WASHINGTON TWP. -- Taylan Zafis can attest that there is no substitute for experience.
The rising senior has come a long way on the mats and it was Zafis' thrilling 3-2 win at 285 pounds that sealed Washington's 28-24 victory over Phillipsburg on Thursday night -- snapping the Stateliners' four-match win streak in the fifth annual Pin Cancer clash.
The annual match had to be moved indoors for the first time due to rain. Some 800 people crammed into a very hot auxiliary gym at Warren Hills Regional High School to witness perhaps the best dual yet in the summer series.
"Anytime there's wrestling in the area people will show up for it," Washington (Warren Hills) coach Jarrett Hosbach said. "This was an exciting dual match. The crowd was into it pretty good. It's great to get that kind of atmosphere in July."
Zafis, a fourth-place finisher in District 1 last season, went from a heavy underdog a year ago -- facing state qualifier Kyle Nothnagel -- to being a favorite this year against Justen Caraballo, who owns a 1-1 career mark in high school.
"I love the sport," said Zafis, who showed marked improvement this past high school season, going from 1-18 as a sophomore to 16-16 as a junior. "I think the biggest thing that helped me win that match was confidence. I've done a lot of conditioning and lifting weights. Phillipsburg is a very good team and I respect that."
After trading escapes in the second and third periods, Caraballo spun behind Zafis for the near go-ahead takedown at the edge with about 40 seconds left. But Zafis was able to stay in a standing position and eventually got behind Caraballo for the decisive takedown with 25 seconds to go. Zafis opted to cut Caraballo with nine seconds left as they finished on their feet.
"My goal was to try and keep him down and then at 8 seconds, cut him so he barely had any time left [to try and get a takedown]," said Zafis, whose takedown made it a 12-12 draw overall between the teams from the neutral position. Washington finished with a 16-12 edge in takedowns last year for the first time in the series.
"That was a nice win for him," said Hosbach, whose team will travel to Phillipsburg on Wednesday, Jan. 18 for their Skyland Conference dual meet. "We're hoping these wins in July equal wins in January and February."
After Phillipsburg jumped out to a 6-0 lead with Cullen Day's pin at 105, Washington ran off seven straight wins, capped by Zach Nauta's 5-1 decision over Jayson Zinsmeister at 147. Logan Nauta scored a huge 8-7 win over Travis Jones at 112 -- getting a reversal with 11 seconds left -- in perhaps the most entertaining bout of the night.
Pedro Cruz and Cameron Nauta also scored key decisions at 135 and 140, respectively, as the Nauta brothers went 3-for-3.
Down 25-6 after Zach Nauta's win, Phillipsburg rallied with five straight victories to make it 25-24 with only 285 to go. Brian Meyer, a Region 1 champion, started the run with a pin at 155, followed by decisions from Shamyr Brodders (167), Austin Roth (177), Drew Horun (190) and state runner-up Robert Melise (220).
Brodders, who scored an 11-4 win over Kyle Henderson, is a wrestler to watch come next high school season. Phillipsburg coach Dave Post has been impressed with the rising junior, who has never wrestled a varsity bout.
"He works his tail off and is a student of the game," Post said. "We're working with a clean slate, so we don't have to fix a lot of mistakes."
Both teams were not at full strength for this one. Washington was missing talented junior Jarod Ostir (offseason elbow surgery) and Codey O'Rourke, while Phillipsburg was without Dan Fisher, a Region 1 qualifier, and Jason Barna.
"Our guys really want to win and [Washington] does too," Post said. "When you have two heavyweights out there, it can go either way. I made it clear to Justen that even though he was the last guy out there, he didn't put us in that situation. I thought we looked really good in spots and we have some spots where we need to work on."
Post praised Hosbach and the Warren Hills staff for pulling this event together with the poor weather conditions. Things were shifted about two hours before the grade school match was scheduled to take place and included having to remove the mat from the football field across the street and putting it down in the auxiliary gym.
"These people were unbelievable," Post said. "All week long we kept checking the weather. Kudos to the administration and the AD [Geri McKelvey], and the parents to be able to manage this. The whole Warren Hills community understands what this means to our wrestling teams."
WASHINGTON 28, PHILLIPSBURG 24
105 -- Cullen Day, P, p. Greg Slivka, :57.
112 -- Logan Nauta, W, d. Travis Jones, 8-7.
119 -- Kyle Wulff, W, p. Tyris Manley, 4:23.
125 -- Cody Harrison, W, md. Brenden Fox, 10-0.
130 -- Matt Valli, W, d. Kyle Tino, 9-4.
135 -- Pedro Cruz, W, d. Ryan Mitzak, 2-1.
140 -- Cameron Nauta, W, d. Lance Wissing, 4-3.
147 -- Zach Nauta, W, d. Jayson Zinsmeister, 5-1.
155 -- Brian Meyer, P, p. Rashon Wade Taylor, 2:22.
167 -- Shamyr Brodders, P, d. Kyle Henderson, 11-4.
177 -- Austin Roth, P, d. Ryan Beckler, 4-1.
190 -- Drew Horun, P, d. Nick Galka, 4-2.
220 -- Robert Melise, P, d. Brody Oberly, 5-1.
285 -- Taylan Zafis, P, d. Justen Caraballo, 3-2.
Officials -- Chip Castner and Frank Leitner.