Friday, January 30, 2015

Wrestling: PointsGate goes 'old' school for sectionals

Out with the new and in with the old.

That is how we go to determine the power points for final seeding in this year's sectional tournaments. The NJSIAA released a statement on Friday saying the previous chart will be used instead of the controversial new version for 2014-15 after a vote by a 2-1 margin from the state's coaches.

On Wednesday, an email from New Jersey Coaches Association president Dan Smith was sent to all coaches with a request to vote for either the old or the new rankings chart by Friday's state imposed deadline. Region 1 voted 23-9 for the old chart among its 34 schools, while Region 6, according to the Asbury Park Press, came in at 25-7 for using the old chart among its 43 schools.

"Given this situation -- and along with our direct outreach to committee members -- we polled New Jersey's wrestling coaches and the regional presidents, who overwhelmingly recommend a return to the previous system," NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said in the release.

Under the new chart, teams that were wrestling better competition were actually being penalized for doing so. The old chart was incorrectly being used for the first few weeks by points tabulator Larry McMillan. Both Smith and McMillan revealed in emails obtained by Open Mike that no test run was ever performed using the new system to see what the actual effects would be on the point totals.

Contrary to what one media outlet has been reporting in recent days, the points have been wrong for each week they've been made public. Both Smith and McMillan have confirmed that scores have been difficult to track down, making the numbers incorrect for a number of schools. The Trentonian's Rick Fortenbaugh also has said a number of the Mercer County schools' totals have been wrong from the get-go due to missing information on Track Wrestling.

The power points are used to determine the top six qualifying teams in each of the five public school groups in each of the four sections in North 1, North 2, Central Jersey and South Jersey, along with the two non-public school groups in the North and South.

Open Mike is the media outlet that first broke this story last week -- revealing that the power points were incorrect, Smith acknowledged an issue with Track Wrestling that was making it difficult for region ranking chairmen to find scores. The head coach at Watchung Hills also stated that the region presidents voted last spring to tweak the old chart.

The new table was voted on at the region presidents meeting last spring before being presented to the NJSIAA wrestling committee for another vote. Both committees voted to change the chart, which came about when coaches complained that teams were being rewarded too much for blowout losses vs. good competition.

"Thankfully, the problems with the new system were caught and the coaches committee and NJSIAA were able to work collaboratively to fix the problem before the start of this year's tournament," Timko said.

The seeding meeting is slated to be held on Thursday at NJSIAA headquarters. The sectional tournament cutoff is Wednesday, while the tournaments are to begin on Monday, Feb. 9. The group championships will be contested on Sunday, Feb. 15 at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wrestling: P'burg wins division title, eyes No. 900

Phillipsburg's wrestling can team add another chapter to its tradition-rich program when it hosts High Point on Friday at 4 p.m.. The Stateliners will be seeking their 900th win overall.

"It's really special, anytime you can reach a big milestone" coach Dave Post told Statelinersports.com's Mike Moore following Thursday night's 58-6 pasting of Warren Hills that clinched the Skyland Conference Raritan Division title -- the 19th division championship for P'burg in 20 seasons since joining the conference in 1995-96.

"Our kids understand and respect the history involved in our program."

Post also was a big part of the Stateliners' success on the mat as a former state placewinner for the Warren County school. During his tenure as head coach, P'burg (11-1 overall, 6-0 division) is 71-14 overall in the last five seasons. The 'Liners are 899-260-7 in their 67 seasons -- a .776 winning percentage -- and 196-35-2 vs. Hunterdon-Warren opponents.

High Point (4-3) comes into this one as a heavy underdog after winning back-to-back Group 2 championships under John Gardner, the Sussex County program's all-time coaching wins leader with 289. The Wildcats have not been in action since a 39-19 win over Hackettstown on Thursday, Jan. 22, due to the recent snow.

In addition, High Point is shorthanded and young, with seniors Dom Gallo (126) and Mike Derin (132) both nursing injuries.

Gallo (12-3), a state qualifier and Region 1 finalist last season, has been sidelined by an elbow injury and his status for this one is unknown. Derin (2-0), a two-time Region 1 champion and state placewinner as a sophomore, is likely done for the season with a knee injury.

Ironically, this season marks the 20-year anniversary of Phillipsburg's 49-13 win over High Point in the 1995 Group 3 final -- a match that was marred with a melee between 'Cats coaches and some P'burg fans at the conclusion of the final bout. Then Stateliners coach Rick Thompson refused to take part or let his kids participate in the postmatch handshake.

Phillipsburg holds a 16-1 lead in the all-time series, including last season's 52-13 rout in Wantage. The series began in 1989 with P'burg's 31-18 win in the Group 3 final and was continuous through the 1998-99 season. After a three-year hiatus, the 'Liners scored a 45-22 victory in the 2003 Group 3 semifinals in Trenton.

The regular-season rivalry resumed on Jan. 31, 2009, as High Point ended a 15-match skid with a 30-22 victory at The Pit. Last season's match was the first between the schools since '09.

P'burg is on top of its game right now with blowout wins this week over Skyland Conference Raritan Division rivals Warren Hills and Hunterdon Central (42-12 on Wednesday). The 'Liners are led by 100-match winners Max Elling (24-2) and Jimmy Schuitema (24-3), who rotate between 160 and 170 pounds.

Post was extremely pleased with the win over Warren Hills (5-6, 0-5) -- P'burg improved to 54-14 all-time in the series dating to 1948 -- as his squad yielded just two regular decisions, including a loss by freshman backup Cullen Day at 106. Juniors Kyle Nothnagel and DJ Wissing pulled off the upsets of the night against the Streaks' top two wrestlers.

Nothnagel, a transfer from Pennsylvania, scored a 6-1 win in overtime against state placewinner Andrew Pacheco at 285 with a five-point move in the second rideout. Wissing scored a 6-4 win over three-time Region 1 finalist Max Nauta, who decked Wissing earlier this month in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex semifinals at 138 pounds.

Nauta dropped to 9-3 all-time vs. P'burg opponents. As was the case last season, Nauta, who is 108-25 overall and a two-time District 1 champion, dropped the rematch in the dual meet after an HWS tournament win over Corey Zinsmeister. Nauta's only other loss to a Stateliner was 10-6 to Steve Friedman in the 2012 District 1 finals.

