5), WH, 10-5.
160 -- 3-So. Abu Bakar Mendheim (5-3), P, d. Sr. Brandon Miguelino (3-3), SP, 7-3.
170 -- 3-So. Sam Wustefeld (5-1), SP, p. Sr. Anthony Roessner (6-3), WH, 4:38.
182 -- So. Yousef Abbas (2-1), NH, d. 2-Sr. Danny Caivano (5-2), M, 4-3.
195 -- 1-Sr. Kyle Schlittler (7-1), DV, p. 3-Sr. Jaylen Bryant (3-3), SP, 1:15.
220 -- Sr. John Williams (3-3), NH, d. 1-Sr. Jeff Underhill (3-4), DV, 2-1 TB.
285 -- 1-Jr. Charlie Tordik (6-2), NH, d. Sr. Colin Myles (3-2), PJ, 5-4.

Outstanding Wrestler Award -- Robert Cleary, Edison
Ryan Storm Memorial Award (Most pins in least time by a champion) -- Christian Deehan, Pope John (two in 3:31).
Alonzo Widenor Memorial Award (fastest pin) -- Tucker Kirchberger, North Hunterdon (13 seconds)

Wrestling: HWS schedule for Dec. 28-Jan. 2

Monday, Dec. 28

(All tournaments 9 a.m., unless noted)

Delaware Valley, Newton, North Hunterdon, Pope John in John Goles Invitational at Warren Hills
Hackettstown at Hunterdon Central Invitational, 9:30 a.m.
Phillipsburg at Bethlehem Holiday Classic
High Point at Mustang Classic
Belvidere, North Warren in Linn Crawn Classic at Kittatinny

Tuesday, Dec. 29

(Both tournaments 9 a.m.)

Phillipsburg at Bethlehem Holiday Classic
Voorhees, Wallkill Valley at Lenape Valley Tournament


Colonia at Vernon, noon

Wednesday, Dec. 30

(All matches 9 a.m., unless noted)


Northern Burlington at Hunterdon Central, 11 a.m.
Hopatcong, South Plainfield, Westfield at Hackettstown
High Point, Southern at Delsea, 8 a.m.
Sparta, Pompton Lakes, Pequannock at Jefferson
North Hunterdon, Seton Hall Prep at Bridgewater

Thursday, Dec. 31

(All matches 9 a.m., unless noted)


Delaware Valley, Scotch Plains at South Plainfield
Voorhees at West Morris, 11 a.m.

Saturday, Jan. 2

(All matches 10 a.m., unless noted)


Northampton (Pa.) at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m.
Hunterdon Central, Howell, Toms River East at West Deptford
Voorhees, Hopewell Valley, Princeton at Lawrence, 9 a.m.
North Hunterdon, Old Bridge, Raritan at Wayne Valley
Patriot Duals at North Warren, 9 a.m.
Vernon, Butler, Columbia at Chatham

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Wrestling: John Goles Invitational preview, info

What: John Goles Invitational Tournament (58th annual).

When: Monday.

Where: Warren Hills Regional High School, Washington Township.

Participating teams: Delaware Valley; Edison; Millburn; Newton; North Hunterdon; Plainfield; Pope John; Scotch Plains-Fanwood; Warren Hills; West Morris.

Schedule (approximate): Pigtails and quarterfinals, 9 a.m.; Wrestlebacks, noon; Semifinals, 1 p.m.; Wrestlebacks, 3:30 p.m.; Consolation finals, 4 p.m.; Championships, 5 p.m.

Returning champions (this year's weights): Shane Metzler, West Morris (120); Matt Valli, Warren Hills (126, 2013); Brian Smolinsky, North Hunterdon (152); Wyatt Vrancken, North Hunterdon (170); Kyle Schlittler, Delaware Valley (195).

Others to watchJake Rotunda, Pope John (120, District 3 champion, Region 1 third); Robert Cleary, Edison (132, District 19 champion, Region 5 champion, two-time Goles runner-up); Matt Kolonia, Delaware Valley (132, Region 5 fourth); Derek Ciavarro, North Hunterdon (160, District 17 champion, Region 5 third).

Notes: Metzler, who finished fourth in New Jersey last season at 106 pounds, is the lone returning state medal winner. Valli, a District 1 champ as a freshman also won a Goles title that season. The junior missed the 2014 tournament due to an injury. The 126-pound class is one of the deepest with six district medal winners. Also keep an eye on 132, where Cleary and Kolonia reside, along with blue-chip freshmen Wyatt McCarthy (Newton) and Robert Garcia (Pope John). Plainfield and Pope John join this year's field, replacing South Brunswick and West Windsor North. Pope John returns after a three-year absence. The Lions, coached by Mark Piotrowsky, were Goles members for 10 straight years from 2002-11. Their last champ? Joe Emering, who won at 152 in 2011. ... North Hunterdon steamrolled to its third team title and first since 2010 last year behind five champions, but this year's race looks to be wide open. Delaware Valley, Pope John and host Warren Hills could all be in the hunt. The Blue Streaks have won or shared 22 championships since the tournament's inception in 1958. Delaware Valley has claimed 10 of the last 17 team titles. ... Newton has crowned at least one champion in all but two tournaments since 2000. Speaking of which, assistant coaches Andy Iliff (1985-86) and Ted Sibblies (1987-88) were two-time winners for the Braves. Del Val assistant Gregg Wiseburn (1999-2000) and North Hunterdon assistant Chris Hrunka (2006) were also champs for the Blue Streaks. Millburn coach Mike Artigliere was a two-time champ for Madison (1985-86).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wrestling: P'burg to shuffle without Paetzell, Wissing

As expected, Phillipsburg's wrestling team will be without the services of seniors Brandon Paetzell and DJ Wissing after they sustained injuries in the Stateliners' 49-21 win over Voorhees on Wednesday night at The Pit.

According to coach Dave Post, Paetzell sustained a broken left hand, while Wissing suffered a high ankle sprain as they were forced to default in their bouts at 132 and 160 pounds, respectively.

Paetzell (5-3), who missed most of last season with a broken left thumb, is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks. The latest injury occurred during a scoreless first period against Voorhees state placewinner Kyle DiNapoli, who built a 5-2 lead en route to recording his 100th career victory by injury default in 5:27.

"It's just not fair to happen to one kid twice," Post said of another hand injury for Paetzell.

Paetzell, a two-time state medal winner, finished second in the state as a sophomore at 106 and is heading to Rutgers next fall. He posted the following on his Twitter feed after the match:

"Thanks so much everyone. The support has been overwhelming and it's the only thing keeping me going, Love you all."

Wissing (3-3) was injured in his matchup with Michael Fernandes. Post said the timetable for Wissing -- a District 1 runner-up -- to return is likely two weeks.

