The seventh annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament is in the books, but the future of this event and where it winds up next year are in question.
For many reasons, most coaches have been against the tournament since its inception, despite it being one of the toughest events on the calendar. Just ask Kittatinny coach John Gill, whose team won its first team championship on Saturday at Hunterdon Central Field House.
"I don't want to offend anyone, but this tournament is tougher than [Region 1]," Gill said after his Cougars ended Phillipsburg's five-year championship run. "It's always a goal to do our best against some of the best teams in North Jersey."
And once again, the one-day format at Hunterdon Central didn't go over well with fans and even some coaches. The late start -- due largely to changes in the seeding format -- and rushing through to the finals, which weren't spotlighted at all, were par for the course. Why is it that when Hopatcong hosts every other year, the event runs smoothly over two days and is properly showcased?
Speaking of Hopatcong, the HWS is slated to shift back there in 2017. But Phillipsburg, which is building a new high school with a state-of-the-art gymnasium that will hold around 3,200, has already put in to host the tournament in 2018. But could P'burg become the permanent site as soon as '17?
Stay tuned as the HWS committee is schedule to meet in the coming weeks. No doubt that improving the wrestling tournament will be on the agenda.
1. Phillipsburg (4-1) -- Stateliners finished second in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament without four starters -- Cullen Day (106), Tom Kosar (120), Brandon Paetzell (132), DJ Wissing (160) -- while Kyle Markus (113), Drew Horun (195), Robert Melise (220) and Kyle Nothnagel (285) all won their first individual titles. On the dual-meet side, coach Dave Post's team dropped a 34-23 decision to Parkland (Pa.) last Wednesday and rebounded the following night with a 40-13 victory over Raritan at The Pit. Big week on tap for the 'Liners.
Up next: Delaware Valley at home on Wednesday; Howell at home on Thursday; at Easton (Pa.) on Saturday.
2. Hunterdon Central (5-1) -- Red Devils finished in a tie for fourth place in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament as junior Michael Iodice won the 170-pound title. Peter Nace was a runner-up at 120, while sophomores Hunter Graf (113) and Kevin Ciresa (145) took home third-place medals. Coach Jon Cantagallo-Rohm's squad entered the tournament off a big 36-29 win over Bound Brook in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division matchup. Nace scored a huge 4-3 win over state placewinner Joe Casey in that dual.
Up next: North Hunterdon at home on Wednesday; Ocean Township at home on Saturday.
3. Kittatinny (4-0) -- Cougars make a huge jump after winning their first Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament title -- 201-194 over Phillipsburg. Leading the way for coach John Gill's team was senior Nick Klinger, who became just the third wrestler and the first from Sussex County to win three individual titles with a 6-4 decsion -- career win No. 90 -- over Delaware Valley's Matt Kolonia. Senior Austin Scrivani (138) won his second title, while freshman Zach Mafaro earned a wild 3-2 win in the second tiebreaker over Phillipsburg's Dan Fisher in the 182-pound final. Dylan Minter (152) and Josh Klimek (170) also earned third-place medals.
Up next: Newton at home on Wednesday; Lenape Valley and Old Tappan at home on Saturday.
4. Warren Hills (3-0) -- Blue Streaks sent a message with a 40-18 win over No. 5 Delaware Valley on Wednesday in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash. Junior Zach Nauta came through with a key 6-5 upset-win over Kolonia at 138, while sophomore Jarod Ostir pinned at 160 in his return to the lineup. Ostir (ankle) was held out of the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament, along with Codey O'Rourke (120). Coach Jarrett Hosbach's team placed eighth, while junior Matt Valli (12-0) was the OW in winning the 126-pound championship. With 697 wins overall, the Streaks can earn No. 700 at home on Saturday in a tri-meet.
Up next: at Bound Brook on Wednesday; Hackettstown, North Warren, West Morris at home on Saturday.
