Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wrestling: Lenape Valley ends skid vs. High Point

STANHOPE -- It was some sweet redemption for Lenape Valley's wrestling program and a major first for its head coach.

Doug Vetter and the Patriots finally got the monkey off their backs with a thrilling 39-31 victory over High Point on Tuesday night -- snapping the Wildcats' 34-match division unbeaten streak since joining the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference for the 2009-10 season.

In addition, Lenape Valley (4-0 overall, 1-0 Freedom division) picked up its first victory over High Point (1-2, 0-1) since the 1998-99 campaign. The Pats, under former coach Bob Poggi, won both meetings that year, including the North 1, Group 3 sectional final, en route to the SCIL crown.

Vetter, who was an assistant coach at his alma mater at that point, went 0-5 as a wrestler vs. 'Cats coach John Gardner during their senior seasons in 1989-90, including an 8-5 loss in the 189-pound state final.

"This was definitely a good win," said Vetter, now in his 14th season, whose team had last faced High Point in 2009 -- a 49-20 loss. "But make no bones about it, their lineup was missing people. But nonetheless it was a good win. We can't be content. I told the kids to enjoy it, but you didn't reach your goal tonight."

The missing for High Point was namely former state placewinner Mike Derin, who had been sidelined for most of this season with a knee injury sustained during football. Derin (2-0) weighed in at 138 pounds and was the team's representative for the coin toss, but he was walking around with a noticeable limp. Gardner said they'll know more about the extent of the injury on Wednesday.

"We had our 14 best out there tonight," said Gardner, whose teams have won nine straight conference titles, including the last five American Division titles before moving over to the four-team Freedom Division this season. "Lenape has a nice team and Doug and his coaches have been doing a good job for a long time. Matchup-wise, we knew they were going to be a pretty big challenge coming in."

And wouldn't you know it, the match began at 138. Lenape Valley got off to a quick start with Nick Palumbo decking Trevor Risdon in 1:15 -- a likely nine-point swing off the bat. High Point answered with Aric Wingle's pin at 145 to even the score and followed up with falls by Jared Kobis at 152 and Jason Gaccione at 160 -- both weighed in up a weight -- to grab an 18-6 lead.

But Lenape Valley reeled off six straight wins -- starting with Joey LaBell's 7-4 win over Region 1 qualifier Ryan Cullen at 170 -- to erase the deficit. D.J. Barrett and Sam Palumbo followed with pins at 182 and 195 to give the Pats a 21-18 lead before the match-turner at 220.

District 2 champion Ralph Hall erased an 8-3 deficit in the third period by decking Kevin Lewis with a headlock in 4:27. Hall hit the same move in the first period, but Lewis was able to get off his back. Hall opted for a neutral start in the third, looking to hit a home run. He didn't miss this one.

"That match was looking good for a while," Gardner said.

"I looked at that as a tossup match," Vetter said of 220. "Our kid never quit and came up with a big win."

Another potential nine-point swing in Lenape's favor and wins by Rich Fritzky and Jacob Falleni at 285 and 106 capped the run, while upping the score to 36-18 with four bouts left. Zach Merkey's 15-9 win over freshman Trey Osborn at 120 sealed High Point's fate.

"Wrestling is brutally honest. If you're cutting corners and looking for the easy way out, it shows up," said Gardner, who at 285 wins in 17 seasons needs three more to surpass Jeff Hull as the program's winningest coach. "Hopefully this is a good thing for us. We have some spots where we need to get better."

Due to realignment, these teams could very well meet again next month in the North 1, Group 2 sectional tournament. But for now, Lenape Valley is in the driver's seat for the division title.

"I'd be lying if [the Freedom title] is what I had my eyes on," said Vetter, who guided the Pats to their fourth and last sectional title in 2009. "I want to go back to the practice room and make improvements. If we should cross paths again, those guys will be breathing fire. This sport is so terribly difficult dealing with injuries and illness. No one has been sick or hurt for us. Right now, luck is on our side."


138 -- So. Nick Palumbo (8-1), LV, p. Sr. Trevor Risdon (0-1), 1:15.
145 -- So. Aric Wingle (5-2), HP, p. Fr. Jordan Costanza (0-8), 2:45.
152 -- Jr. Jared Kobis (10-0), HP, p. So. Joseph Keller (0-1), 3:26.
160 -- Sr. Jason Gaccione (10-0), HP, p. Jr. Nick Seck (4-4), :25.
170 -- Sr. Joey LaBell (9-0), LV, d. Sr. Ryan Cullen (3-6), 7-4.
182 -- Sr. D.J. Barrett (9-1), LV, p. Jr. Kurt Rosner (1-6), :44.
195 -- Jr. Sam Palumbo (6-2), LV, p. Sr. Ryan Olinger (1-3), 1:01.
220 -- Jr. Ralph Hall (6-2), LV, p. Jr. Kevin Lewis (4-4), 4:27.
285 -- Jr. Rich Fritzky (3-1), LV, d. Sr. Henry Kuperus (3-7), 5-1.
106 -- So. Jacob Falleni (9-1), LV, p. Fr. Marlee Smith (0-1), 2:29.
113 -- So. Chase Babus (1-2), HP, p. So. Ray Smaha (4-4), 3:08.
120 -- Jr. Zach Merkey (2-2), LV, d. Fr. Trey Osborn (2-6), 15-9.
126 -- Fr. Shane Kobis (2-3), HP, d. Jr. Aaron Merkey (6-3), 1-0.
132 -- Sr. Dom Gallo (5-1), HP, md. Jr. Aaron Arzon (4-3), 10-0.
Records -- High Point 1-2, 0-1; Lenape Valley 4-0, 1-0.
Official -- Gary Szucs.

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