Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wrestling: Pats, Terriers, 'Liners lead title parade

STANHOPE -- If all good things must come to an end, forgive Lenape Valley's wrestling team if wants to savor the moment for just a little while longer.

The Patriots cemented their place as the top dog in Sussex County with a resounding 45-20 win over High Point to claim the North 1, Group 2 title on Friday night before a raucous crowd at Lenape Valley Regional High School.

"It was a team effort. We had 14 guys go out there and every single one did their job," said Pats coach Doug Vetter, who guided the program to its fifth sectional title overall and first since 2009. "I can't tell you how proud I am of these guys."

Lenape (20-2) advances to the Group 2 championships at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton on Sunday to face Delaware Valley, while Buena squares off with 2014 runner-up Hanover Park in the other semifinal at 10 a.m. The winners will meet in the title match at 3:30 p.m.

Lenape Valley dropped a 32-28 decision to Del Val on Jan. 23.

In all, six teams from Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex won sectional titles. Joining Lenape in the winner's circle were: North Hunterdon and Hunterdon Central in North 2 and Central Jersey Group 5, Phillipsburg in North 2, Group 4, Voorhees in North 2, Group 3 and Delaware Valley in Central Jersey, Group 2. It's the first time that all four Hunterdon schools won titles in the same season, while six of the seven teams in the Skyland Conference Raritan Division claimed titles, sans Warren Hills.

High Point (7-8) saw its sectional title run end at five in a row after claiming back-to-back Group 2 championships in 2013 and '14. Coach John Gardner's Wildcats, a No. 6 seed, have enjoyed life at the top for a long time. If not for a clerical error in 2009 that left High Point ineligible to compete in the postseason, the Wantage school might have seen a run of 10 straight sectional championships.

Since 2001, the 'Cats had claimed titles in all but 2004, '09 and '15. High Point's 24 sectional trophies are second only to Paulsboro (35) and Phillipsburg (34).

"Our seniors have won three sectional titles and two Group championships," said Gardner, whose team has been besieged by injuries this season, including the loss of two-time Region 1 champ Mike Derin (132). "That's a pretty big deal. For our underclassmen, hopefully, they'll be on the other end some day. It makes you realize how special the last few years have been. I'm proud of these guys."

Lenape Valley, which earned a 39-31 victory over High Point on Jan. 6 -- beating the Wildcats for the first time since 1999 and ending their 34-match division unbeaten streak since joining the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference -- got ahead of things early on in the rematch.

Junior heavyweight Rich Fritzky decked Henry Kuperus with a headlock in 1:04 -- an increase of three team points after Fritzky won by a 5-1 score in their first meeting.

"I'm really excited for the team," Fritzky said. "I just love winning. This is a dream come true. It's awesome. It's a great feeling to be a sectional champion. I will never forget it."

The Pats, who also won titles in 1985, '98 and '99, saved some point in the 113-pound bout with Ray Smaha dropping a 4-1 decision to Chase Babus after getting decked the first time around. Up 9-3 through three bouts, the hosts delivered a serious blow to High Point's upset aspirations as Anthony Smaha and Aaron Merkey rallied for wins at 120 and 126, respectively.

Smaha trailed 2-0 after one period against freshman Trey Osborn before getting reversal and three back points off a cradle with nine seconds left in the second en route to a 5-2 victory.

Merkey reversed a 1-0 loss to Shane Kobis in January with a thrilling 10-9 decision, fighting off his back in the second period and erasing a 9-8 deficit after two periods. Merkey raced out to an 8-4 lead with four takedowns in the opening period before getting turned with an arm bar and almost decked in the second.

"He beat me 1-0 before and I had the mindset that it wasn't going to happen again," Merkey said. "I've been practicing double-legs [takedowns] all season and no one has been able to stop them."

Down 21-7 through seven bouts, High Point needed big bonus points from three of its best wrestlers to have a chance to rally with the match ending in Lenape Valley's wheelhouse from 170-220. Unbeaten Jared Kobis pinned at 145, but senior Ryan Cullen managed just a 2-0 decision at 152 despite being a huge favorite. Senior Jason Gaccione, who pinned Nick Seck in 25 seconds last time around, settled for a 16-3 major in the rematch.

"We told the guys to win big and lose small," Vetter said. "They did that against some to-notch guys and state placewinners. This team has jelled together nicely. There's a little bit of magic going on at Lenape Valley right now."

Lenape's lead was now 21-20, but Joey LaBell (170) and D.J. Barrett (182) registered back-to-back pins to seal the victory. In the final bout, senior Ralph Hall put the exclamation mark on the night by decking Kevin Lewis with a beautiful lateral drop in 4:12. Hall had erased an 8-3 deficit in their first meeting by pinning Lewis with a third-period headlock.

"Lenape did a good job and they performed very well," Gardner said. "I wish them the best of luck on Sunday."