Phillipsburg will turn to sophomore Lance Wissing to help fill the void at 132, and will hope to catch lightning in a bottle like it did last season when Tom Kosar entered the lineup in place of Paetzell at 113 pounds. Kosar, now the starter at 120, went 11-11 and finished second in District 1.

"We will fill in as best we can," Post said.

The Stateliners will return to action on Monday at the rugged Bethlehem Holiday Classic at Liberty (Pa.) High School.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wrestling: P'burg tops Voorhees despite injuries

Phillipsburg's wrestling team is trying to make the most of what may be its final season competing in The Pit -- the most unique of New Jersey high school venues.

But going 2-0 at home to open the season came with a hefty price as seniors Brandon Paetzell and DJ Wissing sustained what may be serious injuries during in a 49-21 victory over Voorhees in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division match on Wednesday night.

"We're just going to keep our fingers crossed for the guys who were banged up tonight," coach Dave Post told's Mike Moore following the match.

Phillipsburg (2-0, 1-0), which cruised to a 60-8 win over West Morris in the season opener on Tuesday, won 10 bouts while improving to 23-0 all-time against Voorhees (3-1, 1-0). But the Stateliners' evening began on a sour note, when Wissing, a District 1 runner-up, injured an ankle and had to default to District 17 runner-up Michael Fernandes early into the first period at 160 pounds.

From there, Voorhees jumped out to a 15-0 lead -- Lewis Fernandes and Scott Fernandes followed with wins at 170 and 182 -- before Drew Horun's pin in 31 seconds at 195 started a run of seven straight wins for P'burg. Robert Melise, who finished fifth in the state last season, scored a 5-2 win over Drew Howarth at 220, and a forfeit to Justen Caraballo at 285 evened the score at 15.

With P'burg ahead 34-15, Paetzell took the mat for the marquee matchup of the night between state placewinners at 132. But early in the first period against Voorhees senior Kyle DiNapoli, Paetzell, a state runner-up as a sophomore, suffered what appeared to be another left hand injury. Paetzell, a Rutgers recruit, missed most of last season with a broken left thumb and has had issues with both hands during his fine career.

Paetzell continued to wrestle, but eventually had to default with 33 seconds left in the third period. For DiNapoli, who finished eighth in the state last season, it was his 100th career win.

"[Paetzell] went to the hospital. We wanted to get him off the mat a little sooner and get it taken care of right away to prevent any further injury, but he kept waving us off," said Post, now 81-14 overall in six seasons at his alma mater, "DJ is going to see a doctor and have [the ankle] looked at."

Paetzell posted the following on his Twitter feed after the match:

"Thanks so much everyone. The support has been overwhelming and it's the only thing keeping me going, Love you all."

Overall, Post was just pleased to escape with a victory.

"It's tough to give up two injury defaults, how many times does that happen?" Post said. "I thought we were a little flat like the Howell match last year [a 27-24 win on Dec. 23, 2014]. I think we really looked good in the first and second periods."

Senior Tom Kosar (120) and sophomore Brian Meyer (145) also had pins for the Stateliners. Kosar, who stepped into the starting lineup and qualified for Region 1 when Paetzell went down last season, recently received his congressional nomination for the Naval Academy.

"[Kosar] waited for his turn in the varsity lineup and now he's basking in this opportunity," Post said. 

P'burg will have a few days off before returning to action on Monday at the rugged Bethlehem Holiday Classic, but any realistic hope of competing for a team championship at Liberty (Pa.) High School may have been dashed with injuries to a pair of the 'Liners' top wrestlers.

"If guys are banged up, we'll give them a little rest. We're not going to risk it," Post said.


160 -- Jr. Michael Fernandes (4-0), V, injury default over Sr. DJ Wissing (4-3), 2:22.
170 -- Fr. Lewis Fernandes (3-1), V, d. Fr. Austin Roth (2-3), 4-0.
182 -- So. Scott Fernandes (4-0), V, p. Jr. Dan Fisher (1-3), 7:38 OT.
195 -- Jr. Drew Horun (5-2), P, p. Fr. Sam Huff (0-1), :31.
220 -- Jr. Robert Melise (6-2), P, d. Sr. Derek Howarth (3-1), 5-2.
285 -- Jr. Justen Caraballo (1-0), P, forfeit.
106 -- So. Cullen Day (5-2), P, p. So. Colby Koshinski (3-1), :58.
113 -- Sr. Kyle Markus (4-2), P, md. Fr. Hunter Rinehart (0-4), 14-3.
120 -- Sr. Tom Kosar (2-3), P, p. Jr. TJ Leonessa (1-3), 5:12.
126 -- Fr. Kyle Tino (3-2), P, d. Jr. Colton Riley (0-4), 5-4.
132 -- Sr. Kyle DiNapoli (4-0), V, injury default over Sr. Brandon Paetzell (6-3), 5:27.
138 -- Sr. Tyler Agans (2-2), P, d. Jr. Liam Cutri-French (3-1), 8-2.
145 -- So. Brian Meyer (3-2), P, p. Jr. Ben Brandner (2-2), 1:37.
152 -- Sr. Chris Ruiz (2-3), P, forfeit.
Records -- Voorhees 3-1, 0-1; Phillipsburg 2-0, 1-0.
Referee -- Frank Leitner.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wrestling: HWS schedule for Dec.18-27

Friday, Dec. 18

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Boonton at Vernon, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 19

(All tournaments 9 a.m., unless noted)

Hackettstown, Hunterdon Central, Kittatinny at Caldwell Tournament
Wendy Pandy-Leh Tournament at Delaware Valley, 9:45 a.m.
Phillipsburg in Beast of the East at University of Delaware, 8:30 a.m. 
Warren Hills at Nottingham Invitational
High Point in Colt Classic at Christian Brothers Academy, 8 a.m.
Lenape Valley, North Warren, Vernon at Dover Tournament
Newton at Mount Olive Tournament
Belvidere, Pope John, Sparta at Hopatcong Tournament, 9:30 a.m.
Wallkill Valley at Morris Knolls Tournament
North Hunterdon at Neptune Classic


Voorhees, Millville, Washington Township at Hammonton, 10 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 20

Phillipsburg at Beast of the East, 8:30 a.m.

Monday, Dec. 21

Skyland Conference

Delaware Valley at Pingry, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 22

(All matches 7 p.m.)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Newton at Lenape Valley
Vernon at High Point

Skyland Conference

Bound Brook at North Hunterdon


Belvidere at Mendham
Hopewell Valley at Delaware Valley
West Morris at Phillipsburg
Pope John at Somerville

Wednesday, Dec. 23

(All matches 3 p.m., unless noted)

Skyland Conference

Voorhees at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m.

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Parsippany Hills at North Warren, 5 p.m.


