Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wrestling: Atlantic City by the numbers

Let's go inside the numbers for the 84th New Jersey State Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall:

41 -- Number of wins for Lenape Valley senior Nick Palumbo -- the most victories for any wrestler in this year's field. Palumbo (41-0), the top seed at 145 pounds and who finished third last season at 145, looks to become his school's fourth state finalist and its first champion. Patriots coach Doug Vetter (1990), along with Chris Ressa (2001) and D.J. Russo ('06), were runners-up for the Sussex County school.

20 -- Palumbo is also among 20 unbeaten wrestlers in this year's tournament, along with Rutherford's Omar Abdelhamid (39-0 at 152), Northern Highlands' Shane Sosinsky (39-0 at 182), Delbarton's Patrick Glory (38-0 at 120), Woodstown's Travis Layton (38-0 at 138), Bound Brook's Mekhi Lewis (38-0 at 160), Gateway-Woodbury's Dante Mininno (38-0 at 106), Howell's Shane Reitsma (38-0 at 170), Woodstown's Chad Watt (38-0 at 195), Lacey's Hunter Gutierrez (37-0 at 106), St. Joseph-Hammonton's Michael Mascioli (36-0 at 220), Wall's Joseph McKenzie (35-0 at 195), Toms River South's Cole Corrigan (33-0 at 145), Union City's Elyezer Oliviery (33-0 at 285), East Brunswick's Mitchell Polito (33-0 at 113), Brick Memorial's Gianni Ghione (32-0 at 132) and Nick Rivera (31-0 at 285), Rahway's Rhise Royster (32-0 at 126), Cinnaminson's Keith Swartley (32-0 at 285) and Cranford's Alex Esposito (29-0 at 285).

10 -- Regions 2 and 5 had the most returning state placewinners competing in those tournaments the past weekend with 10 in each, including state champions Gerard Angelo (138) and Shane Griffith (152) of Bergen Catholic, as well as Paramus' Kyle Cochran (160) and DePaul's Brandon Kui (182), housed in Region 2. Returning champs Stephan Glasgow (152) and Mekhi Lewis (160) of Bound Brook were among the state medalists in Region 5. Region 3 was next with nine, while no other region had more than six. Phillipsburg senior Robert Melise, who was second at 220 last year, is looking to add his name to the Stateliners' list of state champs, which stands at 33. Brandon Hull is the last, winning at 220 in 2012. The Warren County school ranks fourth all-time on the list of champions behind Newton (82), Washington/Warren Hills (46) and Union (40).

8 -- Griffth is among eight returning champions -- four are from non-public schools -- and will look to three-peat at Boardwalk Hall -- winning at 132 pounds as a freshman and 138 as a sophomore. Don Bosco Prep's Eric Chakonis will aim to repeat at 285, while Seneca's Joe Manchio, who won at 106 pounds last year, returns at 113.

7 -- Hanover Park is one of 10 schools with seven state champions in their program's history. The Morris County school advanced six of its wrestlers out of Region 3 -- including talented sophomore Nick Raimo, a state runner-up last season and a major contender for this year's 126-pound title, as is Brick Memorial's Ghione at 132. Last year, Raimo scored a 9-3 win over Ghione in the quarterfinals before knocking off Angelo, 3-1, in the semis. Angelo was the last champ for Hanover Park -- winning at 106 in 2015.

47 -- Pope John leads the way with seven wrestlers as the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area will have 47 representatives this weekend at Boardwalk Hall. Hunterdon Central is next with six, while P'burg has five qualifiers, followed by Voorhees with four. Speaking of the Vikes, congrats to former state champion John Brienza, who was the school's last winner at 130 pounds in 1998, on his induction into the Region 5 Hall of Fame on Saturday. He was a four-time district and a region champ in '98, while compiling a career mark of 115-11 from 1994-98. Well deserved and long overdue.

36 -- It's been seven years since Hunterdon County produced a state champion -- Hunterdon Central's Alex Shaffer was the 36th and last in 2010 -- but could this be the year to end the drought? Delaware Valley junior Kyle Lightner (195) figures to be a contender as the Terriers, who haven't had a finalist since Bobby Stevely in 2010, look to get their ninth champ overall and first since Dan Kelly won at 112 pounds in 2007.

23 -- Atlantic City will host the state tournament for a 23rd time this year -- one more than Princeton University's Jadwin Gym (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 Bergen with 119, passing Sussex (113) for second place with six winners in 2016. Ethan Orr is the last Sussex winner after capping High Point's amazing four-champion run in '11. Warren County ranks fourth with 85, followed by Somerset (63), Ocean (62), Morris (61), Gloucester (59), Camden (57), Middlesex (41), Monmouth (39), Hunterdon (36), Essex (34), Burlington (26), Passaic (23), Atlantic (20), Cumberland (12), Salem (8), Hudson (7), Cape May and Mercer (4).

1,002 -- Total number of state champions in New Jersey history. Last year, Bergen Catholic's Nick Suriano, now at Penn State, became No. 1,000 in winning his fourth title. This year's tournament is the 84th 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 champions. The last for the Braves was Andy Iliff, who won his second title in 1987. Now a coach at his alma, mater, Iliff was named the Region 2 assistant coach of the year on Saturday.

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