Friday, February 27, 2015

Wrestling: Region 1 quarterfinals recap, tidbits

HARDYSTON TWP. -- As expected, it was mostly the DePaul vs. Phillipsburg show in the quarterfinal round of the Region 1 Tournament at Wallkill Valley Regional High School.

The Stateliners advanced an Open Mike area-best six into Saturday's semifinal round, while DePaul went a perfect 10-for-10 in the quarters to help District 4 move the most wrestlers into the semifinals (16) for the first time, at least since this region moved here in 1983. District 1 was next with 15, followed by District 2 with 14 and District 3 with 11.

Here's a look at some of the highlights from a busy Friday night:

'Cats on the prowl

High Point gained a measure of satisfaction off a tough dual meet season by sending four wrestlers to the semifinals -- juniors Jared Kobis (138) and Kevin Lewis (285), along with seniors Dom Gallo (126) and Jason Gaccione (145).

Kobis (28-0), a two-time District 3 champion, continued his march toward a Region 1 title with a 5-2 win over Morris Knolls' Michael Nigro -- setting up a much anticipated showdown with unbeaten Mendham senior and state placewinner Eric Friedman on Saturday morning.

On Monday, Kobis received the No. 4 seed, throwing him into the top bracket with Friedman (36-0), who earned the top seed. The unusual draw was a source of much discussion among coaches and some fans on message boards, and it may prompt some changes for next season. Nonetheless, Kobis took it all in stride.

"I was a little shocked. Not sure how I wasn't the No. 2, but I have to wrestle Friedman sooner or later," said Kobis, who is 68-4 in his career and has battled numerous injuries in three seasons.

"I just have to keep wrestling. This is nothing different, it's just another match. You have to take it one at a time and you have to get through the semifinals to get [to states]."

Kobis converted a pair of takedowns, including one in the first period vs. Nigro, in advancing to the semis for the second time in his career. Despite the win, Kobis was not that happy with his performance, though he made a mental note of the bout for future reference.

"Not my best. I've wrestled better," he said. "I just have to keep wrestling and not stop like I did today. I always try to score that first takedown, and then try to go from there."

Gallo rolled to a 7-1 win over West Morris freshman Marco Gaita, while Gaccione decked Roxbury's Richard Day in 3:24. Gaccione is seeking his second title after winning as a sophomore en route to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament. His brother, Joe, won three Region 1 titles, while their uncle and coach John Gardner is one of just three to win four titles in this usually loaded region.

Lewis, a District 3 champ, scored the fastest pin of the quarterfinal round -- needing just 10 seconds to flatten Pequannock's Johanser Joseph. In the North 1, Group 2 semifinals two weeks ago, Lewis, who will next meet returning champ Andrew Pacheco of Warren Hills, decked Joseph in 31 seconds.

Record breaker

Though he would never admit to it, the ever humble Ian Burke has been the poster boy for Sparta's wrestling program the last four seasons and an integral piece to the Sussex County school's resurgence.

Burke made his mark yet again in the quarterfinals with a 6-3 decision over Wayne Hills' Joseph Stambouly at 145 pounds, becoming the Spartans' all-time wins leader in the process. Burke (35-3) is 119-21 overall, moving past Matt Stoppay (118-25 from 1999-2003), a former two-time Region 1 champ and the Outstanding Wrestler Award winner in '03.

"I owe it all to our coaches and everyone in the [practice] room for pushing me all the time. It's been an awesome ride," said Burke, one of two Spartans to reach the semis along with classmate Walker Schmitzer (160). "The record is not so much about me. It's indicative of the whole Sparta program under coach [Frank] Battaglia. As a team, we really turned things around and put Sparta back on the map in a lot of ways."

Burke gets a semifinals rematch with Gaccione, who prevailed, 14-11, when they met last weekend in the District 3 finals. Burke, trailed, 9-3, before putting Gaccione on his back with a headlock, but the High Point wrestler signaled for injury time and the bout was stopped at 9-9, as Burke was awarded a four-point nearfall. Gaccione escaped to make it 10-9 and iced his third district title with two takedowns in the third period.

"I don't really want to comment on it. He won fair and square," said Burke, a four-time qualifier who was joined by five other Spartans in the quarters. "I'm just looking to keep pushing an go as far as I can. This is all gravy. It's great to have a lot of my teammates here. It's a great atmosphere."