Montville, Mount Olive at Warren Hills
Belvidere at Hackettstown, 5:30 p.m.
Kittatinny at West Milford Duals, 4 p.m.
Hunterdon Central at Point Pleasant Boro, 6:30 p.m.
Ramsey at Sparta

Sunday, Dec. 27

Hopatcong, Sparta at Mountain Lakes Tournament, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wrestling: Sussex preview capsules

High Point Wildcats

Coach: John Gardner (292-86-2, 18th season).

2014-15 record: 7-9, 2-1 NJAC Freedom Division (second).

Returning starters (6): So. Malcolm Sinclair (11-15, D4) 113; So. Trey Osborn (8-10) 126; So. Shane Kobis (8-10) 132; Sr. Jared Kobis (31-2, D1, R1) 145; Jr. Aric Wingle (9-8, D4-2014) 152; Sr. Kevin Lewis (27-12, D1, R4) 195.

Key losses: Dom Gallo (23-6, D1, R3) 126; Mike Derin (2-0) 132;  Jason Gaccione (39-4, D1, R1, S5) 145; Ryan Cullen (15-12, D2) 152.

Key returnees: So. Marlee Smith 113; Sr. Justin Liebl 120; Jr. Trevor Kocher (0-2) 126; Jr. Derek Sarapuchiello 132; So. Sawyer Fenlon (4-8, D2) 138; Sr. Liam Gorman (1-10) 182; Sr. Tim Space (2-8) 195; Jr. Cliff Rutter (3-4, D2) 220.

Promising newcomers: So. Maverick Liebl 106; Fr. Brandon LaRue 106; Fr. Devin Flannery 106; Jr. Austin Mendiburu 145; So. Rob Turro 160.

Outlook: After back-to-back Group 2 championships and five straight sectional titles, Wildcats endured a rare losing season as injuries to several key wrestlers took a toll. Lots of question marks with this year's squad, but there is some talent to build around. Jared Kobis is one of the top wrestlers in the state and looks to capture that elusive medal in Atlantic City. Lewis was a nice surprise last season and was a step away from AC, while the rest of the upperweights have potential and gained valuable experience last season. If the lighter weights can develop, the 'Cats, who are always well-coached and wrestle a tough schedule, have a chance to be a formidable team by season's end. Like most teams these days, staying healthy will be key. In an early-season match that may decide the division title, Lenape Valley visits Wantage on Jan. 6 -- a rematch of last year's sectional final.

Hopatcong Chiefs

Coach: Eric Fajerman (118-231-3, 16th season).

2014-15 record: 3-21, 1-3 NJAC Colonial Division (T-third).

Returning starters (4): Jr. Brandon Olmstead (20-11) 106; So. Anthony Mastroeni (32-9, D2, R4) 132; Sr. Giancarlo Varrone (3-20) 152; Sr. Christopher Arocho (1-5) 182; Sr. Brandon Marazzo (7-21) 195.

Key losses: Joe Aumann (39-4, D1, R3) 113; Joey Ioffredo (17-19, D3) 138; Jr. Jake Wilkerson (25-11, D3, knee injury) 182.

Promising newcomers: Jr. Bart Yarosz 145; Fr. Liam McGuire 195.

Outlook: Chiefs' struggle in the numbers department continues with fewer than 10 wrestlers on the roster. A big loss out of the gate is Wilkerson, who sustained a season-ending knee injury and is out for the season after a promising sophomore campaign. Mastroeni was a freshman phenom a year ago and is looking to take that next step to AC. Fajerman always does a nice job with what he's given, but needless to say, dual-meet wins will be nearly impossible to come by.

Kittatinny Cougars

Coach: John Gill (515-162-5, 36th season).

2014-15 record: 11-10, 4-0 NJAC Colonial Division (first).

Returning starters (12): Jr. Mark DiGeronimo (27-8, D1) 113; So. Perry Maio (13-18, D3) 120; Sr. Nick Klinger (31-6, D1) 132; Sr. Austin Scrivani (39-4, D1, R3) 138; Sr. Jake Vanwingerden (23-11, D3) 145; Jr. Dylan Minter (15-8) 152; Sr. Taylor Molfetto (16-17, D4) 160; Jr. Cody Mitchell (3-19) 160; Jr. Josh Klimek (18-17, D3) 170; Sr. Luke DeGroat (8-21) 195; Sr. Nick Simpson (5-17) 220; Sr. Griffin Waldron (14-19) 285.

Key losses: Tyler Wehrenberg (16-16) 195-220.

Key returnees: So. Calvin Brook 126; Jr. Kasey Hotz (10-3) 138.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Derek Molfetto 106; Fr. Nile Mattar 106; So. Mike Callahan 145; So. Josh Hiler 160; So. Shane Smith 160; Fr. Zach Mafaro 182; Sr. Nick Carriera 220; Fr. Carson Powell 285.

Outlook: Cougars are eager to get back on track after a rare early exit from the sectional tournament -- falling in the first round in North 1, Group 2 -- and posting their lowest win total since 1993. With 12 starters returning, expect a quick turnaround in remarkably Gill's 36th season and the program's 41st overall. Klinger and Scrivani should challenge for medals in Atlantic City, while Klimek looks to lead a group of upperweights who gained valuable experience and should be improved after some ups and downs last season. Minter and Vanwingerden also are solid in the middle of the lineup. The shift back to North 1, Group 1 puts this team in the driver's seat for its 20th championship.

Lenape Valley Patriots

Coach: Doug Vetter (186-143-1, 15th season).

2014-15 record: 21-3, 3-0 NJAC Freedom Division, North 1, Group 2 champion, Group 2 runner-up.

Returning starters (12): So. Jacob Falleni (31-6, D1) 113; Sr. Zach Merkey (9-11, D4) 120; Jr. Ray Smaha (11-19, D4) 126; Sr. Aaron Merkey (23-13, D3) 132; Sr. Aaron Arzon (11-17) 138; Jr. Nick Palumbo (31-8, D1, R4) 145; Jr. Alvaro DeOlivera (7-12) 152; Sr. Nick Seck (13-17) 160; Jr. Khalid Dickerson (14-16, D4) 170; Sr. Sam Palumbo (31-8, D2) 195; Sr. Ralph Hall (28-11, D3) 220; Sr. Richie Fritzky (19-15, D3) 285.

Key losses: Joey LaBell (31-8, D2) 170; D.J. Barrett (39-4, D1, R2) 182.

Key returnees: So. Neil Kelly 120; So. Jake Hickey (6-8) 132; Jr. Anthony Smaha (8-6) 138; So. Jordan Costanza (0-14) 152; Sr. Mike Katz 160; Sr. David Ottoson (4-1) 170; Sr. Scott Prior (1-1) 182; Sr. Dylon Frazier (3-2) 182;

Promising newcomers: Fr. Dominic Falleni 106; Fr. James Haws 106; Fr. Anthony Esposito 120; Jr. Justin Singh (1-2, transfer from Morris Hills) 132; Fr. Luke Liloia 145-152.

