Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wrestling: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

Snow be damned, this should prove to be an interesting week in the tri-county area.

For one, some local teams are scrambling with the sectional cutoff now extended to Feb. 4 -- originally set for this Saturday -- as per the NJSIAA on Monday.

North Hunterdon (7-2), which was idle last week, is fighting to get to 10 in-state matches, the minimum needed to qualify. Coach Tim Flynn's Lions enter the week with seven -- two were against Pennsylvania's Palisades and Emmaus at the Easton Invitational -- and only have duals scheduled with Warren Hills on Wednesday and Delaware Valley on Friday.

Flynn said he's working on getting a triangular meet on the slate for Saturday. North, which has won 13 sectional championships and none since 2009, would be a heavy favorite to win the North 2, Group 5 title should it get into the dance, where it will likely be the No. 1 seed.

Warren Hills (5-4) is battling to beat the 70-percent rule in order to qualify. With four of its matches coming against Pennsylvania opponents, the Blue Streaks must wrestle in five of their six scheduled matches this week in order to be eligible in a wide-open North 2, Group 3 section, where they are currently the No. 1 seed.

Phillipsburg (9-1), which has seven in-state matches entering the week, will need to get three more matches in with upcoming dates against Hunterdon Central on Wednesday, Warren Hills on Thursday and Southern on Saturday. Should the 'Liners, who are sitting on 897 victories overall, win both matches earlier in the week, they will go for No. 900 as a program vs. Southern.

High Point (4-3) also needs to get three more in-state matches in before the cutoff. The 'Cats will face Paramus, Cranford and Warren Hills on Saturday. Monday's match against Newton was rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3, and it will now be wrestled in High Point's auxiliary gym.

Buckle up for what may be a wild ride ahead of us.

Now, onto this week's rankings:

1. Phillipsburg (9-1) -- Stateliners rolled to a pair of impressive wins last week -- 30-18 over Bound Brook on Wednesday and 37-15 over Parkland (Pa.) on Friday. The win over Bound Brook puts P'burg in the driver's seat for the Skyland Conference Raritan Division title. Since joining the Skyland for the 1995-96 season, the Warren County school has won or shared 18 of a possible 19 division championships -- going 128-3 overall in division matches. Seniors Jimmy Schuitema (108-24) and Max Elling (107-35) are closing in on coach Dave Post (111-22 from 1999-2003) for sixth place on the school's all-time wins list.

Up next: Hunterdon Central at home on Wednesday; Warren Hills at home on Thursday; at Southern on Saturday.

2. Delaware Valley (10-2) -- Terriers capped a light week by continuing their trend of beating teams after finishing behind them in tournaments with Friday's 32-28 victory over Lenape Valley, which was ranked No. 2 last week. Senior Cory Lightner (15-5) bumped to 170 and earned a huge 9-8 decision over Joey LaBell, a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex runner-up. Speaking of the HWS, Lenape Valley placed third, while Del Val finished 11th. Junior Kyle Refalvy (11-7) also added a big 12-2 major at 120 pounds.

Up next: North Hunterdon at home on Friday.

3. Lenape Valley (9-1) -- Patriots took their first loss -- 32-28 against Delaware Valley on Friday -- after coach Doug Vetter's squad opened last week with a 42-21 victory over Sussex County rival Kittatinny -- the program's first since 2009 -- to end a six-match losing streak in that series. Curiously, Vetter opted to insert reserve Dylan Frazier at 220 and bump District 2 champion Ralph Hall to 285 -- knocking heavyweight Rich Fritzky out of the lineup -- needing to sweep the last two weights. Frazier dropped a 4-3 decision and the match was over, while Hall pinned in the final bout.

Up next: at Pequannock on Tuesday; North Warren at home on Wednesday; Sparta, Caldwell, St. Benedict's at home on Saturday.

4. Hunterdon Central (8-4) -- Red Devils are coming off a light week of their own after a tight 38-34 win over Warren Hills in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash last Wednesday. The victory improved Central to 41-13-1 in the all-time series and avenged a 34-33 loss on criteria to the Blue Streaks last season, which was their first victory in the series since 2006. Senior Nick Taylor (9-9) came through in the final bout with a huge 3-2 win over two-time Region 1 qualifier Austin Pidoto at 145. Bonus points were also key as Central registered three pins and two majors.

