Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wrestling: HWS weight-by-weight preview

It's time to take a closer look at what's in store for the eighth annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament on Saturday at Hopatcong High School.

The tournament starts at 10 a.m. with the preliminary and pre-quarterfinals rounds on four mats. Quarterfinals will follow on four mats, with the semifinals and wrestlebacks also on four mats. Championship bouts will be wrestled along with the matches for third and fifth place.

Kittatinny is the defending team champion, but what could be the best tri-county tournament to date figures to be a three-team race between Phillipsburg, Pope John and Hunterdon Central. P'burg has crowned the most individual champions with 17, while North Hunterdon is next with 12.

We will reveal our championship picks on Friday, but let's start by ranking the top five contenders and noting some of the medal hopefuls in the 14 weight classes. Tournament seeding will take place on Friday night, so we aren't exactly sure where some wrestlers will be on Saturday. They are listed below according to where we know they will be or at the lowest weight they have competed this season.

106 pounds

1. Jr. Cullen Day (12-5), Phillipsburg
2. So. Quinn Melofchik (10-1), Belvidere
3. So. Brandon LaRue (11-1), High Point
4. So. Connor Robinson (11-3), North Hunterdon
5. Sr. Christian Deehan (4-2), Pope John

Other contenders: Fr. Cooper Stewart (7-1), Sparta; Fr. Ben Lilly (8-2), North Warren

Keep an eye on: So. Derek Molfetto (9-7), Kittatinny; Fr. Aidan Taylor (7-4), Voorhees; Sr. Dylan Uderman (6-2), Delaware Valley; Fr. Grant Bloch (1-2), Hunterdon Central

Notes: Melofchik finished third at this weight last year and fourth in Region 1. Day did not compete in the county tournament last season. LaRue was stuck behind region qualifier Devin Flannery as a freshman and has the talent to make some noise. Robinson and Deehan are returning at this weight class from last season. Bloch, a strong 106, could be a darkhorse after dropping on Wednesday, and losing 6-3 to Day.

113 pounds

1. Fr. Eddie Ventresca (14-2), Pope John
2. So. Devin Flannery (11-1), High Point
3. So. Travis Jones (10-5), Phillipsburg
4. So. Jack Bauer (8-2), Hunterdon Central
5. Fr. Zachary Creeden (14-2), Wallkill Valley

Other contenders: Fr. Evan Klimas (10-3), North Hunterdon; Sr. Brandon Olmstead (11-2), Hopatcong; So. Dominick Falleni (9-6), Lenape Valley

Keep an eye on: Fr. Logan Nauta (8-7), Warren Hills; Jr. CJ Heaps (6-4), Delaware Valley; Jr. Colby Koshinski (5-6), Voorhees; So. Mike Nelson (7-8), Kittatinny

Notes: Ventresca is one impressive freshman -- finishing fourth at the Beast of the East in December. Flannery, a district runner-up and fifth-place finisher here at 106 last season, is much improved. Jones shook things up with a 7-2 win over Bauer, who finished sixth in the tri-county tournament and was a state qualifier at 106 as a freshman. Creeden is a good-looking rookie, while Olmstead, who placed fifth two years ago, will seek his second medal after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

120 pounds

1. So. Joe Aragona (9-0), Pope John
2. Jr. Hunter Graf (10-0), Hunterdon Central
3. Sr. Mark DiGeronimo (10-4), Kittatinny
4. So. A.J. DeRosa (12-3), Delaware Valley
5. Sr. Steven Nicotra (9-1), Hackettstown

Other contenders: Jr. Kyle Wulff (12-4), Warren Hills; So. Hunter Rinehart (9-1), Voorhees; Jr. Maverick Liebl (6-2), High Point.

Keep an eye on: Jr. Tyris Manley (4-5), Phillipsburg; So. Matt Rosa (7-5), Newton

Notes: Aragona, who placed third in the state at 106, last season, is a returning county champion. Graf, who is closing in on 80 career wins, finished eighth in the state last season and third in this tournament. DiGeronimo, a two-time district champion, was a county runner-up in 2016, while DeRosa was fifth.

126 pounds

1. Jr. Jake Rotunda (12-2), Pope John
2. Sr. Peter Nace (9-1), Hunterdon Central
3. Sr. Jacob Falleni (12-2), Lenape Valley
4. So. Cody Harrison (7-3), Phillipsburg
5. Fr. Billy Talmadge (7-4), High Point

Other contenders: Fr. Gage Crater (10-5), Delaware Valley

Keep an eye on: So. Nile Mattar (5-9), Kittatinny; So. Michael Wilson (6-7), North Hunterdon; So. Chris Ostir (4-4), Warren Hills

Notes: Rotunda, a two-time state qualifier, is a returning county champion. Nace, who recently picked up his 100th career win, has finished second twice in this tournament, and seeks a finals rematch with Rotunda, who won 9-2 in 2016. Falleni won a title at 106 in '15 and was fourth last season at 113. Harrison, a state qualifier, was a finalist at 106 as a freshman.