Outlook: Coming off back-to-back sectional final appearances, Patriots are primed for another deep run with 12 returning starters from last year's North 1, Group 2 championship team. The task to repeat was made tougher by Lenape getting shifted to North 2, Group 2, where defending champion Hanover Park resides. The Patriots' strong set of upper weights puts them in a great position against most teams on the schedule with three Region 1 qualifiers -- Sam Palumbo (195), Hall (220) and Fritzky (285). In addition, Nick Palumbo is a candidate for a medal in AC after a strong offseason. This is without a doubt the most balanced team in the county.

Newton Braves

Coach: Eric Bollette (188-154-1, 15th season).

2014-15 record: 12-13, 3-1 NJAC Colonial Division (second).

Returning starters (7): Jr. Mateo Valentine (4-23) 113; Jr. Nick Giordano (16-15) 138; Jr. Jake DeLuca (11-14, D4) 145; So. Jonathon Borgognoni (12-12) 152; Sr. Lance Fischer (28-10, D2) 170; So. Joey DeLuca (4-16) 182; Sr. Tyler Pittenger (15-19, D3) 285.

Key losses: Trevor Morales (28-7, D2) 120; Ryan Brigante (15-18, D3) 132; Benjamin Sibblies (19-17, D3) 182; Gus Protogeropoulos (37-5, D1, R2, S7) 195.

Key returnees: Jr. Rod Morman (0-6) 145; Sr. Michael Valentine (5-13) 160; Sr. Ryan Lazar (3-3) 160; Sr. Robert Borgognoni (3-11) 170; So. Devin Mager 182; Sr. Nick Zaremski (2-2) 195; Sr. Koty Wilkinson (1-2) 220; Sr. Aaron Anane-Agyei 220; Jr. Luis Arrazola 220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Matt Rosa 106; Fr. Michael Freda 120; Fr. Griffin Allen 126; Fr. Wyatt McCarthy 132; Fr. Nick Brigante 152; Fr. Ryan McCarthy 152; Fr. Luke Fischer 160; Fr. Chris Polyak 160; Fr. Matt Somers 170; Sr. Adam Schlereth (24-13, D2, transfer from DePaul) 195; Fr. Jimmy Harding 195.

Outlook: Braves have endured injuries and depth issues in recent seasons, but they seemed poised for a breakout campaign. With eight returning starters, including two Region 1 qualifiers, there is a solid nucleus to go with some incoming talent that includes blue-chip freshman Wyatt McCarthy, who had a fine career on the youth level. Lance Fischer took a big step forward last season and will be one of the leaders, while Jake DeLuca earned a trip to Region 1 as a freshman. A key addition will likely be Schlereth, who returns to his hometown school after three seasons at DePaul. He will have to sit 30 days per transfer rules. If the newcomers can mix in, a run in the North 1, Group 2 tournament is entirely possible.

Pope John Lions

Coach: Mark Piotrowsky (18-19, third season).

2014-15 record: 10-5, 3-1 NJAC American Division (second).

Returning starters (8): Jr. Christian Deehan (20-10, D2) 106-113; So. Jake Rotunda (24-7, D1, R2) 113-120; Jr. Ryan Luchs (17-8, D3) 126-132; So. Joseph Arbolino (8-11) 138-145; Sr. Caleb Lewie-Cepero (2-5) 138-145; Sr. Billy Koenig (6-7) 152-160; Sr. Joseph Frumolt (16-10, D3) 182; So. Jake Brown (18-6, D2) 195.

Key losses: Dominic Koert (24-7, D3) 126; Anthony Azzariti (16-8, D4) 152; Michael Anderson (12-12, D4) 182.

Key returnees: So. Thomas Germano 126-132; Jr. Travis Healy (1-3) 138-145; So. James Swentzel (0-3) 160-170; So. Jack Morelli (1-1) 285.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Joe Aragona 106; So. Patrick Hanley 106; So. Mike Damico 120; Fr. Chris Fontana 126-132; Fr. Robert Garcia 126-132; Jr. Paul Mayol 132; Fr. Anthony Rispolli 145; Fr. Chase Nugnes 145; Fr. Chris Jhong 182; Sr. Collin Myles 195-220; Fr. Max Montana 220; Sr. Andrew Nieves 220; Fr. Nicholas DeSenzo 285; Jr. Daylin Wade-Perry 285; Sr. Jason Card 285.

Outlook: Lions finally have the numbers and the talent to make a serious splash on the dual-meet scene this season. Rotunda, a Region 1 finalist as a rookie, leads a group of eight returning starters, along with Brown, who turned heads as a freshman. Aragona will make an immediate impact after transferring from Delaware Valley (Pa.) and placing second at Super 32. Garcia, out of the Vernon youth system, is another blue-chip freshman. Competing in the brutal Non-Public North A section is a daunting task, but expect PJ to challenge for a division title and send a few more individuals to Atlantic City.

Sparta Spartans

Coach: Frank Battaglia (55-37, fifth season).

2014-15 record: 19-5, 4-0 NJAC American Division (first).

Returning starters (8): Sr. Garrett Gerndt (25-14, D2) 120; Sr. Andrew Legge (11-17) 126; Sr. Grant Gerndt (11-15) 132; Jr. Sean Finnegan (8-23, D4) 138; Jr. Sean McHugh (14-20) 145; Sr. Al Falco (23-11, D3) 170; Sr. Zach Herbert (23-13, D2) 220; So. Robbie Gennat (26-6, D2) 285.

Key losses: Sierra Blasone (12-10) 106; Ian Burke (36-5, D2, R4) 145; Walker Schmitzer (25-8, D1) 160; Nathan Sowers (18-13, D3) 152; Connor Lore (28-8, D1) 182; Gavin Lally (38-4, D1, R3) 220.

Key returnees: Jr. Paddy Finnegan (5-2) 152; Sr. Ryan Pyper (2-0) 182; Jr. Ryan Rossiter (4-0) 195.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Marcus Bitetto 106; Fr. Chris Hwang 106; Fr. Rocco Gigantelli 113; Fr. Carter Sheridan 126; Fr. Sal Ardizzone 132; Jr. Billy Loewen 220.

Outlook: Spartans are coming off one of their finest seasons in recent memory, posting 19 wins before dropping a 29-24 decision to a tough Paramus squad in the North 1, Group 3 final. With eight starters returning, including four Region 1 qualifiers, and some talented freshmen coming in, expect another run deep into the postseason. Garrett Gerndt is a two-time District 3 finalist and champion two years ago, while the upperweights are again solid with the return of Falco, Herbert and Gennat, who won 26 matches as a freshman. The match against archrival Pope John at home on Jan. 20 will likely be for the American Division title.

Vernon Vikings

Coach: Bill Panfile (7-39, third season).

2014-15 record: 2-22, 0-4 NJAC American Division (fifth).

