WANTAGE -- This one was a little more subdued than the last time High Point and Pequannock met in a sectional semifinal. But the 'Cats will gladly take the win at the expense of losing the drama.
Sophomore Trey Osborn's pin at 126 pounds in the 11th bout -- one of five falls for High Point -- sealed it as the 'Cats went on to a 40-24 victory in the North 1, Group 2 semifinals on Wednesday night.
High Point (14-6), the No. 2 seed, advance to face No. 1 Emerson-Park Ridge in Friday night's championship match. Coach John Gardner's 'Cats, who advanced to the program's seventh straight sectional final, dropped a 45-20 decision to Lenape Valley in last year's title match. In the semis, High Point beat Pequannock, 30-29, as the Golden Panthers lost a team point in the final bout that cost them a victory. Earlier in the match, High Point lost a bout on a slam and that would have been the difference had the match gone to criteria.
"I thought we wrestled well," said veteran coach John Gardner, whose team is seeking the program's 25th sectional title -- a Sussex County record -- and its 13th since 2001.
In all, five teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area will compete for sectional titles on Friday, as Kittatinny (53-13 over Butler in North 1, Group 1), Phillipsburg (58-6 over Montgomery in North 2, Group 4), Lenape Valley (45-25 over Parsippany in North 2, Group 2) and Delaware Valley (45-13 over Robbinsville in Central, Group 2) also won semifinal matches.
After losing the opening bout at 145 pounds, junior Aric Wingle got High Point on the board with a 3-1 decision over Trevor Warner at 152. Sophomore Rob Turro followed with a 5-1 win and sophomore Liam Gorman decked Jason Burklow with a cradle in 1:26 at 170 -- stretching the lead to 12-3 through four bouts.
High Point, which won the toss, was able to control the matchup at 195 and opted to send out backup Matt McDonnell to face Region 1 champion Patrick Daly, who needed only 42 seconds to record the pin. Gardner then bumped Kevin Lewis and Cliff Rutter up one weight class each and both responded with pins at 220 and 285, respectively.
Lewis, a fourth-place finisher in Region 1 at 285 last season, built a 6-0 lead through two periods before decking Jacob Foukas, who also weighed in at 195, in 5:28. Rutter, a District 3 runner-up who was giving away 38 pounds, used a cross-arm to stick Joe Leszczynkski in 3:15 as the 'Cats took a commanding 24-12 lead with six bouts to go.
"It's nice having that ability [to move guys] and they came through for us," said Gardner, whose team has doubled its win total from last season. "We've been battle tested. When we set our schedule, we did it hoping to be .500."
Freshman Devin Flannery's pin at 106 made it an 18-point advantage before Joe Carmichael and Steve Pocze posted decisions at 113 and 120 to keep Pequannock in the match. But Osborn's pin ended any hopes of a comeback for the visitors in what was likely longtime coach Len Smith's final match.
Smith, who has been with the Pequannock program for 37 seasons -- including the last 28 as its head coach -- announced on Tuesday that he will be hanging up his trademark blue blazer and khaki pants following this season. Smith, who has 443 career wins, has won all five of the program's sectional titles, the last in 2005.
"He's had a great career," said Gardner, who ran his win total to 306 in 18 seasons.
HIGH POINT 40, PEQUANNOCK 24
145 -- Jr. Joey Bauer (7-16), P, d. So. Sawyer Fenlon (4-4), 10-6.
152 -- Jr. Aric Wingle (14-5), HP, d. Sr. Trevor Warner (8-5), 3-1.
160 -- So. Rob Turro (16-9), HP, d. Sr. Ryan Mulhall (14-14), 5-1.
170 -- Sr. Liam Gorman (16-12), HP, p. Fr. Jason Burklow (4-3), 1:26.
182 -- Jr. Zach Toback (15-13), P, d. Sr. Kurt Rosner (0-7), 3-2.
195 -- Sr. Patrick Daly (24-2), P, p. Jr. Matt McDonnell (3-5), :42.
220 -- Sr. Kevin Lewis (21-8), HP, p. Sr. Jacob Foukas (14-10), 5:28.
285 -- Jr. Cliff Rutter (13-15), HP, p. So. Joe Leszczynkski (9-14), 3:15.
106 -- Fr. Devin Flannery (22-6), HP, p. So. Jonathon Sebestian (7-15), 2:38.
113 -- So. Joe Carmichael (20-8), P, d. So. Maverick Liebl (9-8), 3-2.
120 -- Jr. Steve Pocze (22-5), P, d. Sr. Justin Liebl (18-12), 7-3.
126 -- So. Trey Osborn (15-12), HP, p. Sr. Ron Aiosa (4-18), 3:17.
132 -- So. Shane Kobis (20-11), HP, md. Sr. Tom Benway (8-16), 10-1.
138 -- Sr. Alex Zangrilli (22-7), P, forfeit.
Records -- Pequannock 10-8; High Point 14-6.
Officials -- Bob Melillo and Anthony Zullo