Youth definitely served notice in this year's event as nine underclassmen won titles, including talented freshman Joe Aragona, who dominated the 113-pound class while leading Pope John to its first team championship.
The Lions crowned a tournament-high five champions to outdistance host Warren Hills -- 218-186 for first place. Pope John, which returned to the tournament after a three-year absence, had never finished higher than sixth place from 2002-11 and was last in its first six appearances from 2002-06.
Christian Deehan (106), Joe Frumolt (182), Jake Brown (195) and Andrew Nieves (220) also won titles for the Lions on Monday at Warren Hills Regional High School.
Deehan -- who became the Sussex County school's first winner since Joe Emering in 2011 -- won a hard-fought 8-7 decision over talented Warren Hills freshman Cody Harrison. Trailing 7-6, Deehan converted a takedown with 14 seconds left in the third period to win it. Earlier, Harrison took a 7-5 lead on a reversal with 1:01 left in the bout.
Pope John has two of the best 106-pounders in Region 1, as Aragona placed second at the prestigious Super 32 event a few months ago and rolled to a title in the Hopatcong Tournament on the opening weekend.
Tough day for Hunterdon County
For the first time since 2008, neither Delaware Valley or North Hunterdon crowed at least one John Goles champion.
The Terriers went 0-2 in the finals as both freshman AJ DeRosa (113) and Matt Kolonia (132) went in as underdogs. DeRosa dropped a 5-0 decision to Aragona, while Kolonia fell, 6-1, to Edison junior Robert Cleary, a returning Region 5 champion.
Coach Andy Fitz's squad had a solid consolation round with four third-place finishers -- Dylan Uderman (106), Rhys Zigich (145), Chase Bauberger (152) and Kyle Schlittler (195). Three others -- Vito Intili (120), Jake Moore (126) and Jeff Underhill (220) -- placed fourth.
Since joining the Goles in 1994, Del Val has crowned 62 champions, the third most behind Washington/Warren Hills (177) and Newton (85).
North Hunterdon competed in the first tournament in 1958, the only other year it did not have a champion. The Lions returned briefly in 1995 (winning the team championship) and didn't compete again until 2008.
The Lions also went 0-2 in this year's finals as Andrew Gapas (126) and Wyatt Vrancken (170) finished second. Vrancken, who was looking to become just the sixth wrestler at his school to win at least two titles, dropped a 9-2 decision to Millburn's John Serruto.
Coach Tim Flynn's squad came in limping without seniors Brian Smolinsky (152), Derek Ciavarro (160) and Tyler Gapas (182), who all would have been heavy favorites to win championships. Smolinsky and Ciavarro were out due to illness, according to Flynn, while Gapas broke a wrist competing in the Neptune Classic on Dec. 19.
Speaking of Streaks
Warren Hills junior Matt Valli earned his second John Goles title with a 4-3 win over Andrew Gapas in a tight battle at 126. Valli escaped with 1:34 left in the third period and fought off Gapas in the closing seconds.
Valli, who won at 113 as a freshman and did not compete as a sophomore, joins an impressive list of multiple winners for the Blue Streaks.
In all their are 42 to win at least twice for Warren Hills, while four did it when the school was known as Washington. Max Nauta, who was on hand working one of the scorer's tables, is the last of 17 to win at least three titles for the Warren County school. Ryan Kanewski (1993-96) is the only one to win all four years at Warren Hills. Steve Kasza won three at Belvidere before getting his fourth as a senior for the Streaks.
Here and there
It's clear that West Morris benefited from opening its season at a very tough Wyoming Seminary tournament. Coach Ken Rossi's team, though down in numbers, represented itself well at the Goles, finishing third with just 11 wrestlers. Kade Loughney (138), Marco Gaita (152) and Caleb Isemann (160) and Alex Kaltenhauser (285) joined Shane Metzler (120) as the Wolfpack went 5-for-5 in the finals. Sophomore Michael Caso was impressive in finishing third and will make the drop to 106, according to Rossi. Metzler is the school's sixth two-time champ -- joining Mike Mulrooney (1989-90), John Ferris (1991-92), Scott Cummins (1992, '94) and Marc Villano (2002-03) and Sal Carfaro (2007-08).
Newton missed getting a champion for just the third time since 2000 as Jonathon Borgognoni (152) and Tyler Pittenger (285) lost their finals matchups. Borgognoni had a nice run to his first final as the sophomore majored Bauberger, the No. 2 seed, 9-0 in the semifinals. Wyatt McCarthy, who didn't place after dropping a tough 8-5 decision to fellow freshman Garcia in the quarters at 132, may win a few before he's done.
Keep an eye on Warren Hills sophomore Codey O'Rourke at 120 pounds. The gym was on it collective ear in the semifinals when O'Rourke locked up a tight cradle and nearly decked Metzler, who yelled out while on his back. O'Rourke was awarded four back points, but Metzler, fourth in the state at 106 last season, eventually won by pin in 2:21.