Garrett Gerndt (113), Nathan Sowers (152), Connor Lore (182) and Gavin Lally (220) all fell into the wrestlebacks with quarterfinal losses.

Is it Renne's time?

Hackettstown coach Frank Rodgers may have summed it up best after junior Joe Renne recorded a big 4-3 win over Kittatinny's Nick Klinger in their 120-pound quarterfinal matchup.

"You got the monkey off your back," Rodgers told his wrestler in the locker room.

Indeed that may be the case for Renne, a two-time District 1 finalist, who earned his first trip to the region semifinals, while evening the all-time score with Klinger. In three previous meetings, Renne was 1-2 after a technical fall win as freshmen. Last season, Klinger won by scores of 12-5 and 8-6, the latter result occurring in the 2014 Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals.

A first-period takedown for Renne was clutch in this one. Klinger is exceptional on his feet, but Renne was just too big and strong after making the late-season drop from 126. Every time Klinger got in on a shot, he was stonewalled by Renne's strength. Klinger went ahead, 3-2, in the third after a reversal, but Renne tied it with an escape and got another in the third period for the winning point.

"Klinger is really good on his feet, so I had to set up my shots well," said Renne, now 32-6 on the season and 89-26 overall. " It felt good [getting that first takedown] knowing I could go into the second period on top. At the end I was just defending [his shots]. I do feel strong at 120. It's a different type of wrestling. Usually, the lighter you go, the quicker kids are."

Renne earns a semifinal date with top seed Mojahed Hamdeh of Wayne Hills, the champion last season at 113 pounds.

"I'm in the semis now, it's the first time I've been here. I feel good," Renne said. "This is the go get [the title] year."

Back points

Warren Hills went 2-for-2 in the quarterfinals as seniors Max Nauta (132) and Pacheco continued their bids for a second Region 1 title. Nauta scored a 5-0 win over North Warren's Gino Fluri in a rematch of their District 1 final, while Pacheco decked Lakeland's Jake Hanstien in 1:42.

Nauta (28-6) is looking to become the Blue Streaks' first four-time finalist since Dave Richmond (2003-06), who was a three-time champ. Pacheco is bidding to become the second heavyweight at his school to win back-to-back titles since former state champ and Region 1 Hall of Fame member Dan Slack won three in a row (1975-77).

Phillipsburg sophomore Robert Melise was looking like a sure bet to record the fastest fall on Friday with a 13-second job against Jefferson's Avery Sheruda, until Lewis' 10-second pin at 285. Melise was joined in the semis by fellow 'Liners Steve Friedman (145), John Kaluzny (152), Max Elling (160), Jimmy Schuitema (170) and Kyle Nothnagel (285).

It should be an interesting Saturday, as the P'burg vs. DePaul battle turned a bit ugly when DePaul coach Keith Karsen and some of the Stateliner faithful were jawing back and forth during the matches. This after DePaul coaches were fist-pumping following Daniel Percelay's 5-3 win over P'burg junior Kyle Markus at 106.

DePaul won all three head-to-head meetings vs. the 'Liners in the quarters, as returning champ Matt Noble majored talented freshman Brian Meyer, 10-2, at 126, while Cory Doebel knocked off DJ Wissing, 8-6, at 138. There will be one semifinal clash, as Schuitema faces Spencer Carey at 170.

Unfortunately for P'burg, sophomore Drew Horun (195) was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an ankle injury sustained in Thursday's practice session.

Lenape Valley helped buoy District 2's total with three quarterfinal winners -- Jacob Falleni (106), Nick Palumbo (132) and D.J. Barrett (182). Falleni and Barrett will have District 2 finals rematches on Saturday morning, both against Morris Knolls wrestlers that they beat last Saturday.

Falleni prevailed, 2-1 in the ultimate tiebreaker against Austin Perrault, while Barrett gave Dean Drugac, a 2014 Region 1 champ, his first loss, 9-6.

Phillipsburg was the unanimous choice as Region 1's top team, while DePaul finished as No. 2. Group 2 runner-up Lenape Valley is No. 3, followed by Roxbury, West Morris, Morris Knolls, High Point, Pequannock, Pompton Lakes and Sparta, rounding out the top 10.

P'burg will have two inductees into the Region 1 Hall of Fame on Saturday -- former state champ Bob Zaro and two-time state runner-up and coach Mike Rossetti. In addition, Jefferson's Ken Rossi and Dan Vallimont will be honored during a ceremony prior to the finals.

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