LOPATCONG TWP. -- Opening night at the brand new and very spacious Phillipsburg High School gymnasium was a rousing success by all accounts.
A solid 39-30 victory over Bound Brook was most pleasing for the Stateliners and their rabid fan base on Wednesday night as a crowd of about 1,800 witnessed history and what was a critical match in the Skyland Conference Raritan Division race.
"It was good. A lot of people showed up and the support was fantastic," said junior 145-pounder Brian Meyer, who had the place jumping with his 3-1 win over two-time state placewinner Joe Casey in the evening's featured bout. "This was a good environment."
The consensus shared by most was that the new building is beautiful, but certainly lacks the atmosphere of The Pit, the Stateliners' former home which was regarded as the toughest place to wrestle in the state and probably worth a good five-six points in favor of the hosts.
P'burg coach Dave Post admitted it was a little confusing getting to know the new lay of the land, but the effort put forth by his team was certainly on point after an impressive 38-22 win on the road against Raritan the previous night. Bound Brook (3-3, 1-1 division) forfeiting four of the first five weights was also huge, as the Crusaders have been shorthanded in at least two spots all season. However, the visitors did wind up winning six of the 10 bouts contested in this one.
"It was bizarre. The only other time I can remember [a team forfeiting that many weights] was Bound Brook two years ago [a 30-18 win for P'burg at The Pit] when Casey wrestled at 106," said Post, who picked up the 99th win in seven seasons as coach of his alma mater. "Forfeits take away momentum. We never got that early momentum having to send guys like [Travis] Jones and Cody [Harrison] out to take forfeits."
Up 27-0 through five bouts, with junior Cullen Day bumping up to 113 for a 7-3 win over Bound Brook freshman Mark Venson as the only match wrestled in that span, P'burg (3-0, 2-0) was in control.
"I tried not think about where I was wrestling, and I just went out there and wrestled," Day said. "It was good to see a lot of familiar faces in our first home match. [Bound Brook] has good, quality kids. Our coaches always have a game plan, and they're the ones who deserve the credit. They always put us in positions where we can win."
State medalist Robert Cleary, a transfer from Edison, finally put the Crusaders on the board with a technical fall of sophomore Kyle Tino at 138.
But Meyer (11-5), a Region 1 champion last season, all but ended the thought of a monumental comeback and certainly made those who hadn't noticed his talents previously take notice by knocking off one of New Jersey's top-ranked wrestlers. A second-period escape and takedown around the 1-minute mark broke the match open. Casey (13-5), who has twice finished seventh in the state tournament, managed an escape, but was ridden out the entire third period.
"The takedown was the pivotal moment of the match," Meyer said. "Once I started riding him, I could feel him start to break. It was a good match all-around."
Post, who said he nearly broke a finger applauding so hard for Meyer in the closing 10 seconds, spent quite a bit of time in the practice room with his wrestler leading up to this one. Many thought a win by Meyer could decide the outcome.
"One of the things we drilled was working on scrambles, something we thought we needed to improve on," Post said. "Brian asked us if he needed to win for us to win the match and we said we could win the match winning eight bouts or a 7-7 split, but we believe that you can beat Casey. You have the skills to beat him. If you need a win, Brian Meyer is a guy you want on the mat."
Bound Brook hit the teeth of its lineup with state champion Stephan Glasgow, who started a run of four straight wins with a 24-12 major at 152. Another state champ, Mekhi Lewis, decked Austin Roth in 42 seconds and George Walton, who finished fourth in New Jersey last season, needed only 53 seconds to flatten Dan Fisher at 182 to pull the Crusaders within six at 30-24.
But an 8-2 win by Drew Horun at 195 and a quick pin by state finalist Robert Melise at 220 sealed the win for P'burg, which has another big test on tap for Saturday night at Cranford.
"The first couple of years coaching 14 to 18-year-olds, you expect a letdown," Post said. "I remember the year we went undefeated [18-0 in 2013-14], I kept waiting for it. We kind of know now that these kids are able to handle these high-pressure situations night in and night out."
PHILLIPSBURG 39, BOUND BROOK 30
106 -- So. Luke Hardin (1-0), P, forfeit.
113 -- Jr. Cullen Day (9-5), P, d. Fr. Mark Venson (5-8), 7-3.
120 -- So. Travis Jones (8-4), P, forfeit.
126 -- Jr. Tyris Manley (3-3), P, forfeit.
132 -- So. Cody Harrison (5-2), P, forfeit.
138 -- Sr. Robert Cleary (14-3), BB, tf. So. Kyle Tino (4-5), 23-8, 6:00.
145 -- Jr. Brian Meyer (11-5), P, d. Jr. Joe Casey (13-5), 3-1.
152 -- Sr. Stephan Glasgow (10-1), BB, md. So. Jayson Zinsmeister (2-6), 24-12.
160 -- Sr. Matthew Duarte (4-7), BB, d. Jr. Shamyr Brodders (1-4), 12-7.
170 -- Sr. Mekhi Lewis (16-0), BB, p. So. Austin Roth (1-7), :42.
182 -- Sr. George Walton (14-2), BB, p. Sr. Dan Fisher (4-3), :53.
195 -- Sr. Drew Horun (13-3), P, d. Sr. Travis Hays (8-4), 8-2.
220 -- Sr. Robert Melise (9-2), P, p. Sr. Michael Borja (4-9), 1:10.
285 -- So. Jervey Sistrunk (13-3), BB, p. Sr. Justen Caraballo (4-6), 3:11.
Records -- Bound Brook 3-3, 1-1; Phillipsburg 3-0, 2-0.
Referee -- Barry Jackson.