Returning starters (5): Jr. Roman Moss (7-23) 126; Sr. Cole Nagle (19-11) 145; Jr. Mike Roccasanta (3-25) 160; Jr. Storm DiGuiseppe (5-19) 170; Sr. Zack Jano (7-23) 182; Jr. Mike Alvarez (16-14, D4) 220; Sr. Connor Fitzsimmons (10-13) 285.

Key losses: Sultan Destani (15-15) 138;

Key returnees: Sr. Brandi Braico (0-3) 152.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Logan Folb; Jr. Leo Flesche 138; Sr. Brandon McGhee 138; Fr. Michael Tlatelpa 160; Jr. Joseph Rivera 170; Jr. Ryan Janus 195; Sr. Joe Vitale 195; Sr. Marco Torres 220; So. Walter Lecaros 285.

Outlook: Vikings are struggling with low numbers and will likely have as many as three open weight classes. Nagle and Alvarez are the program's top returning wrestlers and will be counted on for their leadership to help guide a young core group. The goal will be to improve each week and possibly improve on last season's win total.

Wallkill Valley Rangers

Coach: Jeff Churchill (5-17, second season; 159-89-3 from 1988-2003 at Morris Knolls).

2014-15 record: 5-17, 1-3 NJAC Colonial Division (T-third).

Returning starters (2): So. Justin Lindquist (7-17) 132; Jr. Trevor Kish (14-15, D4) 145.

Key losses: Sean Siek (27-11, D3) 138; Joe Tizzano (20-13) 152; Alex Shucai (11-20, D4) 170; Patrick Endrikat (25-6, D2) 182; Ian McDonald (13-17, D4) 195.

Key returnees: So. Brodie McDonald (5-3) 182.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Shane Simon 126; Jr. Mike Dietrich 138; Jr. Connor Andrews 220; Fr. Zach Dora 285.

Outlook: Rangers have gone 21-72 over the previous four seasons and numbers are at an all-time low, despite a solid coaching staff that now includes former Newton state placewinner and all-time wins leader Kevin Churchill as his father's No. 1 assistant. The loss to graduation of four wrestlers who placed top four in District 3 last season also hurts. Kish was a step away from advancing to Region 1 as a sophomore, so his return is a bright spot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wrestling: Hunterdon-Warren preview capsules

Belvidere County Seaters

Coach: Dan McIntyre (55-27, fifth season).

2014-15 record: 16-3, 4-1 Skyland Conference Valley Division (second).

Returning starters (3): Jr. Gio Campana (7-12) 120; Jr. Nick Cassidy (19-8, D1) 126; Sr. Robert Panetta (7-9) 138.

Key losses: James Smith (14-12) 120; Kenny Kane (16-10, D3) 145; Rene Sousa (17-9) 152; David Harris (18-6, D3) 160; Kevin Merle (27-4, D2) 170; Ryan Stephen (20-9, D3) 182; Stephen Merle (27-6, D2) 195; Ashton Robinson (13-7, D4) 220.

Key returnees: Fr. Kristian Panetta (1-4) 120; So. Cooper Kornegay (0-1) 138; Jr. Nick Appleby (1-9) 160; Sr. Josh Pershpalaj (2-2) 170; Jr. Terrell Tutka (4-8) 220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Quinn Melofchik 106; So. Ryan Lensi 113; Fr. Gage Gares 120; Sr. Gerrit Bailey 132; So. Mason Scott 132; Jr. James Galicki 138; Fr. Vasilios Nikolopoulos 138; Sr. Bailey Castner 152; Jr. Joey Sena 170; Jr. Kyle Hartzog 170; Sr. Jacob Gallagher-Murphy 170; So. Hunter Smith 170; So. Ryan Kokawski 170; Jr. Chris Dragone 182; Jr. Zack DeLuca 182; Jr. Craig Cronce 220; Jr. Bartolomeo Pepe 285.

Outlook: County Seaters are coming off a solid 16-win campaign last winter, but the loss of 11 starters, including five Region 1 qualifiers, should put the program back into a rebuilding mode. Cassidy, a transfer from New York, won a District 1 title as a sophomore and is clearly the Seaters' top returning wrestler. Numbers in the room are once again solid for a tiny Group 1 school and this coaching staff is excellent, so expect improvement as the season wears on.

Delaware Valley Terriers
Coach: Andy Fitz (136-48, ninth season).

2014-15 record: 15-5, 3-3 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (T-third).

Returning starters (10): Jr. Dylan Uderman (8-16) 106; Sr. Jake Moore (20-7, D3) 126; Sr. Kyle Refalvy (17-12, D4) 126; Jr. Matt Kolonia (25-9, D2, R4) 132; Jr. Connor Mills (13-13, D4) 138; Jr. Rhys Zigich (11-18, D3) 145; Jr. Chase Bauberger (13-10) 152; Sr. Matt Meehan (6-9) 182; Sr. Kyle Schlittler (29-6, D1, R4) 195; Jr. Jeff Underhill (7-10) 195-220.

Key losses: Ryan Erwin (33-7, D2, R3) 132; Cory Lightner (25-6, D1) 170; Brock Houser (23-11, D2) 195.

Key returnees: Sr. Vito Intili (2-2) 120; Jr. Tanner McLaughlin (3-11) 152; So. Nick Zehnbauer (8-2) 160; Jr. Sean Lessig (5-6) 160; So. Kyle Lightner (0-1) 170-182; Sr. Darnell Louis-Pierre 195; Sr. Zach LaDuca (2-11) 220-285; So. Joe Pandy 285; Sr. Ethan Kendzulak 285.

Promising newcomers: Fr. AJ DeRosa 113.

Outlook: Terriers, who appeared to be heading into a rebuilding mode last season, captured a Central Jersey, Group 2 title -- the program's first sectional championship since 2006. With 10 starters back from that team, expectations are high in Alexandria Township for another title run this winter. Kolonia and Schlittler were a step away from Atlantic City last season and will be among the leaders. Competing in arguably the toughest division in the state, a third-place finish or higher may be in the cards. Expect this group, a heavy favorite in the section, to get even better by season's end.

Hackettstown Tigers

Coach: Frank Rodgers (199-195-4, 13th season of second stint, 20th overall).

2014-15 record: 15-10, 1-2 NJAC Freedom Division (third).

Returning starters (10): Jr. Steven Nicotra (15-18) 106-113; Sr. Joe Renne (35-8, D2, R1) 120-126; So. Alex Carida (26-13, D3) 120-126; Jr. Justin Bennett (14-19, D4) 126-132; Sr. Brandon Baker (14-18) 138-145; So. Robert Spezza (20-14) 152-160; Sr. Anthony Carida (26-8) 152-160; Jr. Anthony Gonzalez (14-19) 160-170; Jr. Kyle Connelly (23-11, D4) 182-195; Sr. John Jensen (7-15) 220.