285 -- Jr. Rich Fritzky (13-13), LV, p. Sr. Henry Kuperus (7-16), 1:04.
106 -- So. Jacob Falleni (27-3), LV, d. Fr. Malcolm Sinclair (9-13), 8-2.
113 -- So. Chase Babus (6-8), HP, d. So. Ray Smaha (11-13), 4-1.
120 -- So. Anthony Smaha (6-4), LV, d. Fr. Trey Osborn (8-9), 5-2.
126 -- Jr. Aaron Merkey (20-9), LV, d. Fr. Shane Kobis (8-10), 10-9.
132 -- Sr. Dom Gallo (16-3), HP, md. Jr. Aaron Arzon (9-14), 11-1.
138 -- So. Nick Palumbo (24-4), LV, p. Fr. Sawyer Fenlon (2-6), 3:17.
145 -- Jr. Jared Kobis (24-0), HP, p. Jr. Alvero D'Oliveira (6-7), 3:42.
152 -- Sr. Ryan Cullen (13-11), HP, d. So. Ky Dickerson (10-10), 2-0.
160 -- Sr. Jason Gaccione (30-2), HP, md. Jr. Nick Seck (12-15), 16-3.
170 -- Sr. Joey LaBell (26-4), LV, p. Jr. Kurt Rosner (2-20), 2:26.
182 -- Sr. D.J. Barrett (27-1), LV, p. Sr. Ryan Olinger (1-11), 5:44.
195 -- Jr. Sam Palumbo (22-6), LV, p. So. Matthew McDonnell (0-1), 3:14.
220 -- Jr. Ralph Hall (20-7), LV, p. Jr. Kevin Lewis (21-10), 4:12.
Records -- High Point 7-9; Lenape Valley 20-2.

North 2, Group 5

North Hunterdon 44, Watchung Hills 21 -- Seniors Paul Robinson (113) and Ryan Pomrinca (126) scored major decision wins to lead the top-seeded Lions (16-3) to their first sectional title since 2009, when it won in North 2, Group 4, and the program's 14th overall. Coach Tim Flynn's squad will get a rematch with Hunterdon Central in Sunday's Group 5 semifinals. North, which has won all four of its state title in Group 3, dropped a 39-29 decision in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash on Jan. 14.

Central Jersey, Group 5

Hunterdon Central 36, Monroe 22 -- Pins by seniors Joe Scerbo (160) and Nick Suk (182) helped the top-seeded Red Devils erase an early 19-point deficit en route to winning the program's 20th sectional title -- its first under rookie coach Jon Cantagallo-Rohm -- and it fourth since 2010. Central (16-7), which owns the sixth-most titles in New Jersey history, will square off against rival North Hunterdon in the Group 5 semifinals. The Flemington school won the Group 4 title in 1989, its lone state championship.

North 2, Group 4

Phillipsburg 55, West Morris 12 -- Senior Steve Friedman scored a big 5-3 decision over David Migliaccio in a battle between two of the top 145-pounders in Region 1 as the Stateliners (16-1) rolled to their 34th sectional championship at The Pit. Friedman (22-8), who also beat Migliaccio, 5-4, to lead P'burg in a 53-7 win over West Morris on Jan. 2, also recorded his 80th career victory in the rematch. Senior Jimmy Schuitema received a forfeit to give him 116 career wins, four shy of matching Luke Grassi (120-32 from 2004-08) for the school record. Classmate Max Elling stands at 115 wins. Coach Dave Post's team will next face Roxbury in the Group 4 semifinals.

North 2, Group 3

Voorhees 34, Nutley 32 -- Junior Derek Howarth registered a fall in the final bout at 220 pounds to lift the top-seeded Vikings to a thrilling victory in Lebanon Township. Voorhees (14-6) claims its 16th sectional title overall and its second in three seasons. Junior Charlie Rodenberger (17-12) set the table for Howarth with a 10-1 major in the next to last bout at 195. Junior Kyle DiNapoli picked up his 85th career win with a 3-1 victory at 120. Coach Eric Hall's squad, seeking the school's fifth state title and first since 1995, will meet Paramus in the Group 3 semifinals.

Central Jersey, Group 2

Delaware Valley 31, Raritan 30 -- It's been a long time coming, but the Terriers (15-4) ended their sectional title drought with a hard-fought win over their postseason rivals. Senior Ryan Erwin scored a 13-2 major at 132 pounds and sophomore Connor Mills gave up just a decision as a heavy underdog in the next bout to help lift Del Val, now 7-5 all-time vs. Raritan and 7-3 in postseason meetings, to its 15th championship -- all in this section -- and first since 2006. The schools had met in the finals on four previous occasions, with each winning two. Nick Zehnbauer (152), Matt Meehan (182) and Brock Houser (220) also provided key victories for coach Andy Fitz's squad, which earns a rematch with Lenape Valley in the Group 2 semifinals.

North 1, Group 3

Paramus 29, Sparta 24 -- Making its first sectional finals appearance since 2000, Sparta dropped a heartbreaker to state-ranked and top-seeded Paramus. Leading 24-23, Sparta (19-5), the No. 2 seed, lost decisions in the final two bouts, as Kyle Cochran beat Nathan Sowers, 7-0, at 152, while state placer Joe Trovato sealed the win with a 7-4 victory over Region 1 qualifier Walker Schmitzer at 160. Senior Ian Burke earned his 115th career win for Sparta, which won four of the first five bouts and six overall. Coach Frank Battaglia's squad was seeking the program's first title since 2000 and its third overall, also winning in 1983.

North 2, Group 1 

Bound Brook 55, Belvidere 9 -- Seniors Kevin Merle (170) and Jimmy Smith (120) were the lone winners as the sixth-seeded County Seaters, who knocked off Nos. 2 and 3 to reach the finals, saw their fantastic postseason run end against the three-time defending Group 1 champion, which moved over from Central Jersey this season. Merle scored a 14-8 decision over George Walton, while Smith received a forfeit victory. Belvidere (16-3) was seeking its sixth sectional title and first since 2002.

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