And that was before High Point opened some eyes with a 32-24 victory over Southern on Friday. Also of note was Hunterdon Central scoring a 41-26 win over Delsea as we count down the hours to 2017.
"It's still early in the process and we have a long way to go in the season," said High Point coach John Gardner, whose team started its season with a 31-28 loss to West Morris just eight days ago. "But this [win] doesn't hurt. Either way it's not going to win a league or a section title. It's just another match against good competition, which is what you want to see."
High Point (1-1) is not yet settled in regard to its lineup due to the state's descent plan. A good portion of the team is still wrestling up one weight class. The 'Cats did enjoy a strong showing at the rugged Mustang Classic at Brick Memorial on Wednesday -- finishing in a tie for third place with St. John Vianney, although no official team scores are kept at the longtime event.
"Today was probably a little bit closer [to our regular lineup], but it's not what we're going to end up having," Gardner said.
The lower weights are essentially set with Brandon LaRue at 106, Devin Flannery at 113 and Maverick Liebl at 120. Blue-chip freshman Billy Talmadge will eventually drop to 126 and Derek Sarapuchiello will be at 132. Junior Shane Kobis will go to 138 and Trey Osborn will be at 145, with Trevor Kocher at 152 and Aric Wingle at 160. Cliff Rutter is also on the way down to 220.
Unfortunately for the 'Cats, junior Robbie Turro, a region qualifier last season, is done with a shoulder injury sustained playing football. Turro, who has a lethal crossface cradle, would have been the starter at 170. The loss of Turro makes Saturday's win even more impressive when you consider Southern was expected to be among the best teams in the Shore Conference.
Newcomer Grayson Sabo, now the starter at 170, scored a big 8-0 win to get High Point going after dropping two of the first three bouts against Southern. In all, the 'Cats benefited from two major decisions and two pins against a program that is known for being very stingy in that department. At 113, Flannery, a Region 1 qualifier as a freshman, also scored an important 10-5 decision against Owen Kretschmer, who placed fourth in Region 6.
"They usually don't give away a lot of points," said Gardner, whose team will travel to Lenape Valley on Wednesday for an NJAC Freedom Division clash. "For us to get some bonus points was good."
Winning the flip also allowed Gardner to bump Hunter Flores away from Region 6 qualifier Sean Bowker at 195. Instead of potentially losing 195 and 220, Flores decked Dan Lynch at 220 to start a run of five straight wins as the 'Cats took six of the last eight bouts.
HIGH POINT 32, SOUTHERN 24
145 -- Nicholas O'Connell, S, d. Shane Kobis, 6-2.
152 -- Dan Gorman, S, d. Trevor Kocher, 6-4.
160 -- Aric Wingle, HP, d. John Stout, 2-0.
170 -- Grayson Sabo, HP, md. Ryan Adams, 8-0.
182 -- Vin Miele, S, d. Matthew McDonnell, 4-2.
195 -- Sean Bowker, S, p. Andrew Lewis, :46.
220 -- Hunter Flores, HP, p. Dan Lynch, 4:23.
285 -- Cliff Rutter, HP, d. Evan Giberson, 3-0.
106 -- Brandon LaRue, HP, md. Jayson Scerbo, 13-3.
113 -- Devin Flannery, HP, d. Owen Kretschmer, 10-5.
120 -- Maverick Liebl, HP, p. Sebastian Delligatti, 5:20.
126 -- Nicholas Pepe, S, forfeit.
132 -- Billy Talmadge, HP, d. Ryan Thorn, 5-2.
138 -- Matthew Barnett, S, d. Trey Osborn, 3-2.
Red Devils cruise at home
In a morning affair while most were likely just waking up or still asleep, Hunterdon Central made a statement against a Delsea squad which is expected to challenge for the Group 3 title in February.
The Red Devils (2-1) won five of the last six bouts, but the outcome was not in doubt when senior Peter Nace scored an impressive 10-4 win over Region champ Edwin Echevarria at 126. Central is powerful in the lower weights and pretty balanced through its lineup.