Key losses: Teddy Gurnowski (24-9) 220; Tahke Martin (11-19) 195.

Promising newcomers: So. Erick Garcia 113; Fr. Kyle Salazar 170; So. Joe Andes 285.

Outlook: Tigers are coming off seasons on 10 and 15 wins, and they return 10 starters so this is a group that won't sneak up on anyone. Renne, who won his first Region 1 title last season, is one of the top returning wrestlers in the area and one of its best shots at a medal in Atlantic City. He is eight wins shy of 100 for his career. The lineup is pretty balanced for the most part, though there are some questions in the lower and upper weights. Competing in a tough division will also be a challenge once again for the Warren County school, which finished behind Lenape Valley and High Point last season. Depth is an issue, so the Tigers need to remain healthy to achieve their goals.

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

Coach: Jon Cantagallo-Rohm (17-8, second season).

2014-15 record: 17-8, 3-3 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (T-third), Central Jersey, Group 5 champion, Group 5 runner-up.

Returning starters (8): So. Hunter Graf (31-11, D1, R2) 113; Jr. Peter Nace (38-7, D1, R2) 120; Jr. Bryce Hall (7-21) 126; Jr. Mark Dellevalle (2-11) 126-132; Jr. Chris Taylor (11-20) 138; So. Kevin Ciresa (17-19, D2) 145; Jr. Michael Iodice (29-9, D2, R4) 170-182; Jr. Victor Lacombe (16-10, D3) 220.

Key losses: Nick Taylor (17-15, D4) 145; Joe Scerbo (31-8, D2) 160; Nick Suk (37-9, D3, R3) 182; Nestor Crespo (39-5, D2, R2) 195; Leo Acquino (20-10, D2) 285.

Key returnees: Sr. Brian Gartland (1-1) 145; Sr. Sterling Whitlow (1-3) 152; Sr. Nick McDermott (0-2) 170; Sr. Connor Wheatley (5-3) 195; So. Angelo Crespo (1-0) 220-285.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Jack Bauer 106; Fr. Pasquale Vizzoni 113-120; Fr. Vincent Romaniello 126-132; Fr. Dan Furmato 152; Sr. Dylan Sishta 152; Sr. Will Heidersberger 160; Sr. Gavin Hoff 182; Fr. Ryan Joyce 220-285.

Outlook: Red Devils did a nice job going 17-8 and capturing the Central Jersey, Group 5 title under Cantagallo-Rohm, who took over the program just weeks before last season began. Central was hit hard by graduation, but eight starters return, including District 17 champs Graf and Nace. Ciresa and Iodice made the district finals, so there is a solid nucleus. If some of the inexperienced wrestlers in the lineup can contribute, this team has a chance to surprise.

North Hunterdon Lions

Coach: Tim Flynn (91-32, seventh season).

2014-15 record: 16-4, 3-3 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (T-third), North 2, Group 5 champion.

Returning starters (8): So. Will Arnold (2-21) 106; Jr. Cole Marra (9-9, D4) 138-145; Sr. Brian Smolinsky (36-4, D1, R3) 152-160; Sr. Derek Ciavarro (22-9, D1, R3) 160; Sr. Wyatt Vrancken (19-16, D3) 170-182; Sr. Tyler Gapas (24-11, D2) 182-195; Sr. John Williams (2-11) 220; Jr. Charlie Tordik (23-11, D3) 285.

Key losses: Paul Robinson (29-8, D2) 113; Luke Approvato (29-5, D2) 120; Ryan Pomrinca (40-1, D1, R1, S3) 126; Jr. Matt Mohan (18-9, D2-2014, moved to Arizona) 132; Michael Sicola (34-7, D1, R2) 160.

Key returnees: So. Will Hughes 120; So. Andrew Gapas (8-4) 126; So. Tucker Kirchberger 132; Sr. Carmine Ricciardi (1-4) 182-195; Jr. Will Woody (1-9) 195-220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Nick House 106; Sr. Rob Spies 113; So. Yuseph Abbas 182.

Outlook: Lions, who approaching 700 wins as a program, lost several solid wrestlers and sustained a blow when Mohan, a District 17 finalist two seasons ago, moved to Arizona, leaving them with eight returning starters. Pomrinca, a three-time state placewinner, graduated as the school's all-time wins leader. The younger Gapas enjoyed a very successful career on the youth level and will help bolster an inexperienced group of lower weights. The upper weights, a question mark in recent seasons, are much better, while Ciavarro and Smolinsky anchor the middle of the lineup, North shifts back to North 2, Group 4 this season, reuniting there with favorite Phillipsburg.

North Warren Patriots

Coach: Scott Stoll (8-13, second season).

2014-15 record: 8-13, 1-3 NJAC Colonial Division (T-third).

Returning starters (6): Jr. Steven Skuropacki (9-19) 113; Jr. Shannon Grogan (22-12, D4) 138; Sr. Anthony Duardo (22-9, D3) 152; Jr. Ryan Reyes (6-16) 160; Sr. Ryan Baldwin (7-18) 182; Sr. Alex Leontaris (13-14) 195.

Key losses: Gino Fluri (30-8, D2) 132; Jack Butrymowicz (30-9, D2) 182.

Key returnees: So. Michael Pell (4-12) 138; Sr. Kevon Hartley (4-5) 170; So. Luke Golick (1-1) 285.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Patrick O'Brien 106-113; Fr. Kevin Schaffer 120; Fr. Ryan Walsh 145; Fr. Joe Voitek 145.

Outlook: As expected, last season was a rebuilding one for the Patriots. With just six returning starters this winter, it could be another struggle to produce victories. Duardo is top returner after advancing to Region 1 as a junior, while Grogan also logged 20-plus wins, but was a step shy of advancing out of District 1. If some of the upperweights and newcomers can step up, approaching last season's win total isn't out of the question.

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Coach: Dave Post (78-14, sixth season).

2014-15 record: 18-1, 6-0 Skyland Conference Raritan Division, North 2, Group 4, Group 4 champions.

Returning starters (9): Sr. Kyle Markus (28-16, D2, R3) 113-120; Sr. Tom Kosar (11-11, D2) 113-120; Sr. Brandon Paetzell (12-0, injured last season) 126-132; Sr. Tyler Agans (16-20, D3) 138; So. Brian Meyer (21-14, D1) 145; Sr. DJ Wissing (29-12, D2) 152-160; Jr. Drew Horun (28-9, D3) 195; Jr. Robert Melise (38-9, D1, R2, S5) 220; Sr. Kyle Nothnagel (20-5, D2, R3) 285.

Key losses: Donald Agans (17-17, D4) 132; Steve Friedman (31-11, D1, R2) 145; John Kaluzny (24-9, D1) 152; Max Elling (43-4, D1, R3) 160; Jimmy Schuitema (36-5, D1, R4) 170; Yann Ondele (9-3, D1) 182.