Making matters worse for Warren Hills is that sophomore 120-pounder Matt Valli, a District 1 champ, missed this match after sustaining a knee injury in Wednesday night's loss to North Hunterdon.

PHILLIPSBURG 58, WARREN HILLS 6

182 -- Sr. Jimmy Schuitema (23-3), P, p. So. Brody Oberly (2-15), 2:49.
195 -- So. Drew Horun (19-6), P, p. Jr. Kurt Nemeth (10-11), 4:43.
220 -- So. Robert Melise (21-5), P, p. So. Taylan Zafis (1-12), :40.
285 -- Jr. Kyle Nothnagel (5-0), P, d. Sr. Andrew Pacheco (13-1), 6-1 OT3.
106 -- Fr. Jacob DiNapoli (7-11), WH, d. Fr. Cullen Day (1-1), 4-3 OT3.
113 -- So. Tom Kosar (4-6), P, md. Fr. Codey O'Rourke (4-11), 16-7.
120 -- Jr. Tyler Agans (10-12), P, p. Fr. Pedro Cruz (0-5), 1:12.
126 -- Sr. John Fluck (12-6), WH, d. Fr. Brian Meyer (9-11), 7-6.
132 -- Sr. Donald Agans (10-13), P, d. So. Zach Nauta (9-9), 6-4.
138 -- Jr. DJ Wissing (19-7), P, d. Sr. Max Nauta (16-5), 6-4.
145 -- Sr. Steve Friedman (17-7), P, p. Sr. Austin Pidoto (7-10), 3:23.
152 -- Sr. John Kaluzny (14-6), P, d. Fr. Jarod Ostir (11-7), 5-2.
160 -- Sr. Max Elling (24-2), P, p. Jr. Anthony Roessner (8-12), 1:34.
170 -- Sr. Yann Ondele (5-1), P, forfeit.
Records -- Warren Hills 5-6, 0-5; Phillipsburg 11-1, 6-0.
Official -- Russ Scorese.
Note: Phillipsburg earned its 899th victory.

Wrestling: Newton set for rugged Jack Welch Duals

Pairings and seeds were announced for the eighth annual Jack Welch Duals to be held Friday and Saturday at Moorestown High School.

Wrestling begins on Friday at 4:30 p.m., with the second round to follow at 6:30. Action resumes at 11 a.m. on Saturday with rounds to follow at 1 and 3 p.m.

This year's event features three teams ranked in the New Jersey Writers Association Top 20. The top two seeds are No. 6 St. Peter's Prep and No. 8 Bound Brook, which is replacing No. 19 and 2014 Welch Duals champion Long Branch. The Crusaders are looking to get above the 70-percent rule required to qualify for the upcoming sectional tournaments and they will likely face St. Peter's for the championship on Saturday.

Camden Catholic, which had won this event five years in a row from 2009-13 and defeated Long Branch, 33-31, in the 2013 championship match, is not in this year's field. Long Branch posted a 30-20 win over Hunterdon Central in last year's title match.

Newton (5-8), the only local team in the tournament, is the No. 14 seed and will face No. 3 seed Christian Brothers Academy, ranked No. 14 by the NJWWA, in the opening round on Friday. Coach Eric Bollette's Braves teams have finished second twice in seven previous appearances at the duals.

Senior 195-pounder Gus Protogeropoulos (17-1) could face some stiff competition this weekend, as he did last season en route to placing third in Region 1. CBA features Region 6 qualifier Will Oxley (15-2) and Protogeropoulos potentially could get a rematch with Holy Cross' Matt Correnti (21-0), who placed third in the state at 195 last season. Protogeropoulos, who has 86 career wins, dropped a 13-6 decision to Correnti at last year's Welch Duals and he fell 6-0 to CBA's Michael Oxley, who placed fifth in AC at 195.

Pairings and seeds for Friday's opening round:

Pool 1

1-St. Peter's Prep vs. 16-Riverside
8-Egg Harbor Township vs. 9-Haddon Township

Pool 2

5-Collingswood vs. 12-Northern Burlington
4-Buena vs. 13-Rancocas Valley

Pool 3

3-Christian Brothers Academy vs. 14-Newton
6-Haddonfield vs. 11-Holy Cross

Pool 4

7-Delran vs. 10-Moorestown
2-Bound Brook vs. 15-Maple Shade

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wrestling: PointsGate fate rests with the coaches

So we finally got a response from the NJSIAA to this mess with the sectional power points, as the state's governing body for high school athletics essentially washed its hands by leaving the decision entirely in the coaches' hands.

On Wednesday, an email from New Jersey Coaches Association president Dan Smith was sent to all coaches with a request to vote for either the old or the new rankings chart by Friday's state imposed deadline. The "winning" chart will be the one used next week to determine this year's seeds and points for the upcoming sectional tournaments.

Under the new chart, teams that are wrestling better competition were actually being penalized for doing so. The old chart was incorrectly being used for the first few weeks by points tabulator Larry McMillan. More on that in a minute.

In that email obtained by Open Mike, the media outlet that first broke this story last week revealing that the power points were incorrect, Smith acknowledged an issue with Track Wrestling that was making it difficult for region ranking chairmen to find scores. The head coach at Watchung Hills also stated that the region presidents voted last spring to tweak the old chart.

The new table was voted on at the region presidents meeting last spring before being presented to the NJSIAA wrestling committee for another vote. Both committees voted to change the chart, which came about when coaches complained that teams were being rewarded too much for blowout losses vs. good competition.

But the biggest eye opener in this whole debacle is that Smith confirmed that no one tested the new chart to see how the points would shake out. McMillan, the most important person in this whole scenario, also stated as much in an earlier email to the Region 5 coaches.

"I don't remember being asked to run any simulations," McMillan said.

How could that even be possible? Raritan coach Rob Nucci, one of the most respected coaches in the state and a former Region 6 president, also was at a loss when reached on Wednesday night. It seems that no one can offer an explanation for what appears to be a reckless endeavor.

"We looked it over [in the spring] to make sure there were no screw-ups, but you can't really tell until you actually run the numbers," Nucci said. "That's kind of on us, not the state. We screwed it up. It's a mess."