Anthony Romaniello (106), Jack Bauer (113), Hunter Graf (120) and Vincent Romaniello (132) all won down low for the Red Devils. Another key win was Michael Iodice decking Vince DeGeorge, a fourth-place finisher in Region 8 last season, in 3:31 at 182.
Hunterdon Central, like High Point, was coming off a tough loss -- 39-30 to Bound Brook on Dec. 21. It's going to be real interesting in the Skyland Conference Raritan Division the next few weeks. Bound Brook travels to Phillipsburg on Wednesday, while Central takes on the Stateliners the following Wednesday on Jan. 11. Don't miss those two duals.
HUNTERDON CENTRAL 41, DELSEA 26
145 -- Mark Dellavalle, HC, d. Vito Genna, 9-4.
152 -- Kevin Ciresa, HC, md. Seth Summers, 11-0.
160 -- Mason Maxwell, D, p. Dan Furmato, 2:46.
170 -- Bill Janzer, D, p. Julian Heiligtag, 1:23.
182 -- Michael Iodice, HC, p. Vince DeGeorge, 3:31.
195 -- Tommy Maxwell, D, tf. Lukas Bakerian, 16-0, 3:03.
220 -- Victor Lacombe, HC, p. Malcom Henry, 5:24.
285 -- Justin Moore, D, d. Angelo Crespo, 2-1.
106 -- Anthony Romaniello, HC, p. Justin Dougherty, 2:29.
113 -- Jack Bauer, HC, md. Chris Recinto, 8-0.
120 -- Hunter Graf, HC, p. John Patterson, 3:33.
126 -- Peter Nace, HC, d. Edison Echevarria, 10-4.
132 -- Vincent Romaniello, HC, d. Tim Spatola, 6-3.
138 -- Nick Bennett, D, p. Bryce Hall, 2:41.
Delaware Valley won the team championship at the 59th annual John Goles Invitational for the 11th time in 19 years and for the first time since 2011 on Wednesday. A.J. DeRosa (120), Matt Kolonia (138) and Kyle Lightner (195) won titles, while Connor Mills (132) and Chase Bauberger (160) finished second for the Terriers.
Back in dual action on Friday, Del Val went 2-1 in a quad at Scotch Plains, including a 33-26 loss to nemesis South Plainfield, now 17-9 vs. the Terriers all time. The Hunterdon County school, which scored wins over Summit and the host team, will take on Warren Hills in a key division match on Friday, Jan. 6. Based off the Goles results, Del Val looks like a solid 12-15 point favorite on paper.
Phillipsburg had two individual champions in Drew Horun (195) and Robert Melise (220) in the always tough Bethlehem Holiday Classic at Liberty High School. All of their dual meets this season are big ones, but the 'Liners will travel to Raritan in what should be an interesting matchup on Tuesday before opening their new gym two days later against Bound Brook.
After missing last year, Newton had one champion in the John Goles Invitational at Warren Hills as Jonathon Borgognoni claimed the 160-pound title after finishing second in 2015. With 86 winners overall, the Braves are second only to the host Blue Streaks (179).
Donegal (Pa.) was a first-time participant in the John Goles Invitational, but it wasn't the first for head coach Barry Van Scoten and assistant Julius DiRisio. The former Warren Hills standouts combined to win five tournament titles in the late 1980s. Van Scoten has now appeared twice as a coach in this event -- bringing Cocalico (Pa.) home in 1996 and '97 and coaching two heavyweight champs in Kyle Andes and Jeff Martin. Donegal will return to Washington on Feb. 1 for a dual meet at 7 p.m.
Pope John crowned five champions en route to easily winning the team title in the 52nd annual Gary Vittorio Classic at Parsippany. Winning for the Lions were Mathew Garcia (106), Eddie Ventresca (113), Joe Aragona (120), Jake Rotunda (126) and Robbie Garcia (132), who was voted the outstanding wrestler. Missing in action once again was Jake Brown (195), a state qualifier last season who was hampered by a knee injury during this past football season.