5. Delaware Valley (4-2) -- Terriers dropped a 40-18 decision to No. 4 Warren Hills on Wednesday and rebounded with a 51-14 win over Hackettstown on Thursday. Coach Andy Fitz's team finished sixth in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament team standings, as Kolonia was the Hunterdon County school's lone finalist at 132 pounds. Seniors Vito Intili (120) and Kyle Schlittler (195) claimed third-place medals, while Kyle Refalvy placed fourth at 126.
Up next: at Phillipsburg on Wednesday; Perth Amboy, Bayonne at Somerville on Saturday.
6. High Point (3-2) -- Wildcats jump up two spots after back-to-back wins over No. 8 Pope John (32-30 on Tuesday) and No. 7 Lenape Valley (28-27 on Wednesday). The latter put coach John Gardner's team in the driver's seat for the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division title. Senior Jared Kobis returned to the lineup and scored a key 4-1 win over Patriots junior Nick Palumbo, who dropped from 152 to win the 145-pound title at the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament. Speaking of Kobis (10-0), he was not entered in the HWS. The 'Cats finished 11th with Devin Flannery (106), Justin Liebl (120) and Kevin Lewis (195) all fifth as the highest placewinners.
Up next: at Morris Knolls on Monday; Sparta at home on Friday; Brick Memorial at Roxbury on Saturday.
7. Lenape Valley (3-1) -- Patriots dropped a tough 28-27 decision to No. 6 High Point on Wednesday without senior Aaron Merkey (3-2 at 138), who also missed the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournamnt, in the lineup. Coach Doug Vetter's team finished in a tie for fourth with Hunterdon Central, as Nick Palumbo (11-2) won his first title at 145. Seniors Sam Palumbo and Ralph Hall finished second at 195 and 220, respectively, while Jacob Falleni (113) and Rich Fritzky (285) placed fourth. Big week on tap for the Pats, including a showdown with No. 3 Kittatinny.
Up next: at Voorhees on Wednesday; Delsea at home on Thursday; Old Tappan at Kittatinny on Saturday.
8. Pope John (2-1) -- Lions, who have a pretty strong tournament lineup, tumble a few spots after a 32-30 loss to No. 6 High Point last Tuesday. Coach Mark Piotrowsky's squad finished third at the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament behind a pair of champions in Joe Aragona (106) and Jake Rotunda (120), who won their first titles. Aragona became just the third freshman to win with his 3-1 decision -- thanks to a late takedown -- over Warren Hills' Cody Harrison in the first championship bout. Freshman Robert Garcia (11-2) was second at 126 after an impressive 11-8 win over Region 1 champion Joe Renne of Hackettstown in the semifinals.
Up next: Vernon at home on Wednesday; at Hopatcong on Thursday; Belvidere, Wallkill Valley and Butler at home on Saturday.
9. North Hunterdon (2-5) -- Lions have been limping along since a stunning 49-19 win over Bound Brook on Dec. 22. But they snapped a five-match skid with a 43-21 waxing of archrival Voorhees on Wednesday. Senior Derek Ciavarro returned to the lineup and capped the victory with a 16-6 major of Lewis Fernandes at 160. Ciavarro (7-1) finished the week by claiming his first Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament title -- the program's 12th -- on Saturday. Cole Marra and Charlie Tordik finished second at 138 and 285, respectively. Coach Tim Flynn confirmed that senior 152-pounder Brian Smolinsky, a state qualifier last season, has left the team.
Up next: at Hunterdon Central on Wednesday.
10. Sparta (4-2) -- Spartans finished 12th in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament standings, as senior Al Falco (170) was their lone finalist. Sophomore Robbie Gennat placed third at 285, while junior Zach Herbert was fourth at 220. Coach Frank Battaglia's squad posted a 39-26 win over Newton in an NJAC clash on Thursday after a 46-21 loss to Roxbury the previous night. Senior Garrett Gerndt (6-2 at 120) has been out of the lineup and did not compete at HWS.
Up next: Mount Olive at home on Wednesday; at High Point on Friday; at Manalapan on Saturday.