That may be the understatement of the year. It's a colossal fail across the board. This was a chance for the NJSIAA to step up and show some real leadership. But instead, the problem was thrown right back in the laps of the coaches and region presidents.

What executive director Steve Timko and his staff should have done on Wednesday is say, look, we understand there are a multitude of problems with the new chart -- which has supposedly been on the NJSIAA website since October -- and since this is not a quick fix, we will go back to the old chart for this season and revisit the new one for next year.

That decisive act would have provided an immediate solution to this chaos. Instead, we will wait with bated breath for a vote by the coaches, which is really a farce in a number of ways.

First off, obviously no coach who stands to benefit from using the new chart is going to vote for the old one and potentially cost his team a sectional berth. And the opposite to that, no coach who will gain from the old chart will vote for the new one. And how about the coaches who have no dog in the fight because it doesn't affect them either way?

"It's a tough decision. Somebody is not going to be happy," said Region 1 president Scott Mahoney, who is also the head coach at Pompton Lakes, the current No. 1 seed in North 1, Group 1. " I think everyone [in Region 1] was surprised [the new chart] hurt them so much. All of the Region 1 teams wrestle great teams."

Nucci already has made that clear from the Rockets' standpoint. One look at the Central Jersey, Group 2 section and it's clear that a showdown with postseason rival Delaware Valley, the current No. 1 seed, could potentially occur much earlier than anticipated under the new system.

"I'm always about what is best for the sport, but with the old numbers, I could go from a fourth seed under the new chart to a second seed under the old," said Nucci, who has guided the program to its only two sectional titles (2004, '12) and its lone Group 2 title in 2012. "What is best for the sport? What's in the rules and regs now may not be the best for everybody."

The NJSIAA started the ball rolling in this direction by moving the cutoff date from Saturday, Jan. 31 to Wednesday Feb. 4 when it was discovered that there was a problem with the points and that some top-ranked teams were having issues meeting the 70-percent and 10-match vs. NJSIAA opponents rules due to the recent snow storms.

"That kind of opened a can of worms," Nucci said. "I'm hoping that the coaches get it right."

Newton coach Eric Bollette also will vote for the old chart as his team stands to move up in the North 1, Group 1 rankings. Bollette also has made it known that he feels teams should have at least a .500 record to qualify, a criteria that used to be in place.

"This is ridiculous," Bollette said on Wednesday. "And they need to decide which system will be used next year before the season ends so we can make our schedules accordingly."

That was another issue with the coaches. How could they plan for changes to this season's schedule when this new chart did not even appear on the state website until October? And furthermore, looking at that chart really does no good when most can't even decipher what all of the numbers mean.

It will be interesting to see how the votes shake out on Friday. How ironic would it be if it turned out to be a 50/50 split? What then? Let's decide it on Criteria H -- most first votes cast!

Wrestling: Who has power when it comes to points?

Seems like the fun is just beginning when it comes to figuring out what went wrong with the power points used to determine the sectional tournament qualifying teams.

The story centering on incorrect totals, as first reported by Open Mike, is starting to gain steam with other media outlets across the state and Pennsylvania. And it seems to be getting more bizarre by the day.

Apparently, there's an issue with the new chart used to calculate the points. In an email from longtime tabulator Larry McMillan that was recently sent out to all of the Region 5 coaches, McMillan sheds some light on why the numbers still appear to be off -- even after he mistakenly used last year's chart to tally last week's incorrect point totals.

According to McMillan, the new chart is penalizing teams that seek out better competition and rewarding the teams that do not. That's a startling revelation considering the points were revised some time ago to reflect the exact opposite.

"The adjustments made to the table were NOT minor adjustments," McMillan pointed out in the email. "They were huge SLASHES in the bottom four columns of the table."

The question begs: Who changed the chart and why? According to one wrestling source, this falls on person(s) on the wrestling committee. The reasons for this are still unknown, but this issue has created a firestorm over the last week.

Newton coach Eric Bollette is among the area coaches that I have spoken with who seem to be in the dark as to why the points chart was changed in the first place. Furthermore, it seems the coaches were unaware of these alterations.

"If the system was changed, then how come no one was informed of this? What's the big secret," said Bollette, who strongly feels that teams should be at least .500 to qualify as was the case for years. "Ultimately, the system is what it is."

The system clearly has major flaws. How can we start penalizing teams for wrestling top competition and rewarding those that do not? In Newton's case, the Braves are ranked ninth in North 1, Group 1 with seemingly no shot to move up into the top six to qualify before the cutoff date on Wednesday, Feb. 4. That date was pushed back from Saturday, Jan. 31 by the state to help out some teams -- as a result of the recent snowstorms -- that were on the cusp of gaining the necessary 10 matches against NJSIAA opponents or meeting the 70-percent rule vs. in-state competition.

Phillipsburg, North Hunterdon, High Point and Warren Hills were among the local teams under the gun to qualify -- either under the 70 percent or the 10-match minimum.

"It would appear that after last year, when we were told that wrestling top teams would not necessarily hurt you, it would appear that is," Bollette said. "In an effort to prepare [our wrestlers] for the individual tournaments, we have sought out some of the top teams in the area. Obviously that is hurting us as teams ahead of us have winning records, but they have not seen near the competition. Maybe we should seek out the same level of competition, and as a result, out power points would be higher."

To clarify, the 70-percent rule which requires teams to wrestle that percentage of its schedule vs. NJ teams was created for Phillipsburg, which used to compete in a Pennsylvania-based conference prior to joining the Skyland Conference for the 1995-96 school year.

In a story that appeared Tuesday night on Lehighvalleylive,com, writer Brad Wilson stated that the rule was "created by people jealous of the Stateliners' success in football and wrestling." That rule was instituted because P'burg, when it was in a Pennsylvania conference, would wrestle only a handful of New Jersey's top teams and gain a ton of power points that enabled the Warren County school to host the Group championships at home in The Pit -- an unfair advantage in the eyes of the coaches.