Key returnees: So. Cullen Day (1-1) 106; So. Lance Wissing 132; Sr. Chris Ruiz 152-160; Jr. Jason Barna 182.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Kyle Tino 126-132; Fr. Jayson Zinsmeister 126-132; Fr. Austin Roth 170; So. Shamyr Brodders 170; Jr. Dan Fisher 182.

Outlook: Stateliners went over the 900 wins mark as a program last season and won back-to-back Group titles for the first time since winning three in a row from 1997-99, while earning its third in four years. Paetzell, a former state runner-up and one of nine returning starters, missed most of last season with a hand injury and is 12 wins shy of 100. Markus and Kosar, who did a fine job of filling in after Paetzell went down, also help anchor a solid group of lower weights. Graduation took its toll on the program's star power, but P'burg features a formidable group up top with Melise, a fifth-place medal winner in AC, leading the charge. Goes without saying that anything short of the program's 20th state team championship would be a disappointment, but it will be fun to see this squad come along with some new faces.

Voorhees Vikings

Coach: Eric Hall (101-28, sixth season).

2014-15 record: 14-7, 1-5 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (sixth), North 2, Group 3 champion.

Returning starters (6): So. Colby Koshinski (11-20) 106; Sr. Kyle DiNapoli (36-7, D1, R3, S8) 132; Jr. Liam Cutri-French (15-13, D4) 138; Jr. Michael Fernandes (28-10, D2) 160; So. Scott Fernandes (13-16) 182; Sr. Derek Howarth (20-10, D1) 195.

Key losses: Harley Sacks (20-12, D3) 126; Devan Thomas (24-8, D2) 145; Thomas Riley (18-15, D3) 160; Sam Lamport (16-15) 170; Alex Fischetti (28-4, D4) 285.

Key returnees: Sr. Ryan Flatley (0-2) 152; Jr. Adam Murdock 220.

Promising newcomers: Fr. Hunter Rinehart 113; Jr. Colton Riley 120-126; Jr. TJ Leonessa 120-126; Jr. Ben Brandner 145; Fr, Lewis Fernandes 170.

Outlook: Vikings are coming off another successful campaign, winning the North 2, Group 3 sectional championship -- the program's 16th title and second in three years. Heavy graduation losses and senior Charlie Rodenberger (18-13 at 195) opting not to wrestle leave this team plenty young and inexperienced in several weight classes. DiNapoli is four wins shy of 100 and looking to improve on an eight-place finish in AC last season, while Lewis Fernandes joins his brothers after a successful youth career. The one goal of going unbeaten against the other three Hunterdon County schools is something the Vikes haven't done since 1996. Despite the inexperience, and with some luck, this team may get a chance to push once again for a sectional title.

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

Coach: Jarrett Hosbach (130-104, 11th season).

2014-15 record: 10-11, 0-6 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (seventh).

Returning starters (9): So. Cody O'Rourke (10-16) 120; Jr. Matt Valli (11-3, injured, D1-2014) 126; So. Jacob DiNapoli (11-18) 126-132; Jr. Zach Nauta (17-14, D4) 138; So. Jarod Ostir (17-13, D4) 160; Sr. Anthony Roessner (16-17, D4) 170; Sr. Kurt Nemeth (20-14, D3-2014) 195; Jr. Brody Oberly (5-22) 220; Jr. Taylan Zafis (1-18) 285.

Key losses: John Fluck (15-10) 126; Max Nauta (31-8, D1, R1) 132; Austin Pidoto (13-14) 138; Andrew Pacheco (29-4, D1, R1) 285.

Key returnees: So. Kyle Wulff (injured last season) 113; So. Pedro Cruz (0-7) 126-132; So. Cameron Nauta (3-4) 145; Jr. Rashon Wade Taylor 152; Sr. Brandon Winger (0-4) 182;

Promising newcomers: Fr. Cody Harrison 106; Fr. Chris Ostir 113; Jr. Kyle Henderson 145; Fr. Nick Galka 182; Fr. Dominic Primiani 195.

Outlook: Blue Streaks, who are just six wins away from 700 overall, have been hampered by injuries in recent seasons, losing Wulff (knee) before last year even got underway, while Valli went down midway through the campaign. With 10 starters returning, there's enough talent for this group to make a push for the North 1, Group 4 title. Valli and Nemeth were Region 1 qualifiers in 2014, while talented Jarod Ostir is poised to make a run in the postseason. Zafis took his lumps as a sophomore, but he had a really strong summer season and his improvement would be a big plus. Harrison is a blue-chipper and will make an immediate impact. Keep an eye on this squad, which could be a handful by season's end.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wrestling: Group 5 likely coming across the board

Hate to say we told you so, but the reality is that Group 5 for wrestling is seemingly here to stay.

The sad experiment that was implemented last season as a one-year pilot program was adopted again for the 2015-16 season -- and likely beyond -- by the NJSIAA voting members.

What's next? Expansion from six to eight qualifiers in the sectional tournaments? Don't scoff, they're discussing and voting on that as well.

In another unsurprising but favorable move, the Group championships are shifting back to Toms River North after a disastrous return to Trenton last season. To be fair, poor weather contributed to the low attendance figures, but the lack of marquee matchups did little to entice even diehard fans to make the trip to dreary Sun Bank National Center.

As for Group 5, well, this is a sign of the times in wrestling and most high school sports. Pressure to win trophies -- which is being cultivated on the youth level -- has become a factor in decisions to put what is best for the overall sport on the back burner. Group 5 has watered down the postseason playing field and robbed us last season of a Brick Memorial-Phillipsburg showdown for the Group 4 title, since Brick was housed in Group 5.

"It helped us last year, but it's not what's best for the sport," said Newton coach Eric Bollette, whose Braves have a much easier road a year ago in the North 1, Group 1 section with five groups. The Sussex County school will be in North 2, Group 1 for this season.

The closeness of the voting in the Northwest Jersey Athletic and Skyland conferences was at least a bit encouraging moving forward.

In the NJAC, the vote 18-14 in favor with seven abstentions. Sadly, West Morris, did not cast a vote either way. Of  the seven abstentions, only Delbarton and Hackettstown have wrestling programs. You can understand Delbarton not voting since it does not have a dog in the fight with Group 5 not impacting the Non-Public ranks. But Hackettstown not casting a vote is a real head-scratcher. Why not vote on something that could affect your program?

Boonton also suggested having eight qualifiers instead of six for the sectional tournaments, something that lasted just one season in the early 1990s before going to six. Prior to having eight, just four teams qualified in each section.

Here's the breakdown of votes:

Five groups -- Hanover Park, Hopatcong, Lenape Valley, Madison, Mendham, Montville, Morris Hills, Morris Knolls, Morristown, Mount Olive, Mountain Lakes, North Warren, Parsippany Hills, Pequannock, Roxbury, Sparta, Vernon, Whippany Park.

