Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wrestling: Region 1 finals recap, tidbits

HARDYSTON TWP. -- One is great, but for three local wrestlers, winning two titles was twice as nice.

High Point's Jason Gaccione, along with Warren Hills' Max Nauta and Andrew Pacheco, all claimed their second Region 1 championships before a packed house of 2,100 fans on Saturday at Wallkill Valley Regional High School.

Gaccione won his second 145-pound title in three years, while teammate Jared Kobis captured his first at 138. High Point advanced three wrestlers to next weekend's 82nd State Tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, as senior Dom Gallo finished third at 126.

Gaccione defeated Phillipsburg's Steve Friedman for a third time this season, converting a takedown with 28 seconds left in the third period to ice a 5-2 win. Earlier in the day, Gaccione (36-2) moved into second place on his school's all-time wins list -- he now stands at 140-21 overall -- with a 7-5 decision over Sparta's Ian Burke.

"This is a really good feeling," said Gaccione, who also won at 145 in 2013, while finishing second at this weight class last season. "But this is something I expect of myself, winning a district and region title. But a state title is the only thing on my mind now. I just have to go out and wrestle to my full capability."

Kobis (30-0), a No. 4 seed, won a battle of unbeatens in the semifinals by knocking off state placewinner Eric Friedman of Mendham -- 2-1 in three overtimes -- before dominating Pequannock junior Alex Zangrilli, 5-0, in the title match. The two-time District 3 champion Kobis said he feels like he can be a major threat for a state championship in AC.

"It's a great feeling to be going to AC and be healthy," said Kobis, who improved to 70-4 overall.

Streak-ing in the finals

Nauta and Pacheco, both No. 1 seeds, became only the second set of Blue Streaks to repeat as champions in the same tournament -- joining former state champions Arnie Thompson and Lee "Corky" Castner won in 1966.

Nauta, who also won at 113 pounds as a sophomore, needed to rally from behind in both the semifinals and finals, beating Lenape Valley's Nick Palumbo, 6-2, to reach the finals, where he knocked off DePaul's William Kui, 11-6 in sudden victory.

Against Kui, Nauta (30-6) gave up a four-pointer in the first after being hit with a headlock, but he got a reversal and later two backs with just seconds left in the period to tie it at 4. Nauta (122-27), who needs three wins to pass former three-time champion Dave Richmond for the school record, escaped in the third to force OT and caught Kui for five points off a scramble in sudden victory to win it.

Pacheco (28-2), who finished sixth in the state last season, didn't get much of a test all weekend in reaching his third straight final at heavyweight -- earning a 4-2 win over Randolph's David Vargas in the finals after decking High Point's Kevin Lewis in 33 seconds in the semis.

Pacheco is the first heavyweight for the Streaks to appear in three straight finals since Dan Slack won three titles from 1975-77. They are the only heavies to win at least two titles in program history.

Nauta and Richmond are the only Streaks to appear in four finals, while Pacheco is among a group of nine others at the Warren County school to compete in three region finals.

Terrific Tiger

Hackettstown junior Joe Renne would have had a great shot at the Outstanding Wrestler Award in probably any other year, but DePaul's David McFadden was a virtual lock after dominating the 160-pound weight class for his fourth championship.

Renne, the No. 5 seed knocked off the 1, 2 and 4 seeds en route to the 120-pound title, knocking off West Morris' Dylan Luciano, 7-2, in the finals. Renne (34-6) took a 2-1 lead into the third period, where he converted two takedowns in the final 22 seconds to seal the win.

Last weekend, Luciano beat Renne, 8-7, for the District 1 title.

Renne, who defeated returning Region 1 champ Mojahed Hamdeh of Wayne Hills, 7-4, in the semis, is the 13th champ for Hackettstown and its first since Tyler Kozimor won at 138 pounds in 2012.

Punching tickets

Phillipsburg's Steve Friedman (145) and Robert Melise (220) were among five wrestlers from the Open Mike area to earn trips to AC with second-place finishes -- along with Pope John's Jake Rotunda (113), Lenape Valley's D.J. Barrett (182) and Newton's Gus Protogeropoulos (195).

Phillipsburg's Kyle Markus (106), Max Elling (160) and Kyle Nothnagel (285), along with Hopatcong's Joe Aumann (113), Kittatinny's Austin Scrivani (132) and Sparta's Gavin Lally (220) all finished third.

It was a rough weekend for P'burg, which didn't have a champion for the fifth time since 2000 and the ninth time overall in its illustrious history. In a total shocker, senior Jimmy Schuitema, the No. 1 seed at 170, finished fourth and did not earn a trip to states. His 10-9 loss to Morris Knolls' Luke Drugac was an incredible bout that had the place rocking.

Elling (123-36) and Schuitema (123-26) are now tied for the school's all-time wins record.

Back points

DePaul was the talk of Region 1 this weekend, as the Passaic County school put eight in the finals and crowned five champs, including McFadden (164-8), who became only the fourth wrestler -- all state champs -- in this region to win four titles. The Virginia Tech recruit joined Pope John's Mike Frick (1969-72), and High Point's John Gardner (1987-90) and Nick Francavilla (2008-11) in that exclusive club. Matt Noble (126) and Brandon Kui (152) of DePaul were among three 2014 champs to repeat.

P'burg was named the No. 1 team in Region 1 by a unanimous vote of the coaches, but DePaul went 5-0 in head-to-head matchups with the Stateliners over the last two days of the tournament, including Spencer Carey's 12-9 victory over Schuitema in the semifinals, as well as Scott Lavelle's pin of Melise in the finals.

DePaul moved into ninth-place on the list of all-time champions in this region with 22, jumping over Hopatcong and Sparta (20), Belvidere (19) and Pope John (18). Phillipsburg leads with 115, followed by Washington/Warren Hills (55), High Point (45) and Randolph (42). Newton and Roxbury, with 34 each, round out the top five. High Point has produced a staggering total of 29 winners since 2005, far and away the most of any school in the field.

Sparta celebrated another moment in its comeback season, as Lally rallied from a tough 4-3 loss to Morris Knolls' Payton Campbell in the quarterfinals by avenging that defeat with a 5-1 win over Campbell in the third-place bout at 220. Lally (36-2) is the Spartans' first state qualifier since Phil Takacs-Senske (second in 2007).

West Morris sophomore Shane Metzler prevailed in a tough 106-pound class to give that program its 13th championship and second in the last two seasons after Jesse Windt snapped the school's seven-year drought by winning at 220 in 2014. Before the finals, head coach Ken Rossi was among four to be inducted into the Region 1 Hall of Fame.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, next year's inductees are all former state champs. Wallkill Valley's Chris Skretkowicz, High Point's David Zabriskie and Delaware Valley's Jamie Wicks comprise an outstanding Class of 2016.

As if there was any doubt as to how tough it is to win a title in Region 1, consider Randolph's A.J. Vindici (32-2), a two-time state placewinner who had never reached the finals before Saturday. Vindici, who finished third twice and fourth last season in his three previous appearances, dropped a 5-2 decision to Noble in his bid to become the Morris County school's first champ since Mike Suk in 2008.

Wayne Hills picked up its second champion as Daniel Kilroy won the 170-pound title with a 3-1 win over Carey. Hamdeh became the first winner for the Passaic County school in 2014.

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