Case in point of the current flawed system is Howell, which is ranked No. 2 in the latest New Jersey Writers Association Top 20. The Rebels, despite being 17-0 with wins over No. 3 Phillipsburg, No. 14 Christian Brothers and No. 19 South Plainfield, is receiving a lower power-point rating because three of their best 10 matches used to calculate their points are against unranked opponents -- for which the Shore Conference school now only receives 24 points instead of 26, as it did in previous years.

In essence, Howell only has seven "good" matches. If you look at the point across the board, no team has more than 30, which would be the case in years past among the top teams, while a total of 24 gets you into the top six in all sections.

McMillan also seems confused as to what happened with this year's chart and apparently even he was never consulted on the changes prior to the season.

"I don't remember being asked to run any simulations," he said in the email. "This is just the way it is. Clearly, some coaches felt other teams were getting too many points for just wrestling unranked or very low ranked teams, and this is the result."

Our source also said there is some discussion of scrapping this new chart and reverting back to the old one. In any case, this is a disaster when you consider that there are teams now thinking they are in the tournament. Should they go back to the old chart, those teams may very well be out.

Stay tuned as this story is not going away anytime soon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wrestling: NJSIAA, power points just don't add up

Well, here we are again. For all of the coaches, wrestlers and fans who were hoping we'd have this mess with the power points straightened out, I have bad news.

It seems we're even further away than a week ago.

The third installment of the rankings for the upcoming sectional tournaments were released on Monday afternoon. And after a quick review, and in many discussions with local coaches, the latest points seem to be incorrect -- again.

How does this keep happening? Last week, we were told that last year's preseason chart was mistakenly used to calculate the points through the first two weeks and thus they were incorrect. This week's problem? It's anyone's guess, but it appears that the points were never corrected from the beginning of the season. Instead, the attempt was to merely to amend last week's point totals.

Again, it's just a theory.

But take a look at last week's points compared to the latest version. Teams' totals were actually lower than a week ago, when in fact they should be on the rise. At this point in many cases, we are throwing out the lower totals and using the 10 best scores. No team in the state right now has 30 points, another red flag, as most of the top schools would have at least that many. Strength of schedule is also not reflected. Take Newton for example.

The Braves (4-8) are sitting ninth in North 1, Group 1, several points behind the likes of Mountain Lakes (6-9) and Boonton (5-6). This is despite the fact that the Sussex County school has competed against Howell, South Plainfield and Warren Hills -- all ranked high in their sections.

The even bigger problem is that this week's point totals is the most crucial set since it's the one that the final rankings will be derived off of next week. The cutoff date to qualify was to be this Saturday, but the NJSIAA pushed it back to Wednesday, Feb. 4. The reason?

Well, executive director Steve Timko said the recent rash of snow that forced numerous cancellations over the weekend and on Monday has left teams scrambling to either reach the 70-percent rule or the new 10-match minimum vs. NJSIAA opponents -- a rule that a number of coaches up this way either misinterpreted or did not understand was in place.

Make no mistake, the decision to push the cutoff back had nothing to do with the weather, at least for the most part. It had everything to do with the state not wanting to look bad come the Group championships in Trenton on Feb. 15, if such top teams like Phillipsburg were ineligible to participate. The loss of other top seeds such as Bound Brook, North Hunterdon and Warren Hills would also impact ticket sales. Money, folks. That's the key here.

Don't forget, the state has also taken a beating for this whole Group 5 deal, which forced the tournament to move from Toms River North -- a successful and fan-friendly venue -- back to Trenton. It can't afford another PR nightmare on that front. There will be enough empty seats down there as it is.

P'burg (9-1) entered this week with only seven matches vs. NJSIAA opponents, having wrestled three Pennsylvania teams -- Northampton, Easton and Parkland. Coach Dave Post's squad had three matches scheduled this week -- Hunterdon Central on Wednesday, Warren Hills on Thursday and Southern on Saturday, before it secured a Friday date against High Point. Which, by the way, also is under the gun at 4-3.

To say 'Cats coach John Gardner should be a little ticked over the cutoff shift is probably an understatement. Remember, it was his No. 1 ranked team in 2009 that was ruled ineligible to compete in the North 1, Group 3 sectional tournament because it fell under the 70-percent rule. Now, that mistake wasn't weather related, but regardless, the state said it had absolutely no recourse to change it. Tough luck coach, was the gist of it.

Why even have rules if we are going to change things midstream. It seems like every year we are dealing with this nonsense of improperly worded state regulations, incorrect seeding, the list goes on and on.

Take this sentence from the regs in regards to the cutoff:

"Any meet wrestled after the cut-off date will NOT count toward qualification or seeding, regardless of the reason, even if the cause is an act of God."

So I guess we are now to assume that snow is not an act of God. No, the game is changed when money is involved and the NJSIAA is looking bad. The coaches who didn't have their teams in line with the rules to this point certainly did the state no favors, but it's time to get this stuff straightened out. And fast.

After all, it may take several weeks to figure out these points. And wouldn't that be par for the course.

Wrestling: New Jersey Writers Association Top 20

Phillipsburg remains the lone representative from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area in the latest New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20.

Coach Dave Post's Stateliners (9-1) move up two spots to No. 3, following last week's 30-18 win over Bound Brook, which was No. 2.

Delaware Valley garnered 17 votes after a light week in which the Terriers earned a 32-28 win over Lenape Valley on Friday in the lone match for coach Andy Fitz's squad.

(Records through Jan. 25)

Rank
School
Record
Votes
Previous
1
Bergen Catholic
(9-1)
320
1
2
Howell
(17-0)
299
4
3
Phillipsburg
(9-1)
289
5
4
Brick Memorial
(11-1)
255
7
5
Don Bosco Prep
(8-2)
254
11
6
St. Peter's Prep
(14-4)
240
3
7
Delbarton
(13-0)
232
8
8
Bound Brook
(11-3)
208
2
9
DePaul
(11-3)
180
6
10
Jackson Memorial
(12-3)
177
10
11
Paulsboro
(15-0)
176
9
12
St. Augustine
(12-5)
133
12
13
Clearview
(12-1)
126
13
14
Christian Brothers
(12-2)
98
       14
15
Brick Township
(13-2)
94
15
16
Hanover Park
(4-4)
76
16
T17
Paramus
(8-4)
44
18

Parsippany
(11-1)
44
20
T19
Long Branch
(13-3)
41
17

South Plainfield
(17-5)
41
19

Others receiving votes: Delaware Valley 17; Toms River South 7; Pequannock 4; Southern 4; Monroe Township 1.

