Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wrestling: Atlantic City by the numbers

Let's go inside the numbers for the 83rd New Jersey State Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall:

43 -- Number of wins for Hasbrouck Heights sophomore Michael O'Malley, the most for any wrestler in the field in Atlantic City. O'Malley (43-0), a Region 4 champion, finished fifth at 138 pounds last season. He is looking to become his school's third state champion -- joining Bill Spindler (1976) and Morgan Horner (2001). Those names should ring a bell with longtime fans in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area. Spindler decked Warren Hills junior Dan Slack in the semifinals when it really was an unlimited class at heavyweight. Slack went on to win the title in '77. Horner pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history when he pinned returning champion Chris Skretkowicz of Wallkill Valley in the 189-pound final in '01. Skretkowicz, who went on to hammer Horner several times in college, was inducted into the Region 1 Hall of Fame this past Saturday.
Kyle Markus and Brandon Paetzell are still going for P'burg.

15 -- Amazingly, Region 2 has a tournament-best 15 returning medal winners, including the five champs from Bergen Catholic. Regions 1 and 8 have eight. Senior Brandon Paetzell, a two-time state placewinner, and junior Robert Melise, who was fifth at 220 last year, are looking to add their names to the list of Phillipsburg's state champs, which currently stands at 33. Brandon Hull is the last, winning at 220 in 2012. The Stateliners rank fourth all-time on the list of champions behind Newton (82), Washington/Warren Hills (46) and Union (40).

155 -- Career wins total for three-time champion Nick Suriano of Bergen Catholic, who will look to make New Jersey wrestling history this weekend by winning a fourth state title and finishing his outstanding career at 159-0. South Plainfield's Anthony Ashnault, now at Rutgers University, is currently the only unbeaten four-time state champion at 170-0.

25 -- Voorhees' Kyle DiNapoli (28-0 at 126), who placed eighth last year, is among 25 unbeaten wrestlers in this year's tournament, along with Pope John's JoJo Aragona (36-0 at 106), West Morris' Shane Metzler (35-0 at 120), Roxbury's Craig Roumes (31-0 at 160), Morris Knolls' Dean Drugac (35-0 at 195) of Region 1. The others are: O'Malley (43-0 at 145), Newark Academy's Steve Bonsall (39-0 at 152), New Providence's Tyler Gazaway (39-0 at 145), Holy Cross' Matt Correnti (38-0 at 220), South Plainfield's Joe Heilmann (38-0 at 106), West Windsor South's Nick Maher (38-0 at 138), Seneca's Joe Manchio (38-0 at 106), Wall's Brett Donner (35-0 at 170), Somerville's Evan Drill (35-0 at 132), Clearview's Zack Firestone (34-0 at 132), Suriano (34-0 at 126), Clearview's Michael Van Brill (34-0 at 138), Cinnaminson's Keith Swartley (33-0 at 285), Bridgewater-Raritan's Kyle Murphy (32-0 at 182), Haddon Township's Chris Wolf (32-0 at 132), Union City's Jonathan Beltre (30-0 at 285), Don Bosco Prep's Kyle Bierdumpfel (28-0 at 160), Union City's Elyezer Oliviery (27-0 at 220), Steinert's Brandon Cray (16-0 at 120) and Bergen Catholic's Shane Griffith (11-0 at 138).

8 -- Suriano is one of eight returning champions, including five from Bergen Catholic, to make it back to Boardwalk Hall. He will be joined by teammates Gerard Angelo (120), who won at 106 for Hanover Park last season, Shane Griffith (138), Joe Grello (170) and Kevin Mulligan (195). The others are: Cray, Bierdumpfel and Delbarton's Ty Agaisse, who won at 106 pounds in 2014.

7 -- Hanover Park is one of 10 schools with seven state champions in their program's history and highly regarded freshman Nick Raimo is one of the top contenders at 120 pounds, as well as Brick Memorial's Gianni Ghione, a runner-up last year. They will meet in Friday's pre-quarterfinals in a can't miss matchup. Camden Catholic's Mark McCormick (138) and Clifton's Mohammed Farhan (145) should also be in the hunt to claim title No. 8 for their schools.

31 -- Phillipsburg leads the way with six wrestlers as the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area will have 31 representatives this weekend at Boardwalk Hall. Delaware Valley and Hunterdon Central are next with five qualifiers, followed by Pope John with four.

22 -- Atlantic City will host the state tournament for a 22nd time this year -- only Princeton University's Jadwin Gym has hosted as many (22 from 1970-91). The event shifted to AC in '92 where it's been ever since, sans a two-year move to the Meadowlands in 2000 and '01, when Boardwalk Hall underwent renovations. Others sites include the Elizabeth Armory (nine times, 1947-55), Rutgers (seven from 1959-65) and Asbury Park Convention Hall (four from 1966-69). Ten high schools have hosted the tournament -- Union, Somerville, Roselle Park, Teaneck, Grover Cleveland Jr. (Elizabeth), Springfield, Thomas Jefferson, Rahway and Belvidere (1946). Union hosted the first four tournaments from 1934-37.

129 -- State champions produced by Union County, by far the leader. Westfield's Christian Barber (2011) is the last champ from the county. Union's Leo Moorman was the first at 95 pounds in 1935. Next up is Sussex with 113 (Ethan Orr is the last after capping High Point's amazing four-champion run in '11) and Bergen with 113. Warren County ranks fourth with 85, followed by Ocean (62), Somerset (61) and Morris (61), Gloucester (58), Camden (57), Middlesex (41), Monmouth (38), Hunterdon (36), Essex (34), Burlington (24), Passaic (22), Atlantic (20), Cumberland (12), Salem (8), Hudson (7), Cape May (4) and Mercer (3).

988 -- Total number of state champions in New Jersey history. This year's tournament is the 83rd overall since 1934 -- when Newton's Leo Snover won the first state title and started the Sussex County school's run to a state record 82 champs. Who will be No. 1,000 on Sunday?

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