Four groups -- Boonton, Butler, Chatham, Dover, High Point, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Kittatinny, Morris Catholic, Newton, Parsippany, Pope John, Randolph, Wallkill Valley.

Abstentions -- Academy of St. Elizabeth, Delbarton, Hackettstown, Morris Tech, Morristown-Beard, Sussex Tech, Villa Walsh Academy.

Over in the Skyland Conference, the vote was 10-8 in favor of keeping Group 5, according to Skyland vice president and Voorhees athletic director Al Stumpf, who curiously could not provide a school-by-school breakdown of the votes.

Apparently, in talking with some area coaches, votes were cast by the ADs, who did not necessarily consult with their coaches.

Belvidere and Phillipsburg are the only known schools in Hunterdon-Warren to vote against Group 5.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Field hockey: Streaks' season ends in TOC semis

Warren Hills' field hockey team, fresh off winning its second straight Group 3 title, dropped a 4-1 decision to Eastern on Wednesday in the Tournament of Champions semifinals at West Windsor North High School.

The Blue Streaks (23-3), who had their five-game win streak snapped, finished arguably the greatest season in program history by matching a school record for wins -- set last year -- as well as the program's 13th sectional championship. First-year coach Kate Rothman's team earned its second TOC appearance with a 1-0 win against Ocean City on Saturday in the Group 3 final.

Eastern (26-0) advances to face Oak Knoll (24-1) -- a 4-3 winner in overtime against Madison in the other semifinal -- in Friday's championship game at Kean University. The unbeaten Vikings, who defeated the Royals in the last two TOC finals, fell to Oak Knoll in the 2010 title game.

Eastern, along with any knowledgeable field hockey fan, was miffed by its ridiculous No. 4 seed in the TOC, which seeded all five qualifying teams by power points (through its first 13 regular-season games) for the first time in tournament history. Eastern is the consensus No. 1 team in New Jersey and the nation.

Warren Hills, the No. 1 seed, was hosed most of all by the new seeding process by having to face an Eastern squad that is ranked No. 1 in the nation and is riding a 132-game unbeaten streak since the loss in the 2010 TOC final.

Junior forward Dani Profita complete a record-setting season with her team-leading 41st goal in the loss to Eastern. Her 41 goals and 107 points are single-season records for the Blue Streaks, while she also holds the career mark for goals with 80. The goal also raised Profita's career points total to 211, tying her with Sydney Muntone (2011-14) as the school's all-time leader in that category.

Profita will enter her senior season just six assists shy of the career record of 57 shared by Muntone and Niki Miller (2009-12). Miller still holds the single-season record of 29, set in 2012. Profita led the Streaks with 25 assists this season.

Warren Hills finished with 136 goals as a team, nine shy of the record of 147 set in 2014.

The loss also marked the final game for three senior starters -- Rachel Phillips (Vermont), Katie Thompson (West Chester) and Megan Thompson (undecided).

Katie Thompson ranks seventh on the school's all-time assists list with 36 -- behind Muntone and Miller (57), Dani and Nikki Profita (51), Lindsey Schott (46) and Nikki Schott (38).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Field hockey: Five thoughts on Warren Hills' G3 title

Warren Hills' field hockey team isn't finished yet, as the Blue Streaks still have business at hand in the Tournament of Champions on Wednesday.

But here's five thoughts on a 1-0 win over Ocean City for a second straight Group 3 championship -- the only state titles for any female sports program in the history of the school. How about a few banners detailing the tremendous success of the field hockey program being hung at the turf facility starting next season? Sounds appropriate to me.

1. Defense wins championships. Certainly won this one. Senior back Rachel Phillips was instrumental in what she deemed the unit's best game to date. Phillips was a big reason why the D held off Ocean City on nine penalty corners, and she even sparked the winning drive on offense, sending a ball screaming toward the goal from about 35 yards out to senior forward Megan Thompson, who was able to collect her own rebound for the only goal of the contest.

Can Warren Hills' field hockey team 3-peat in 2016?
Not to be outdone was the stellar performance of junior goalie Jackie de Raismes, who stopped six shots and made a pair of tremendous diving saves in the second half with Ocean City knocking on the door. After being thrown into the fire last year in her first varsity season, de Raismes, who never seems fazed by playing in big games, proved up to the challenge once again.

"After last year this was just another game to me, " said de Raismes, who, along with the rest of the team, dedicated the season to classmate Evan Murray, the Blue Streaks' quarterback who tragically died following one of the team's games earlier this season. "We knew he was watching."

2. To say the Blue Streaks were motivated for the final is perhaps the understatement of the season. Not only were they out to prove that last year was no fluke, but they took exception to comments made by Ocean City coach Cory Terry, who said "Bring it," to one media outlet following a 5-2 win over Moorestown in the Group 3 semifinals. All that ultimately mattered was the final numbers on scoreboard and the trophy going back to Washington for a second straight year.

To a player, this Warren Hills team believed all along it would return to Bordentown for a rematch with Ocean City, now 5-2 all-time in this championship series with the Streaks. The teams have met in the last four Group 3 finals, with the Red Raiders winning in 2012 and '13.

"From the beginning of the season, we never thought about anything but getting back here," said forward Katie Thompson, one of three starting seniors, along with Phillips and twin sister Megan, who will be deeply missed in 2016. "We worked so hard. It's amazing."

3. First-year coach Kate Rothman said afterward that Warren Hills played with tremendous heart and desire. It showed in a second half that favored Ocean City for nearly the full 30 minutes. But each time the Red Raiders threatened, the Streaks found a way to preserve the shutout. OC finished with a 9-3 edge in penalty corners and held Warren Hills to just two shots-on-goal in the second half. Some of the officials' calls were questionable, but the better team prevailed in the end.

4. As it did a year ago, Warren Hills jumped out in front with an early goal. In 2014, it was Katie Thompson who scored the first goal. Turn the page to Saturday, and it was twin sister Megan who notched what proved to be the game-winner just 1:56 in. It set the tone for a second straight title.

5. Of course, now the question now is can Warren Hills 3-peat? With eight returning starters -- juniors Dani Profita (40 goals, 25 assists), Brie Schwab, Tyler Stoner and de Raismes, and sophomores Rebecca Sigman (19 goals), Tali Popinko, Mikayla Dugan and Sydney Moskal -- and a strong eighth-grade class, it's a solid bet the Streaks are back in the title hunt. In addition, junior Caroline Cotte, who was expected to be one of the top players in the area, was lost for this season with a torn ACL. Cotte served as the team statistician all season and will be hungry to return in 2016.

OC isn't going away either. Despite losing three starting seniors, there are nine juniors and three sophomores on this year's roster.

"I think we can [win it next year]," de Raismes said. "We just have to take it one at a time. We are going to try our best to get back here."