NJWWA voting members (in alphabetical order)Donald J. Brower (MorrisCountyHSWrestling.com); Frank D'Esposito (TheShoreConference.com); Steve Falk (Asbury Park Press of Neptune and Hitting the Mats); Brian Fortner (Express-Times); Harry Frezza (Courier News of Bridgewater); Screwy Louie Lazzari (New Jersey Wrestling Historian); Ron Mazzola (On the Mat); Tom McGurk (Courier Post of Cherry Hill); John Lewis (Burlington County Times); John O'Kane (The Press of Atlantic City); Anthony Spaulding (New Jersey Herald); Greg Tufaro (Home News Tribune of East Brunswick); Mike Weilamann (Open Mike/Mugs Media); Sean Miller (Trenton  Times); Brad Wilson (Express-Times); Josh Friedman (The Mat Pack and Daily Journal of Vineland).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wrestling: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

Snow be damned, this should prove to be an interesting week in the tri-county area.

For one, some local teams are scrambling with the sectional cutoff now extended to Feb. 4 -- originally set for this Saturday -- as per the NJSIAA on Monday.

North Hunterdon (7-2), which was idle last week, is fighting to get to 10 in-state matches, the minimum needed to qualify. Coach Tim Flynn's Lions enter the week with seven -- two were against Pennsylvania's Palisades and Emmaus at the Easton Invitational -- and only have duals scheduled with Warren Hills on Wednesday and Delaware Valley on Friday.

Flynn said he's working on getting a triangular meet on the slate for Saturday. North, which has won 13 sectional championships and none since 2009, would be a heavy favorite to win the North 2, Group 5 title should it get into the dance, where it will likely be the No. 1 seed.

Warren Hills (5-4) is battling to beat the 70-percent rule in order to qualify. With four of its matches coming against Pennsylvania opponents, the Blue Streaks must wrestle in five of their six scheduled matches this week in order to be eligible in a wide-open North 2, Group 3 section, where they are currently the No. 1 seed.

Phillipsburg (9-1), which has seven in-state matches entering the week, will need to get three more matches in with upcoming dates against Hunterdon Central on Wednesday, Warren Hills on Thursday and Southern on Saturday. Should the 'Liners, who are sitting on 897 victories overall, win both matches earlier in the week, they will go for No. 900 as a program vs. Southern.

High Point (4-3) also needs to get three more in-state matches in before the cutoff. The 'Cats will face Paramus, Cranford and Warren Hills on Saturday. Monday's match against Newton was rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3, and it will now be wrestled in High Point's auxiliary gym.

Buckle up for what may be a wild ride ahead of us.

Now, onto this week's rankings:

1. Phillipsburg (9-1) -- Stateliners rolled to a pair of impressive wins last week -- 30-18 over Bound Brook on Wednesday and 37-15 over Parkland (Pa.) on Friday. The win over Bound Brook puts P'burg in the driver's seat for the Skyland Conference Raritan Division title. Since joining the Skyland for the 1995-96 season, the Warren County school has won or shared 18 of a possible 19 division championships -- going 128-3 overall in division matches. Seniors Jimmy Schuitema (108-24) and Max Elling (107-35) are closing in on coach Dave Post (111-22 from 1999-2003) for sixth place on the school's all-time wins list.

Up next: Hunterdon Central at home on Wednesday; Warren Hills at home on Thursday; at Southern on Saturday.

2. Delaware Valley (10-2) -- Terriers capped a light week by continuing their trend of beating teams after finishing behind them in tournaments with Friday's 32-28 victory over Lenape Valley, which was ranked No. 2 last week. Senior Cory Lightner (15-5) bumped to 170 and earned a huge 9-8 decision over Joey LaBell, a Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex runner-up. Speaking of the HWS, Lenape Valley placed third, while Del Val finished 11th. Junior Kyle Refalvy (11-7) also added a big 12-2 major at 120 pounds.

Up next: North Hunterdon at home on Friday.

3. Lenape Valley (9-1) -- Patriots took their first loss -- 32-28 against Delaware Valley on Friday -- after coach Doug Vetter's squad opened last week with a 42-21 victory over Sussex County rival Kittatinny -- the program's first since 2009 -- to end a six-match losing streak in that series. Curiously, Vetter opted to insert reserve Dylan Frazier at 220 and bump District 2 champion Ralph Hall to 285 -- knocking heavyweight Rich Fritzky out of the lineup -- needing to sweep the last two weights. Frazier dropped a 4-3 decision and the match was over, while Hall pinned in the final bout.

Up next: at Pequannock on Tuesday; North Warren at home on Wednesday; Sparta, Caldwell, St. Benedict's at home on Saturday.

4. Hunterdon Central (8-4) -- Red Devils are coming off a light week of their own after a tight 38-34 win over Warren Hills in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash last Wednesday. The victory improved Central to 41-13-1 in the all-time series and avenged a 34-33 loss on criteria to the Blue Streaks last season, which was their first victory in the series since 2006. Senior Nick Taylor (9-9) came through in the final bout with a huge 3-2 win over two-time Region 1 qualifier Austin Pidoto at 145. Bonus points were also key as Central registered three pins and two majors.

Up next: at Phillipsburg on Wednesday; Voorhees at home on Friday; Jackson Liberty, Kingsway at home on Saturday.

5. North Hunterdon (7-2) -- Lions were idle last week with after a scheduled quad at Watchung Hills was wiped out by snow on Saturday. The Hunterdon County school is scrambling to qualify for sectionals (see above) and has a pair of big Skyland Conference Raritan Division matches slated for the week. Senior ace Ryan Pomrinca (19-0), a Lehigh recruit, enters the week tied for fifth on the Hunterdon-Warren all-time victories list at 134-12 overall.

Up next: at Warren Hills on Wednesday; at Delaware Valley on Friday.

