Monday, February 29, 2016

Wrestling: Regions 1 and 5 by the numbers

We're racing to the finish line in the high school season, but before we start to focus on the 83rd State Championships in Atlantic City, let's once again take a look at some of the highlights from a great weekend at the region tournaments that house teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area.

31 -- We have that many wrestlers from Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex moving on to next weekend's state tournament, including six from Phillipsburg, In all, 19 advanced out of Region 1. Over in Region 5, Hunterdon Central and Delaware Valley each had five qualifiers.

Phillipsburg and Roxbury had three champions in Region 1.
6 -- Phillipsburg took over at Region 1 by putting a tournament-best six wrestlers in the finals for the first time since doing so in 2002, including producing three champions -- Brandon Paetzell (132), Brian Meyer (145) and Robert Melise (220) -- for the first time since three winners in '06. Paetzell became just the fifth Stateliner to win three region titles while also earning his 100th career win. Kyle Markus (113), DJ Wissing (152) and Kyle Nothnagel also earned a trip to Atlantic City with second-place finishes. Six is also the program's record for number of champions in one tournament, set in 1989. What's even more impressive about that feat is P'burg, now with 118 champions overall, had seven finalists that year when there were 13 weight classes!

3 -- Number of forfeit wins for Hackettstown wrestlers at Region 1. One forfeit is a bit rare, but three in one tournament for wrestlers on the same team? That's really odd. In the quarterfinals, Anthony Carida got a walkover to the semifinals as top-seeded Jared Kobis of High Point was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury at 145 pounds. Sophomore Alex Carida, who finished third at 132 pounds, was next to get his hand raised without a match in the first round of consolations. Lastly, senior Joe Renne advanced to the third-place bout at 126 when DePaul's Damian Maver forfeited after eliminating Warren Hills junior Matt Valli, 10-5, and spoiling a Renne-Valli rematch of their exciting District 1 final. Renne's forfeit win also gave him the Tigers' all-time victories record. He finishes 123-35 overall after placing fourth.

95 -- After being shut out last year in Region 5 for the first time since 2008, Hunterdon Central got back on the board with two champions -- Hunter Graf (113) and Victor Lacombe (220) -- to raise the program's total to 95. Also advancing for the Red Devils were runners-up Jack Bauer (106) and Michael Iodice (170), along with third-place finisher Kevin Ciresa (145).

5 -- Delaware Valley did not have a champion in Region 5 for the third straight year, but the Terriers will have five wrestlers making the trip to Atlantic City. AJ DeRosa (113), Connor Mills (138) and Kyle Lightner (182) were runners-up, while Matt Kolonia (132) and Kyle Schlittler (195) took thirds. Del Val has 42 region champs in its history, including 16 since moving to Region 5 in 2001.

46 -- High Point senior Kevin Lewis stunned Nothnagel, 8-6, to claim the Region 1 title at 285. It was sweet redemption for Lewis, who dropped a 6-3 decision to Nothnagel in last year's third-place bout at 285. Since 2005, the Wildcats have won 35 of their 46 region titles. Lewis, who wrestled at 195 for most of the season to help the team, should have garnered a few votes for OW by knocking off a No. 1 seed and one of the biggest favorites in the tournament.

18 -- Freshman JoJo Aragona (36-0), one of four unbeaten wrestlers in the Region 1 finals to win titles, ended Pope John's drought by becoming the Sussex County school's 18th champion and first since Brandon Perez won at 215 pounds in 2004. Aragona, who helped give the Lions four district champions for the first time since '88, is now looking to become the school's sixth state champ and first since Brian Unkert won at 145 pounds in '90. The legendary Mike Frick is the only other Pope John wrestler to win a region title in his freshman season.

35 -- Voorhees senior Kyle DiNapoli became the Vikings' 35th Region 5 champion by winning the 126-pound title. DiNapoli (28-0), who placed eighth in the state tournament last season, missed a good portion of the season with a concussion. DiNapoli, who is 124-26 overall and one of just 12 Voorhees wrestlers to win at least three District 17 titles, recently moved past coach Eric Hall (120-19 from 1992-96) for second place on the Hunterdon County school's all-time wins list.

34 -- Wallkill Valley Regional High School has been hosting Region 1 for 34 straight years and continues to do a fantastic job showcasing some outstanding wrestling. The atmosphere in that gym is fabulous, especially when the action gets hot and heavy. Unfortunately, Saturday was marred by a rather ugly scene during a 220-pound consolation bout when a losing wrestler punched his opponent in the face after being pinned as the two stood near the circle, presumably to shake hands. In over 30 years of watching and covering this sport, that was one thing I had not seen and hope to never witness again.

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