After a closer-than-anticipated win the previous night, Phillipsburg's wrestling team rolled to an unexpected 40-24 victory over Howell in an independent match between two of New Jersey's top programs on Thursday night at The Pit.
Phillipsburg (6-1), ranked No. 7 in the state by the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association, edged Delaware Valley, 37-31, in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division clash on Wednesday evening. However, the Stateliners left no doubt against No. 13 Howell (11-2), icing the match when senior Kyle Markus turned the tables on sophomore Kyle Slendorn, a Region 6 third-place finisher, with a 4-2 win in a battle of state qualifiers at 113 pounds.
Last season, Slendorn decked Markus, third in Region 1, in 4:50 in the opening bout at 106 to help the Rebels pull off a 27-24 upset of the Liners on Dec. 23, 2014. P'burg now holds a 6-3 lead in a series dating to 2004.
Sophomore Brian Meyer (16-5 at 145) opened Thursday night's rematch with one of two technical fall wins for the Stateliners, who jumped out to a 31-3 lead through eight bouts. Senior DJ Wissing really got the crowd going by decking Lenroy Vassell with a cement job in 30 seconds at 160. Senior Chris Ruiz (152) and juniors Dan Fisher (182) and Robert Melise (220) added wins by decision.
"Really, really proud of these guys tonight," P'burg coach Dave Post told Mike Moore of Statelinersports.com. "We knew that the kids were going to come out and respond well, but I didn't know they were going to wrestle that well. They really looked fantastic."
More important than the lopsided win is that Stateliners appear to be getting healthy. Sophomore Cullen Day (5-5 at 106) has returned from a shoulder injury, while senior star Brandon Paetzell (broken left hand) will have his cast removed on Friday, according to Post. Senior Tom Kosar (6-7 at 120) remains sidelined as he's still in the concussion protocol after sustaining the injury last Thursday against Raritan.
"It will be awhile yet [before Kosar returns]," Post said. "Paetzell's timetable will depend on healing of the bone and some rehab and drilling."
Phillipsburg now turns its attention to Easton (Pa.) as the archrivals will meet for the 79th time on Saturday night at the 25th Street Gym. Match time is 7 p.m. The 'Liners, who are 16-62 all-time vs. the Red Rovers, are seeking their third straight victory in the series for the first time since winning nine in a row from 1966-71. P'burg is just 7-37 in the series since that streak.
P'burg has not defeated Easton at the 25th Street Gym since a 22-17 victory in 1988. Heath Condon sealed that victory with a 5-2 win over Jack Thompson in the last bout at heavyweight. The series shifted to Lafayette College's Kirby Field House from 1989-2003 before returning to a home-and-home affair at 25th Street in '04. The Liners' 36-20 win in '14 was at the Shawnee Middle School.
PHILLIPSBURG 40, HOWELL 24
145 -- So. Brian Meyer (16-5), P, tf. Jr. Nick Sulkowski (6-4), 19-4, 5:22.
152 -- Sr. Chris Ruiz (6-9), P, d. Fr. Christian Murphy (6-8), 6-4.
160 -- Sr. DJ Wissing (8-3), P, p. Sr. Lenroy Vassell (4-6), :30.
170 -- Sr. Frank Leonardis (12-2), H, d. Jr. Jason Barna (2-6), 8-6.
182 -- Jr. Dan Fisher (13-7), P, d. Sr. Jack Kirk (5-6), 7-3.
195 -- Jr. Drew Horun (17-4), P, tf. Sr. Ryan Marter (7-6), 25-10, 4:35.
220 -- Jr. Robert Melise (18-2), P, d. Jr. Eric Keosseian (13-1), 7-4.
285 -- Sr. Kyle Nothnagel (17-4), P, forfeit.
106 -- Fr. Darby Diedrich (13-2), H, p. So. Cullen Day (5-5), 1:08.
113 -- Sr. Kyle Markus (15-5), P, d. So. Kyle Slendorn (12-2), 4-2.
120 -- Sr. Nick Ciaccia (12-3), H, tf. So. Tyris Manley (1-3), 17-0, 2:40.
126 -- So. Daniel Esposito (9-6), H, md. Fr. Kyle Tino (7-11), 11-3.
132 -- Sr. Tyler Agans (9-9), P, injury default over Sr. Peter Dee (12-2), 4:14.
138 -- Jr. Jon Friedman (5-6), H, forfeit.
Records -- Howell 11-2; Phillipsburg 6-1.
Officials -- Frank Leitner and Joe Rossetti.