6. High Point (4-3) -- Wildcats opened last week with a tough 34-30 loss to Morris Knolls before rebounding with a 39-19 win over Hackettstown in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference clash on Thursday. In doing so, coach John Gardner (289-80-2 in 17 seasons) passed Jeff Hull (288-104-4) to become the program's winningest coach. Injuries and illness continue to plague the 'Cats as senior Dom Gallo (elbow) sat out the Hackettstown win, while sophomore Aric Wingle (sick) missed all of last week. The match with Newton should be another barn-burner based on the matchups.

Up next: at Delaware Valley (Pa.) on Wednesday; Cranford, Paramus at Warren Hills on Saturday.

7. Sparta (12-3) -- Spartans capped a 2-0 week with a 44-25 thumping of crosstown rival Pope John on Wednesday. Coach Frank Battaglia's solid group of upper weights reeled off four straight pins to open the match, as Connor Lore (17-5 at 182), Zach Herbert (14-7 at 195), Gavin Lally (20-1 at 220) and Robbie Gennat (14-3 at 285) gave the visitors a 24-0 lead. Lally, the HWS champ at 220, enters the week with 69 career wins. Senior 145-pounder Ian Burke (20-2) is aiming for the school's wins record. At 104-20 overall, Burke needs 12 to surpass former Region 1 champion Matt Stoppay (115-25 from 1999-2003).

Up next: Vernon at home on Wednesday; at Kittatinny on Friday; Caldwell, St. Benedict's at Lenape Valley on Saturday.

8. Voorhees (7-3) -- Vikings also had last week off after scheduled matches against Delaware Valley, Belvidere, Lenape Valley and Manalapan were erased by snow. Coach Eric Hall's squad will get back on the trail this week with a pair of Skyland Conference Raritan Division matches on the docket, including a county showdown against No. 6 Hunterdon Central.

Up next: at Bound Brook on Wednesday; at Hunterdon Central on Friday; Franklin and Ridge at home on Saturday.

9. Kittatinny (7-6) -- Cougars went 1-1 last week, opening with a 42-21 loss to Lenape Valley before bouncing back with a 63-9 shellacking of Hopatcong. Junior Austin Scrivani (23-1) picked up his 80th career win vs. the Patriots -- a 5-3 decision over Nick Palumbo at 138 pounds in a rematch of their Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex 132-pound final.

Up next: Wallkill Valley at home on Wednesday; Sparta at home on Friday.

10. Warren Hills (5-4) -- Blue Streaks capped a busy week with a 44-25 win over Newton on Friday in an independent clash between two of New Jersey's most tradition-rich programs. Seniors Max Nauta, Austin Pidoto and Andrew Pacheco, along with freshman Jacob DiNapoli, all registered pins against the Braves. Nauta (15-4), who is 107-24 overall, needs four wins to pass Ryan Kanewski for second place on the school's all-time list. Coach Jarrett Hosbach's squad dropped its other two matches against Hunterdon Central (38-34 on Wednesday) and Bound Brook (52-18 on Thursday).

Up next: Hackettstown at home on Tuesday; North Hunterdon at home on Wednesday; at Phillipsburg on Thursday; High Point, Cranford and Paramus at home on Saturday.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wrestling: HWS schedule for Jan. 26-31

Monday, Jan. 26


(All matches 7 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

High Point at Newton, ppd. to Feb., 3
North Warren at Pope John, ppd. TBA
Wallkill Valley at Morris Hills, ppd. to Feb. 2

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Lenape Valley at Pequannock, ppd. TBA

Wednesday, Jan. 28


(All matches 7 p.m.)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Wallkill Valley at Kittatinny
North Warren at Lenape Valley
Newton at Hopatcong
Vernon at Sparta

Skyland Conference

Hunterdon Central at Phillipsburg
North Hunterdon at Warren Hills
Voorhees at Bound Brook
Belvidere at Manville

Independent

High Point at Delaware Valley (Pa.), cancelled

Thursday, Jan. 29


(Both matches 7 p.m.)

Skyland Conference

Warren Hills at Phillipsburg


Independent

Hackettstown at Belvidere

Friday, Jan. 30


(All matches 7 p.m., unless noted)

Skyland Conference

North Hunterdon at Delaware Valley
Voorhees at Hunterdon Central, 6 p.m.

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Sparta at Kittatinny

Independent

Newton at Jack Welch Duals
Hackettstown at Warren Hills
North Warren at Belvidere
High Point at Phillipsburg, 4 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 31


(All matches 10 a.m., unless noted)

Independent

Phillipsburg at Southern, 6 p.m.
High Point, Cranford, Paramus at Warren Hills, 9 a.m.
Sparta, Caldwell, St. Benedict's Prep at Lenape Valley
Newton at Jack Welch Duals
Wayne Valley, Raritan at Hackettstown, 9 a.m.
Jackson Liberty, Kingsway at Hunterdon Central
Bogota, New Milford, Somerville at Wallkill Valley

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Hopatcong, North Warren at Vernon, 9 a.m.

Skyland Conference

Franklin, Ridge at Voorhees

Wrestling: Streaks foil Braves in traditional battle

NEWTON -- Warren Hills sophomore Matt Valli contributed a signature win as two of New Jersey's most storied programs renewed their rivalry on Friday night.

Valli's 7-5 win over Trevor Morales in a battle of Region 1 qualifiers at 120 pounds helped the Blue Streaks cement a 44-25 win over Newton in an independent clash at Henry Boresch Memorial Gym.

"We hadn't wrestled before, so he was a new opponent," said Valli, a District 1 champion last season, who converted a pair of takedowns in the win. "I want to go to states this season."

Warren Hills (5-4) has endured an interesting last two weeks. After being shut down for several days due to skin disease, coach Jarrett Hosbach's squad kicked off a stretch of nine matches over 11 days with Wednesday's 38-34 loss to rival Hunterdon Central, followed by Thursday's 52-18 defeat to Bound Brook.

The Streaks are under the gun as far as meeting the state's 70-percent rule (minimum against New Jersey competition) for the North 2, Group 3 sectional tournament. As it stands, Warren Hills will need to wrestle at least five of its six scheduled matches next week -- Hackettstown on Tuesday, North Hunterdon on Wednesday, Phillipsburg on Thursday, and High Point, Cranford and Paramus next Saturday -- to qualify before the cutoff on Saturday, Jan. 31.

