HAMPTON -- Things appear to be lining up at just the right time for Phillipsburg's wrestling team.
Now nearly at full strength, the Stateliners won 10 bouts en route to an impressive 42-18 win over previously-unbeaten Kittatinny in an independent match on Wednesday night.
Phillipsburg (11-3), ranked No. 8 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20, reeled off seven straight wins starting with junior Drew Horun's technical fall at 195 pounds. The return of Horun, who had missed several matches due to an illness, gave coach Dave Post's 'Liners a boost. Senior 132-pounder Brandon Paetzell (hand injury) could also be nearing a return, as the two-time state placewinner began live wrestling in practice on Monday.
"He's been out for over a month, so he's doing some live wrestling with [assistant coach Brad] Gentzle," said Post, who picked up career win No. 90 as P'burg improved to 15-6 all-time in the series against Kittatinny. We'll see how it goes. We're monitoring him every day. When he goes to the doctor, the percentage of the bone healing keeps going up."
Although there is no timetable, Paetzell (6-3), a state finalist as a sophomore who is 94-12 overall, could return next week as the Stateliners began their run at a 20th state championship. P'burg is expected to cruise in North 2, Group 4, as it targets the program's 35th sectional title.
No. 20 Kittatinny (14-1) needed a lot to go its way in order to make this a close one. But the Cougars managed to win just four bouts and lost the takedown battle, 35-8. With archrival High Point on tap for Friday night, veteran coach John Gill hopes his team can forget this one in a hurry before heading to Wantage.
"We have to go back [to practice] and adjust," Gill said. "[P'burg] is a Top 10 team [in the state] and we're a long ways from being in the Top 10. "This is a gut-check for us. We're not giving up the ship. If you let how you perform on a Wednesday affect what you do on Friday, you're not a very good team."
After P'burg senior DJ Wissing's 11-3 major of Taylor Molfetto at 160 in the first bout, junior Josh Klimek got the home crowd going by decking Jason Barna in 4:49 -- after a wild second period in which the two traded reversals as Klimek built a 12-7 lead.
Freshman Zach Mafaro gave Kittatinny its only lead of the night -- 9-4 -- with a 3-2 win over Dan Fisher in a rematch of their Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament final. Mafaro also won that one, 3-2, in overtime. A first-period takedown was the difference in the rematch.
At 195, Luke DeGroat saved a team point in technical fall loss to Horun, who racked up seven takedowns. The Cougars weren't in bad shape through the first four bouts. But back-to-back pins by Robert Melise -- which put the 'Liners ahead to stay -- and Kyle Nothnagel at 220 and 285 opened things up for the visitors.
Cullen Day's major at 106 and Kyle Markus' 5-2 win at 113 put P'burg in front 28-9 through eight bouts. Markus (21-6) essentially ended what little hopes Kittatinny had at a comeback by beating Mark DiGeronimo for the fourth time over the last two seasons. In the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals on Jan. 9, Markus won by fall in 1:39.
"We knew the last three up top were all HWS champs," Gill said. "Other than Paetzell, they had their best lineup and it showed."
Freshman Kyle Tino's 10-2 major over Calvin Brook at 126 pounds was more icing on the cake. Tino (10-15) spotted Brook (15-8) the opening takedown, but a five-point move turned the tide and gave Tino a 6-2 lead after one period. The win also sealed it as P'burg led 36-9 with four bouts left.
"All it is, is confidence. Once he hit that high-crotch [for a takedown], he started pouring it on after that," Post said of Tino. "The five-pointer opened it up. He has great talent. That was a good opponent he beat there."
Senior Chris Ruiz punctuated the night with a 3-2 decision over Region 1 qualifier Dylan Minter at 152.
"We had three or four disappointments and three or four that I'm proud of who went after it," Gill said. "It looked all right [on the scoreboard] for awhile, then the lights went out on us. We had some glaring deficiencies. If that's our best wrestling, it's not good enough. It's nowhere near good enough. We'll see how we respond."
Phillipsburg will wrap up the regular season with independent matches against Lenape Valley (home on Thursday) and Hanover Park (away on Saturday).
PHILLIPSBURG 42, KITTATINNY 18
160 -- Sr. DJ Wissing (14-4), P, md. Sr. Taylor Molfetto (15-6), 11-3.
170 -- Jr. Josh Klimek (19-5), K, p. Jr. Jason Barna (4-10), 4:49.
182 -- Fr. Zach Mafaro (18-5), K, d. Jr. Dan Fisher (15-12), 3-2.
195 -- Jr. Drew Horun (18-5), P, tf. Sr. Luke DeGroat (12-11), 20-5, 4:25.
220 -- Jr. Robert Melise (25-2), P, p. Sr. Nick Simpson (11-9), :59.
285 -- Sr. Kyle Nothnagel (24-4), P, p. Sr. Griffin Waldron (4-7), :35.
106 -- So. Cullen Day (11-6), P, md. Fr. Derek Molfetto (9-13), 12-2.
113 -- Sr. Kyle Markus (21-6), P, d. Jr. Mark DiGeronimo (17-5), 5-2.
120 -- Sr. Tom Kosar (9-8), P, md. So. Perry Maio (15-9), 14-3.
126 -- Fr. Kyle Tino (10-15), P, md. So. Calvin Brook (15-8), 10-2.
132 -- Sr. Nick Klinger (24-1), K, d. Sr. Tyler Agans (12-13), 4-2.
138 -- Sr. Austin Scrivani (23-1), K, p. So. Lance Wissing (3-12), :38.
145 -- So. Brian Meyer (21-7), P, d. Sr. Jake Vanwingerden (17-8), 12-7.
152 -- Sr. Chris Ruiz (8-13), P, d. Jr. Dylan Minter (13-9), 3-2.
Records -- Phillipsburg 11-3; Kittatinny 14-1.
Officials -- Gary Kessel and Gary Szucs.