Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wrestling: HWS Tournament recap, tidbits

The sixth annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament is in the books. Love Hopatcong High School as the venue and the two-day format makes things run much smoother than cramming it all into one day.

A couple of improvements, such as having the announcer actually announce results and which wrestlers are on each mat would be great. Makes it much easier for everyone to follow along. Better intros for the championship finals would also showcase the event. Another missed opportunity was not recognizing North Hunterdon ace Ryan Pomrinca as just the second three-time champion.

Regardless, this tournament is always a beast to win. Just ask state placewinner Jason Gaccione of High Point, who claimed his first title at 145 pounds on Saturday -- one of a Sussex County record eight champs. The Gaccione family made history as Jason and older brother Joe, who won in 2010, became the first siblings from the county to win HWS titles. Austin Scrivani and his brother Garrett, who was Kittatinny's first champion in 2011, joined them later in the finals when Austin won his first title at 132. The first set of brothers to win HWS titles were Dylan (2012) and Jesse (2013) Thorsen of Belvidere.

Here are some other highlights and notables:

1. Pomrinca joined Voorhees' Jadaen Bernstein (2011-13) as a three-time champion by winning his third in a row. It was a little touch-and-go in his 2-1 win in overtime against High Point's Dom Gallo in the 126-pound final as neither scored an offensive point. Gallo escaped in the second period before Pomrinca returned the favor in the third. After riding Gallo for the full 30 seconds in the first tiebreaker, Pomrinca (16-0 this season, 131-12 career) escaped in the second rideout. Sophomore Brian Smolinsky also won a title -- his first major tournament win in high school -- to give the Lions a total of 11 HWS champs in their history, just two behind all-time leader Phillipsburg.

2. In perhaps the most anticipated final, High Point junior Jared Kobis scored a 4-3 win over Warren Hills' Max Nauta, a two-time champ, at 138 pounds. Nauta, Pomrinca and Hunterdon Central's Dylan Nace are the only four-time HWS finalists, Kobis was denied as a freshman with a thrilling UTB loss to Pomrinca in 2013 at Hopatcong. Kobis (14-0), who is 54-4 overall, missed last year's tournament due to a broken hand. "It's nice to finally be healthy," said Kobis, whose other three losses are injury related. "My goal was to be a four-time champion." Health is the key for Kobis, who could very well be standing high on the podium in AC at season's end.

3. It was quite a day for Sussex County, whose eight champs surpassed its previous best of five in 2010. Junior Nick Klinger was among three returning champs -- Pomrinca and Phillipsburg's Jimmy Schuitema also won in 2014 -- to successfully defend their titles. In winning the 120-pound title with an impressive 10-4 decision over Warren Hills' Matt Valli, Klinger became his school's first two-time winner and the county's second, joining High Point's Kyle Stoll (2013-14). Being dominant on his feet gives Klinger a big edge over his opponents, as does his endless energy. Just minutes after the bout, Klinger was still pacing as he conducted post-match interviews.

4. Phillipsburg senior Max Elling was an easy choice for Outstanding Wrestler Award honors after he blitzed the 170-pound weight class for his first championship. After finishing fifth, fourth and third previously, Elling looks like he's on a mission this season -- racking up a technical fall and two pins, including decking Lenape Valley's Joey LaBell in 1:22 in the finals. Earlier in the day, Elling became the 19th Stateliner to amass 100 career wins and enters the week at 102-35.

5. Even without stud 113-pounder and two-time HWS champ Brandon Paetzell, Phillipsburg rolled to its fifth straight team championship. The 'Liners also had the most placewinners with 10 and a tournament-best six wrestlers in the finals. Lenape Valley, which had never finished higher than eighth, led the Sussex County contingent with a third-place finish and seven placewinners, including champions Jacob Falleni (106) and D.J. Barrett (182). Falleni, whose uncle Dave Falleni is the AD at Mount Olive and a former head coach at Jefferson, may have a baby face, but he's one tough customer on the mat. Keep an eye on him as we go on this season.

Here and there

North Hunterdon showed its depth in taking second place with a pair of champs and nine placewinners. The Lions secured two thirds and a pair of fourths to fend off Lenape Valley -- 169-159. Coach Tim Flynn's squad has finished in the top five in the last five tournaments, including a runner-up finish in 2013. North Hunterdon is the only school to produce at least one champ in every tournament, as Delaware Valley's streak ended with no winners on Saturday.

Sparta made its own tournament history with senior Gavin Lally claiming the program's first HWS title with a 3-2 win over 2014 champ Gus Protogeropoulos of Newton in the 220-pound final. Turnabout was fair play for Lally (17-1), who handed Protogeropoulos his first loss after the Newton wrestler did the same to Lally with a 5-2 decision in last Thursday's dual meet. Senior Ian Burke, who took third at 145, was Sparta's first HWS finalist in 2014. Burke earned his 100th career win on Saturday.

High Point, which finished fifth in the team standings, may be in a bit of a rebuilding mode, but the 'Cats actually improved three spots from a year ago, despite the absence of senior Mike Derin (knee injury), who would have been a favorite to win his first HWS title at 132 pounds. In addition to champions Kobis and Gaccione and runner-up Gallo, three others earned medals -- Malcolm Sinclair (fourth at 106), Ryan Cullen (fifth at 160) and Kevin Lewis (fifth at 220).

Warren Hills senior heavyweight Andrew Pacheco seems to have a flair for the dramatic when competing in the HWS finals at Hopatcong. Two years ago, Pacheco (9-0 season, 85-18 career) waged a titanic battle with Phillipsburg's Jarrett Williams in winning his first title. After a runner-up finish in 2014 at Hunterdon Central, Pacheco reclaimed the gold with a pin of Phillipsburg's Robert Melise. After surrendering the opening takedown, Pacheco recovered and used one of his patented throws to launch and deck Melise in 2:26.


  1. Mike, Dylan and Jesse Thorsen may have been the first siblings to win HWS titles...Dylan in 2012 and Jesse in 2013. Always great to read your recaps. Thanks for keeping us all posted.

  2. Thanks Marielle. Correct. The Gacciones and Scrivanis were the first from Sussex. I updated the blog to clarify.