132 pounds

1. So. Robert Garcia (14-2), Pope John
2. Jr. Anthony Mastroeni (13-0), Hopatcong
3. Jr. Andrew Gapas (14-1), North Hunterdon
4. Sr. Matt Valli (15-1), Warren Hills
5. So. Vincent Romaniello (10-1), Hunterdon Central

Other contenders: Sr. Connor Mills (12-3), Delaware Valley; Fr. Garrett Stewart (10-4), Sparta; So. Kyle Tino (5-7), Phillipsburg; Jr. Perry Maio (8-7), Kittatinny

Keep an eye on: So. Michael Freda (7-5), Newton; So. Jake Wronko (5-4), Lenape Valley

Notes: One of the toughest and deepest weights. Valli, who won the 126-pound title last year and the Outstanding Wrestler Award -- with a 6-5 win over Garcia in a great final -- suffered his first loss to Gapas on Wednesday. Mastroeni is a returning state qualifier and was third in this class last season.

138 pounds

1. Sr. Matt Kolonia (15-0), Delaware Valley
2. Sr. Ray Smaha (13-0), Lenape Valley
3. Jr. Alex Carida (13-2), Hackettstown
4. Sr. Nick Cassidy (9-4), Belvidere
5. Jr. Shane Kobis (9-3), High Point

Other contenders: Sr. Shannon Grogan (11-3), North Warren; Jr. Will Hughes (11-4), North Hunterdon; Sr. Liam Cutri-French (8-3), Voorhees; Sr. Ryan Luchs (8-4), Pope John

Keep an eye on: Jr. Lance Wissing (2-3), Phillipsburg; Sr. Bryce Hall (8-4), Hunterdon Central; Jr. Mike Callahan (10-7), Kittatinny; Sr. Jake DeLuca (7-5), Newton; Sr. Roman Moss (10-4), Vernon

Notes: How tough is it to win a tri-county title? Consider that Kolonia, a state qualifier and 100-match winner, is still looking for his first after placing fourth, fifth and second in that order. Carida was sixth at 132 last season, while Smaha, a tough customer, is seeking his first medal here. Cassidy finished fifth in 2015 and Kobis was sixth in '16.

145 pounds

1. Sr. Nick Palumbo (15-0), Lenape Valley
2. Jr. Brian Meyer (14-5), Phillipsburg
3. Sr. Zach Nauta (14-1), Warren Hills
4. Jr. Kevin Ciresa (9-3), Hunterdon Central
5. Jr. Calvin Brook (10-4), Kittatinny

Other contenders: So. Kevin Schaffer (10-3), North Warren; Sr. Nick Giordano (8-6), Newton

Keep an eye on: Jr. Tucker Kirchberger (7-4), North Hunterdon; Jr. Trey Osborn (5-5), High Point

Notes: Potential here for what could be the best final of the tournament and a rematch of last year's title bout at 145. Palumbo decked Meyer for the county gold and went on to place third in the state. Meyer, who looks much improved, won a Region 1 title. Nauta was fifth at 138 in 2016.

152 pounds

1. Sr. Cole Marra (11-3), North Hunterdon
2. So. Wyatt McCarthy (13-1), Newton
3. Sr. Rhys Zigich (13-2), Delaware Valley
4. Sr. Kasey Hotz (11-4), Kittatinny
5. Sr. Bart Yarosz (14-1), Hopatcong

Other contenders: So. Jayson Zinsmeister (3-8), Phillipsburg; Sr. Rashon Wade Taylor (8-7), Warren Hills

Keep an eye on: Sr. Anthony Smaha (10-7), Lenape Valley; So. Anthony Rispoli (7-5), Pope John; Sr. Trevor Kish (11-6), Wallkill Valley; Sr. Sean McHugh (6-5), Sparta

Notes: Marra, a returning runner-up, owns a 3-1 win over McCarthy in the John Goles Invitational finals on Dec. 28. McCarthy placed fifth at 132 in 2016 and is looking to win the Braves' fourth HWS title. Zigich has not faced either this season -- losing in the Goles quarterfinals at 145. Smaha upset Marra, 3-0, on Thursday.

160 pounds

1. Sr. Aric Wingle (10-2), High Point
2. Jr. Jonathon Borgognoni (12-2), Newton
3. Sr. Chase Bauberger (11-4), Delaware Valley
4. Jr. Shane Smith (11-4), Kittatinny
5. Sr. Nick Luberto (10-4), North Hunterdon

Other contenders: Jr. Reece Mulduun (7-2), Pope John

Keep an eye on: So. Dan Furmato (5-5), Hunterdon Central; Sr. Sean Finnegan (7-6), Sparta; Jr. Cameron Nauta (3-4), Warren Hills

Notes: Pretty wide open weight class. Wingle is looking for his first tri-county medal after pinning Borgognoni -- who beat Bauberger in the quarters and finished fourth last year -- in a dual meet last season.