Up next: at Phillipsburg on Wednesday; Voorhees at home on Friday; Jackson Liberty, Kingsway at home on Saturday.

5. North Hunterdon (7-2) -- Lions were idle last week with after a scheduled quad at Watchung Hills was wiped out by snow on Saturday. The Hunterdon County school is scrambling to qualify for sectionals (see above) and has a pair of big Skyland Conference Raritan Division matches slated for the week. Senior ace Ryan Pomrinca (19-0), a Lehigh recruit, enters the week tied for fifth on the Hunterdon-Warren all-time victories list at 134-12 overall.

Up next: at Warren Hills on Wednesday; at Delaware Valley on Friday.

6. High Point (4-3) -- Wildcats opened last week with a tough 34-30 loss to Morris Knolls before rebounding with a 39-19 win over Hackettstown in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference clash on Thursday. In doing so, coach John Gardner (289-80-2 in 17 seasons) passed Jeff Hull (288-104-4) to become the program's winningest coach. Injuries and illness continue to plague the 'Cats as senior Dom Gallo (elbow) sat out the Hackettstown win, while sophomore Aric Wingle (sick) missed all of last week. The match with Newton should be another barn-burner based on the matchups.

Up next: at Delaware Valley (Pa.) on Wednesday; Cranford, Paramus at Warren Hills on Saturday.

7. Sparta (12-3) -- Spartans capped a 2-0 week with a 44-25 thumping of crosstown rival Pope John on Wednesday. Coach Frank Battaglia's solid group of upper weights reeled off four straight pins to open the match, as Connor Lore (17-5 at 182), Zach Herbert (14-7 at 195), Gavin Lally (20-1 at 220) and Robbie Gennat (14-3 at 285) gave the visitors a 24-0 lead. Lally, the HWS champ at 220, enters the week with 69 career wins. Senior 145-pounder Ian Burke (20-2) is aiming for the school's wins record. At 104-20 overall, Burke needs 12 to surpass former Region 1 champion Matt Stoppay (115-25 from 1999-2003).

Up next: Vernon at home on Wednesday; at Kittatinny on Friday; Caldwell, St. Benedict's at Lenape Valley on Saturday.

8. Voorhees (7-3) -- Vikings also had last week off after scheduled matches against Delaware Valley, Belvidere, Lenape Valley and Manalapan were erased by snow. Coach Eric Hall's squad will get back on the trail this week with a pair of Skyland Conference Raritan Division matches on the docket, including a county showdown against No. 6 Hunterdon Central.

Up next: at Bound Brook on Wednesday; at Hunterdon Central on Friday; Franklin and Ridge at home on Saturday.

9. Kittatinny (7-6) -- Cougars went 1-1 last week, opening with a 42-21 loss to Lenape Valley before bouncing back with a 63-9 shellacking of Hopatcong. Junior Austin Scrivani (23-1) picked up his 80th career win vs. the Patriots -- a 5-3 decision over Nick Palumbo at 138 pounds in a rematch of their Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex 132-pound final.

Up next: Wallkill Valley at home on Wednesday; Sparta at home on Friday.

10. Warren Hills (5-4) -- Blue Streaks capped a busy week with a 44-25 win over Newton on Friday in an independent clash between two of New Jersey's most tradition-rich programs. Seniors Max Nauta, Austin Pidoto and Andrew Pacheco, along with freshman Jacob DiNapoli, all registered pins against the Braves. Nauta (15-4), who is 107-24 overall, needs four wins to pass Ryan Kanewski for second place on the school's all-time list. Coach Jarrett Hosbach's squad dropped its other two matches against Hunterdon Central (38-34 on Wednesday) and Bound Brook (52-18 on Thursday).

Up next: Hackettstown at home on Tuesday; North Hunterdon at home on Wednesday; at Phillipsburg on Thursday; High Point, Cranford and Paramus at home on Saturday.

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