"That will gives us 10 out of 14 in-state [71 percent]," said Hosbach, who said this weekend's tri-meet with Ramsey and Morristown has been wiped out due to the forecast for snow. "We wanted to make up the match against Bound Brook ... it's a [Skyland Conference Raritan] Division match and it's an opportunity to wrestle some high-level kids. The goal is to get better every single day and to do that, we have to consistently challenge ourselves against good competition."

Newton (4-8) is in a rebuilding season, but coach Eric Bollette's team gave a good account in defeat. Credit both schools for getting this one back on the schedule for the first time in 25 years. Warren Hills, which trails 14-29-2 in the all-time series dating to 1940, earned a 68-3 win in the last meeting during the 1989-90 season in which it finished as New Jersey's No. 1 team.

Newton and Washington/Warren Hills rank 1-2 all-time on the individual state champions list with 82 and 46, respectively. Both programs also had legendary head coaches -- Henry Boresch for the Braves and John Goles for the Streaks.

"We want to make this an every-year thing," said Bollette, whose Braves won five bouts, including pins by Gus Protogeropoulos (195) and Koty Wilkinson (220). "I like Friday night
matches and so do they. I thought we both wrestled well. It was good. I enjoyed it."

Warren Hills raced out to a 15-0 lead as seniors Max Nauta (138) and Austin Pidoto (145) registered pins in 31 and 28 seconds, respectively. Talented freshman Jarod Ostir followed with a 10-7 decision over Jake DeLuca, a Region 1 qualifier last season. Ostir (11-5) built a 10-2 lead in the second period -- three takedowns and a pair of two-point nearfalls -- before getting thrown to his back and nearly decked with a headlock to make it a three-point margin. Ostir may have been saved by the buzzer as DeLuca hit the move with 15 seconds left on the clock.

"That was a learning experience for a freshman," Hosbach said. "He finished the match strong and showed a lot of maturity."

Newton responded with five straight wins, triggered by Lance Fischer's impressive 12-3 major of Anthony Roessner at 160. Fischer (12-6), who led 8-3 late in the third period, converted a takedown and got a turn for two backs in the final 11 seconds for the bonus. After receiving a forfeit at 170, Benjamin Sibblies earned a hard-fought 5-2 win -- with a reversal and takedown in the third period -- over Brody Oberly at 182.

Pins by Protogeropoulos and Wilkinson gave Newton a 25-15 lead through eight bouts. Warren Hills came in short-handed with only 13 wrestlers, as the junior varsity was competing in a tournament. Hosbach was unable to potentially bump junior Kurt Nemeth to 220 and away from Protogeropoulos at 195 in order to try for a split of those weights.

But the Streaks reeled off six straight wins to close it out -- including a pins by state placewinner Andrew Pacheco at 285 and Jacob DiNapoli at 106, along with Valli's triumph at 120. John Fluck's wild 6-5 win over Nick Giordano at 126 sealed the victory. Fluck, trailing late in the third, converted a takedown with eight seconds left for the winning points.

DiNapoli's fall with a cradle came in what looked like a tossup bout on paper.

"Jacob DiNapoli keeps plugging away," Hosbach said. "He's improving. That was a big cradle."

Newton will look to rebound as it bids to qualify in a wide-open North 1, Group 1 section.

"I thought we could've gotten two more [wins]," Bollette said. "I thought we wrestled well. It was a good match."

WARREN HILLS 44, NEWTON 25

138 -- Sr. Max Nauta (15-4), WH, p. Jr. Michael Valentine (3-7), :31.
145 -- Sr. Austin Pidoto (7-8), WH, p. Sr. Ryan Brigante (6-10), :28.
152 -- Fr. Jarod Ostir (11-5), WH, d. So. Jake DeLuca (3-8), 10-7.
160 -- Jr. Lance Fischer (12-6), N, md. Jr. Anthony Roessner (8-10), 12-3.
170 -- Jr. Robert Borgognoni (1-5), N, forfeit.
182 -- Sr. Benjamin Sibblies (9-11), N, d. So. Brody Oberly (2-13), 5-2.
195 -- Sr. Gus Protogeropoulos (16-1), N, p. Jr. Kurt Nemeth (9-10), 1:02.
220 -- Jr. Koty Wilkinson (1-0), N, p. So. Taylan Zafis (1-10), 3:58.
285 -- Sr. Andrew Pacheco (12-0), WH, p. Jr. Tyler Pittenger (7-10), 1:16.
106 -- Fr. Jacob DiNapoli (5-11), WH, p. So. Mateo Valentine (2-11), 5:22.
113 -- Fr. Codey O'Rourke (4-9), WH, forfeit.
120 -- So. Matt Valli (11-2), WH, d. Sr. Trevor Morales (12-4), 7-5.
126 -- Sr. John Fluck (11-5), WH, d. So. Nick Giordano (9-8), 6-5.
132 -- So. Zach Nauta (9-7), WH, tf. Fr. Jonathan Borgognoni (6-6), 20-3, 3:49.
Records -- Warren Hills 5-4; Newton 4-8.
Official -- Gary Szucs.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wrestling: Gardner reaches milestone in 'Cats' win

John Gardner isn't all that interested in discussing his career resume.

But the longtime coach surpassed one of his idols on Thursday night as Gardner became High Point's all-time winningest coach in the Wildcats' 39-19 win over Hackettstown in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division clash in Wantage.

In doing so, High Point (4-3 overall, 2-1 division) gave Gardner his 289th career victory to move past Jeff Hull on the school's coaching list. Hull, who was Gardner's coach during his fine career that was capped by winning the 189-pound state title in 1990, amassed a mark of 288-104-4 over two stints with the program.

Gardner, who is now 289-80-2 over his 17 seasons, also was glad to have longtime assistant coach Mickey Thomas on the bench to witness another historic moment. Thomas, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, was High Point's first district champion -- winning the 115-pound title in 1968.

"Jeff and Mickey were very important in my development in wrestling and beyond," said Gardner, who compiled a career mark of 131-8-1 -- then a state record for victories -- and won four region titles from 1986-90.