170 pounds

1. Sr. Michael Fernandes (11-0), Voorhees
2. Jr. Jarod Ostir (13-3), Warren Hills
3. Jr. Josh Hiler (11-3), Kittatinny
4. Sr. Dan Fisher (6-4), Phillipsburg
5. Sr. Jake Wilkerson (11-2), Hopatcong

Other contenders: Sr. Nick Appleby (10-1), Belvidere; Sr. Sean Lessig (9-1), Delaware Valley

Keep an eye on: Sr. Ryan Beckler (8-7), Warren Hills; Sr. Anthony Gonzalez (4-5), Hackettstown; So. Nick Brigante (6-7), Newton; Sr. Paddy Finnegan (5-7), Sparta

Notes: Fernandes is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at 160. This may finally be his time. Ostir is a returning state qualifier and makes the drop from 182. Fisher drops down a weight after finishing second at 182 last season. Wilkerson had a promising sophomore season before a knee injury ended his junior campaign before it started. 

182 pounds

1. Sr. Michael Iodice (9-2), Hunterdon Central
2. Sr. Josh Klimek (10-3), Kittatinny
3. Jr. Scott Fernandes (10-1), Voorhees
4. Jr. Joseph DeLuca (9-4), Newton
5. So. Shawne Ramsby (6-3), Delaware Valley

Notes: Iodice was the 170-pound champion a year ago and handed Klimek, who was third at 170 in 2016, a 5-3 loss on Saturday in a dual meet. Fernandes will have something to say about who wins the title and will look to spoil any potential rematches here.

195 pounds

1. Sr. Drew Horun (16-3), Phillipsburg
2. Jr. Kyle Lightner (14-0), Delaware Valley
3. So. Zach Mafaro (12-2), Kittatinny
4. So. Lewis Fernandes (10-2), Voorhees
5. Jr. Robert Gennat (10-3), Sparta

Other contenders: So. Nick Galka (13-5), Warren Hills; Jr. Ryan Kokawski (10-1), Belvidere; Jr. Hunter Flores (6-2), High Point

Keep an eye on: Jr. Yousef Abbas (5-2), North Hunterdon; Jr. Brodie McDonald (10-7), Wallkill Valley; Jr. Devin Mager (4-2), Newton

Notes: Any doubt whether this is the toughest weight class? Sure is hard to remember one that was better -- and deeper. Horun is the defending 195-pound champion and two-time finalist. Lightner, a state qualifier last season, is looking for his first medal, while Mafaro was the 182-pound champ in 2016. Fernandes pinned Gennat, who was third at 285 a year ago, last weekend. Lightner pinned Fernandes in their dual meet. Horun waged a war with Mafaro on Thursday in a 23-14 win as the Stateliner rallied from an early 7-1 deficit after getting off his back in the first period.

220 pounds

1. Sr. Robert Melise (12-2), Phillipsburg
2. Sr. Victor Lacombe (11-0), Hunterdon Central
3. Jr. Jake Brown (3-0), Pope John
4. Sr. Kyle Connelly (13-2), Hackettstown
5. Sr. William Loewen (10-2), Sparta 

Other contenders: Sr. Brody Oberly (9-5), Warren Hills; Sr. Cliff Rutter (7-1), High Point; So. Luke Fischer (9-4), Newton; Sr. Josh LaDuca (7-7), Delaware Valley

Keep an eye on: Fr. Jacob Mafaro (7-3), Kittatinny; Sr. Connor Andrews (9-8), Wallkill Valley

Notes: We didn't get this matchup between state placewinners last year in the final or in Wednesday's dual meet, but Melise pinned Lacombe last season in a dual meet and was the runner-up in Atlantic City, Lacombe placed fifth in AC. Brown, who is just coming back from a knee injury in football, was fourth in the county and a state qualifier at 195 in 2016.

285 pounds

1. Sr. Charlie Tordik (13-0), North Hunterdon
2. Sr. Zach Herbert (12-1), Sparta
3. Sr. Taylan Zafis (10-5), Warren Hills
4. Jr. Joe Andes (11-3), Hackettstown
5. Jr. Thomas Hubmaster (7-4), High Point

Other contenders: Jr. Angelo Crespo (4-5), Hunterdon Central; Sr. Justen Caraballo (5-8), Phillipsburg

Keep an eye on: Jr. Chris Litterio (5-6), Kittatinny; Sr. Luis Arrazola (6-6), Newton

Notes: Another potential rematch here as Tordik handed Herbert his only loss to date -- 5-4 in the John Goles Invitational finals. Tordik was the runner-up in the county at 285 last year, while Herbert finished fourth at 220.

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