Knowing this is his last shot, Klinger pinned Roxbury's Richard Reimers in 3:31 at 132 pounds to advance to the Region 1 semifinals for the first time as District 3 had 15 winners in the quarterfinals. District 2 also moved 15 into the semis, followed by District 4 with 14 and District 1 with 12.
Klinger (32-2), the No. 2 seed, led, 4-1, in the first before giving up a reversal to make it 4-3 entering the second period. Klinger took bottom to start the second period and put Reimers on his back off a reversal to get the fall.
"I'm not really a pinner, but it feels good," said Klinger, who had 13 pins during the regular season. "I can't remember the last time I stuck a good kid. But I was able to make it easy on myself."
Though most of the talk in this tournament is about how tough the 126-pound class is, there's nothing remotely easy at 132. After all, the No. 1 seed is Phillipsburg senior Brandon Paetzell, a two-time Region 1 champion and two-time state placewinner. Paetzell moved into the semifinals with an 11-3 victory over Hackettstown's Alex Carida in a rematch of their District 1 final.
Hopatcong sophomore Anthony Mastroeni, who was a fourth-place finisher last year, is the No. 3 seed and will face Klinger in Saturday's semifinal round at 9 a.m. Mastroeni was a 5-2 winner over Wayne Hills' Anthony Rua in the quarters. Klinger beat Mastroeni, 3-1, in sudden-victory overtime on Jan. 20.
"There are a lot of studs at this weight," said Klinger, a Kutztown University recruit. "This is my last shot. It's do or die."
Last year, Klinger dropped a 4-3 decision to Hackettstown's Joe Renne in the 120-pound quarters. Renne went on to win the title, while Klinger's season ended in the consolation semifinals. In three previous meetings, Renne was 1-2 vs. Klinger after a technical fall win as a freshman. In 2014, Klinger won by scores of 12-5 and 8-6, the latter result occurring in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals.
How much did Klinger think about last year's disappointing result?
"Honestly, I did a little bit," said Klinger, a two-time District 3 champion. "I've been working for this my whole life. I want to go out with no regrets."
Lions, Spartans money in quarters
It was a pretty fine night for the town of Sparta, as Pope John and Sparta advanced four wrestlers into the semifinals. Only Phillipsburg (7), DePaul (5) and Montville (5) had more winners on Friday night.
Freshman Joe Aragona started Pope John off with a 28-second pin of DePaul's Michael Esposito at 106. Aragona (34-0) will face Belvidere freshman Quinn Melofchik in the semis, after Melofchik earned a 4-3 decision over High Point's Devin Flannery.
Jake Rotunda (120), Robert Garcia (126) and Jake Brown (182) also advanced for the Lions. Garcia avenged an earlier loss with a 9-5 victory over Warren Hills' Matt Valli, who won, 6-5, when they met in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament finals on Jan. 9.
Garcia (30-4), the No. 5 seed, racked up three takedowns in the win, including two in the first period for an early 4-1 lead. The impressive freshman will next face top-seeded Garrett O'Shea of Butler, who is one of 10 returning champions in the field. O'Shea placed fourth in the state last season.
For Sparta, seniors Garrett Gerndt (120) and Al Falco (170) moved into the semis, along with junior Zach Herbert (220) and sophomore Robbie Gennat (285).
Gerndt (23-5) earns a rematch with Rotunda, who is 5-0 all-time in their series dating to last season, including three wins this season -- 7-3, 6-1 and 7-2. The latter match was in the District 3 finals.
'Liners roll with 7
Phillipsburg, which was voted the No. 1 team in Region 1 prior to the quarterfinals, sent a tournament-best seven into the semifinals.
In addition to Paetzell, seniors Kyle Markus (113), DJ Wissing (152) and Kyle Nothnagel (285) cruised into the semis, while sophomore Brian Meyer (145) and juniors Drew Horun (195) and Robert Melise (220) also won their quarterfinal bouts.
Melise, who was second last year at 220, prevailed, 3-1, in a tight bout with Newton's Adam Schlereth. Trailing, 1-0, after two periods, Schlereth opted for a neutral start in the third. He was able to get in deep on a single around the one-minute mark, but Melise fought it off and got a takedown at the edge to help seal the win.
Meyer, the No. 4 seed, now finds himself in a good position as top-seeded Jared Kobis of High Point was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury prior to the quarters. Meyer (30-8), who advanced with a 9-5 win over Roxbury's Michael Roumes, will next get a District 1 finals rematch with Hackettstown's Anthony Carida in the semis. Meyer beat Carida, 3-1, a week ago.
West Morris junior Shane Metzler recorded his 100th career win with a 15-8 decision over Phillipsburg senior Tom Kosar in the 120-pound quarterfinals. Metzler, who finished fourth in the state last year at 106, beat Kosar, 7-4, in the District 1 finals. He's 3-0 against the Stateliner this season.
It was a tough night for Warren Hills, which went 1-5 in the quarters. Freshman Cody Harrison was the lone winner for the Blue Streaks -- 6-1 over Lakeland's Christopher Costiglia at 106. Harrison (20-5), the D1 champion, will face Jefferson's Mason Godfrey in the semis.
Falling into the wrestlebacks were Kyle Wulff (113), Valli, Zach Nauta (138), Jarod Ostir (170) and Nick Galka (195).
Pope John, which has four in the semifinals, is looking for its first region champion since 2004, when Brandon Perez won at 215 pounds.
Paetzell and Nothnagel are closing in on 100 career wins. Paetzell is 98-12 entering the semifinals, while Nothnagel is sitting on 97 as he seeks his first Region 1 title.