For just the third time in tournament history, there were no pins in the championship finals. The only the other set of finals without a fall were 1964 and '77. There were a total of 60 in this year's event, with Pope John piling up a tournament-best 14, followed by Delaware Valley (9) and Newton (7).
1. Pope John (PJ) 218; 2. Warren Hills (WH) 186; 3.West Morris (WM) 155; 4. Delaware Valley (DV) 154; 5. North Hunterdon (NH) 111; 6. Edison (E) 82; 7. Newton (N) 74; 8. Scotch Plains (SP) 69; 9. Millburn (M) 58; 10. Plainfield (P) 16.
106 -- 1-Jr. Christian Deehan (6-1), PJ, d. 2-Fr. Cody Harrison (7-2), WH, 8-7.
113 -- Fr. Joe Aragona (7-0), PJ, d. 1-Fr. AJ DeRosa (6-2), DV, 5-0.
120 -- 1-Jr. Shane Metzler (8-0), WM, d. 2-So. Jake Rotunda (5-1), PJ, 7-3.
126 -- 1-Jr. Matt Valli (8-0), WH, d. 7-So. Andrew Gapas (6-1), NH, 4-3.
132 -- 1-Jr. Robert Cleary (7-0), E, d. 2-Jr. Matt Kolonia (7-1), DV, 6-1.
138 -- 1-Jr. Kade Loughney (6-4), WM, d. 2-Jr. Zach Nauta (6-2), WH, 5-3 SV.
145 -- 3-Jr. Peter Tomasino (6-1), E, d. Fr. Andrew Rispoli (4-2), PJ, 6-1.
152 -- 1-So. Marco Gaita (7-2), WM, d. 3-So. Jonathon Borgognoni (2-1), N, 6-0.
160 -- 2-Sr. Caleb Isemann (9-2), WM, md. 1-Sr. Roger Serruto (5-2), M, 14-2.
170 -- 1-Sr. John Serruto (6-1), M, d. 2-Sr. Wyatt Vrancken (3-1), NH, 9-2.
182 -- 1-Sr. Joe Frumolt (6-1), PJ, d. 3-Fr. Nick Galka (4-3), WH, 3-1.
195 -- 2-So. Jake Brown (6-1), PJ, d. 4-Sr. Kurt Nemeth (7-1), WH, 7-5 SV.
220 -- 3-Sr. Andrew Nieves (4-2), PJ, d. Jr. Brody Oberly (3-5), WH, 5-3.
285 -- 4-Sr. Alex Kaltenhauser (6-4), WM, d. 2-Sr. Tyler Pittenger (4-2), N, 3-2.
106 -- 3-Jr. Dylan Uderman (7-2), DV, md. Fr. Michael O'Brien (3-4), E, 12-4.
113 -- 5-So. Michael Caso (3-4), WM, d. 4-So. Kyle Wulff (4-3), WH, 5-4 UTB.
120 -- 4-So. Codey O'Rourke (8-1), WH, forfeit over 3-Sr. Vito Intili (6-2), DV.
126 -- 3-Jr. Ryan Luchs (4-1), PJ, d. 5-Sr. Jake Moore (5-3), DV, 2-1.
132 -- 4-Fr. Robert Garcia (6-1), PJ, p. 3-Sr. Jashmar Philippe (2-3), SP, 1:48.
138 -- 3-Jr. Nick Giordano (5-3), N, p. 5-Jr. Cole Marra (4-2), NH, 2:00.
145 -- 1-Jr. Rhys Zigich (6-3), DV, md. Jr. Christian Trimarchi (2-5), WM, 10-0.
152 -- 2-Jr. Chase Bauberger (4-3), DV, d. Jr. Rashon Wade Taylor (3-5), WH, 10-5.
160 -- 3-So. Abu Bakar Mendheim (5-3), P, d. Sr. Brandon Miguelino (3-3), SP, 7-3.
170 -- 3-So. Sam Wustefeld (5-1), SP, p. Sr. Anthony Roessner (6-3), WH, 4:38.
182 -- So. Yousef Abbas (2-1), NH, d. 2-Sr. Danny Caivano (5-2), M, 4-3.
195 -- 1-Sr. Kyle Schlittler (7-1), DV, p. 3-Sr. Jaylen Bryant (3-3), SP, 1:15.
220 -- Sr. John Williams (3-3), NH, d. 1-Sr. Jeff Underhill (3-4), DV, 2-1 TB.
285 -- 1-Jr. Charlie Tordik (6-2), NH, d. Sr. Colin Myles (3-2), PJ, 5-4.
Outstanding Wrestler Award -- Robert Cleary, Edison
Ryan Storm Memorial Award (Most pins in least time by a champion) -- Christian Deehan, Pope John (two in 3:31).
Alonzo Widenor Memorial Award (fastest pin) -- Tucker Kirchberger, North Hunterdon (13 seconds)