"I've been pretty fortunate to go through High Point where wrestling is important. We didn't always win -- the 'Cats went 69-12 overall and won three SCIL titles in four seasons with Gardner in the lineup -- but we competed and wrestled hard. Jeff and Mickey were a big part of that. Now, I'm coaching next to Mickey."

High Point, which has only had four head coaches and just two losing campaigns (1970-71 and 1971-72) in 49 seasons, is in the midst of a rebuilding project after claiming back-to-back Group 2 titles for the first time in school history. The 'Cats have been hit hard by injuries this season, including the loss of two-time Region 1 champ and former state placewinner Mike Derin (2-0 at 132 pounds), a senior who is likely done for the year with a knee injury.

Senior 126-pounder Dom Gallo (12-3), who has 94 career wins, sustained an elbow injury over the weekend at the Escape the Rock Tournament. Gallo wrestled on Tuesday night against Morris Knolls, but he did not wrestle against Hackettstown and may miss Saturday's match at Phillipsburg.

Against Hackettstown, senior Ryan Cullen started off the match with a solid 4-3 win over Anthony Carida at 152 pounds. Senior star Jason Gaccione followed with a pin at 160 before the Tigers reeled off three straight wins to take a short-lived 12-9 lead. Junior Kevin Lewis and senior Henry Kuperus followed with back-to-back pins at 220 and 285, while Malcolm Sinclair added a 6-4 win at 106 and the 'Cats never looked back.

Hackettstown (6-5, 1-1) also got wins from freshman Alex Carida, who earned a 5-3 win in sudden victory over Region 1 qualifier Chase Babus at 113, and talented junior Joe Renne, who posted a major decision at 126.

HIGH POINT 39, HACKETTSTOWN 19

152 -- Sr. Ryan Cullen (8-8), HP, d. Jr. Anthony Carida (14-5), 4-3.
160 -- Sr. Jason Gaccione (22-1), HP, p. So. Tyler Palomino (0-4), 1:25.
170 -- Jr. Nick Renne (9-5), H, d. Jr. Kurt Rosner (1-12), 4-3.
182 -- Jr. Eldin Ribic (8-11), H, p. Sr. Ryan Olinger (1-6), 1:40.
195 -- So. Kyle Connelly (13-5), H, d. So. Richard Kinkead (0-3), 4-0.
220 -- Jr. Kevin Lewis (14-8), HP, p. Sr. Tahke Martin (7-9), 3:31.
285 -- Sr. Henry Kuperus (6-11), HP, p. Sr. Teddy Gurnowski (14-6), 3:32.
106 -- Fr. Malcolm Sinclair (6-7), HP, d. So. Justin Bennett (8-10), 6-4.
113 -- Fr. Alex Carida (14-6), H, d. So. Chase Babus (3-7), 5-3 SV.
120 -- Fr. Trey Osborn (6-5), HP, d. So. Steven Nicotra (8-10), 4-0.
126 -- Jr. Joe Renne (16-4), H, md. Jr. Garrett Fenlon (0-1), 14-6.
132 -- Fr. Sawyer Fenlon (1-1), HP, p. Jr. Brandon Baker (7-10), 5:18.
138 -- Sr. Trevor Risdon (1-1), HP, d. Fr. Robert Spezza (11-10), 12-10.
145 -- Jr. Jared Kobis (18-0), HP, d. So. Anthony Gonzalez (9-9), 5-0.
Records -- Hackettstown 6-5, 1-1; High Point 4-3, 2-1.

Wrestling: Power points gaffe surfaces near cutoff

Apparently, the power points used to determine which teams qualify for the upcoming sectional tournaments were even further off than most believed them to be.

An email sent out by New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association president Dan Smith on Thursday alerted coaches to mistakes in the power point totals which were mistakenly being calculated using last year's points chart.

The top six teams in each section qualify for the tournament that begins on Feb. 9. The cutoff to qualify is Saturday, Jan. 31.

Points calculator Larry McMillan indicated in the first version of the rankings released two weeks ago that the point totals were incorrect due to trouble locating scores on Track wrestling, which has been the bane of writers, coaches and fans this season. The site has proven very unfriendly to users who are seeking the same information that was very accessible on the NWCA Scorebook site, which used to house all dual meet scores and wrestler information.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wrestling: HWS schedule for Jan. 20-24

Tuesday, Jan. 20


(All matches 7 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Morris Knolls at High Point
Kittatinny at Lenape Valley
Jefferson at Newton
Sparta at Parsippany Hills
Hackettstown at Vernon
Dover at Wallkill Valley, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 21


(All matches 7 p.m., unless noted)

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Kittatinny at Hopatcong
Lenape Valley at Jefferson
North Warren at Wallkill Valley, 6 p.m.
Sparta at Pope John
Hackettstown at Vernon

Skyland Conference

Delaware Valley at Voorhees, ppd., no new date
Hunterdon Central at Warren Hills
Bound Brook at Phillipsburg
Bernards, Hanover Park at Belvidere

Thursday, Jan. 22

Skyland Conference

Bound Brook at Warren Hills, 4 p.m.

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Hackettstown at High Point, 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 23


(All matches 7 p.m., unless noted)

Independent

Lenape Valley at Delaware Valley
Warren Hills at Newton
Parkland (Pa.) at Phillipsburg

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference

Montville at North Warren, 6 p.m.
Pope John, Mendham, Whippany Park at Randolph, 5 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 24


(All matches 9 a.m., unless noted)

Independent

Delaware Valley, Kittatinny, Westfield at West Morris, ppd. to Jan. 26
Belvidere, Voorhees, Manalapan at Lenape Valley, cancelled
Hackettstown, New Milford, Old Tappan at Northern Highlands, cancelled
Newton at Waldwick Duals, ppd. to Feb. 14
Vernon, Cliffside Park, Lyndhurst at Hasbrouck Heights, cancelled
Morristown, Ramsey at Warren Hills, cancelled
Hopatcong, Parsippany Hills, Bayonne at Boonton, 3:30 p.m.

Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference


North Warren, Morris Knolls at Sparta, ppd. TBA

Skyland Conference

North Hunterdon, Franklin, Hillsborough at Watchung Hills, ppd. TBA