Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wrestling: High Point at Kittatinny preview

What: High Point Wildcats at Kittatinny Cougars.

Where: Kittatinny Regional High School, Hampton Twp.

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Records: High Point 13-4; Kittatinny 14-4.

Conference: Northwest Jersey Athletic (cross-divisional).

Coaches: John Gardner (319-97-2, 19th season (9-9 vs. Kitt); John Gill (547-168-5, 37th season (12-23-1 vs. HP).

Series history: High Point leads 27-13-1 dating to 1976, and has won nine of the past 11 matchups, but Kittatinny posted a 38-23 victory in last year's matchup in Wantage. The 'Cats scored a 32-31 win in the North 1, Group 2 quarterfinals in 2015 -- the first postseason meeting between the longtime rivals after no regular-season dual for the first time in series history. Kittatinny snapped a seven-match skid in the series with a 35-18 win at home in 2013. Prior to that stretch, the Cougars won seven straight from 1999-2005.

Probable lineups (High Point wrestlers listed first with season records in parentheses):

106 -- So. Brandon LaRue (22-2) vs. So. Derek Molfetto (14-12).

113 -- So. Devin Flannery (17-2) or Fr. Devon Liebl (4-1) vs. So. Mike Nelson (10-10).

120 -- Jr. Maverick Liebl (14-5) vs. Sr. Mark DiGeronimo (16-4).

126 -- Fr. Billy Talmadge (15-7) vs. So. Nile Mattar (8-15) or Jr. Dan Doherty (1-4).

132 -- Jr. RJ Brevot (4-8) vs. Jr. Perry Maio (13-11).

138 -- Jr. Shane Kobis (15-7) vs. Jr. Mike Callahan (17-11).

145 -- Jr. Trey Osborn (12-9) vs. Jr. Calvin Brook (19-7).

152 -- Sr. Trevor Kocher (6-7) or Jr. Sawyer Fenlon (2-3) vs. Sr. Kasey Hotz (16-7).

160 -- Sr. Aric Wingle (17-7) vs. Jr. Shane Smith (22-6).

170 -- So. Grayson Sabo (7-9) vs. Jr. Josh Hiler (22-5).

182 -- Sr. Matthew McDonnell (8-10) vs. Sr. Josh Klimek (23-4) or Fr. Jacob Mafaro (14-7).

195 -- Jr. Hunter Flores (11-4) vs. So. Zach Mafaro (22-5) or Klimek.

220 -- Sr. Cliff Rutter (13-4) vs. Sr. Gavin Apgar (0-4) or Z. Mafaro.

285 -- Jr. Thomas Hubmaster (12-8) vs. Jr. Chris Litterio (10-8).

Breakdown: The annual battle for Sussex County bragging rights is shaping up to be another classic. Both are coming off wins to secure division titles on Wednesday -- High Point winning the Freedom Division with a 39-24 victory over Newton, while Kittatinny nailed down another Colonial championship with a 63-10 waxing of Hopatcong. The Cougars did not wrestle Newton for the first time in series history (weather) so we can't use that match as a guide for this one. In addition, DiGeronimo and Hotz have been in and out of the lineup so Kittatinny may not be at full strength. Straight up, High Point is favored at 106, 113, 126, 138, 145 and 285. Kittatinny has the edge at 120, 132, 152, 170, 182 and 195 (Z. Mafaro). I'd call 160 and 220 (Rutter vs. J. Mafaro) tossups. The 'Cats are strong down below, while the Cougars are big-time favorites in the upper weights. Osborn scored a 3-1 win over Brook in the only head-to-head meeting between these teams at the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament. But the rematch, and the matchup at 160, will likely play a huge role in the outcome here. For the visitors, the path to success relies on getting bonus points down low -- depending on where the match starts, the 'Cats could jump out to a big lead -- and limiting the points up top. They will also need at least one win at 145, 160 and 220. If they get two, the Cougars could be in big trouble. Would Gardner bump the lineup from 113 -- inserting D. Liebl to face Nelson in order to gain an extra win from 113-132. That move could be a wash depending on how the bonus points shake out. Gill has the option of having J. Mafaro down at 182 -- he has wrestled once at that weight class -- where he'd be favored, and bumping Klimek to 195 and Z. Mafaro to 220 for a very good chance to win all three, and the possibility of winning eight bouts overall. If you're looking for a potential upset, the bout at 120 between region qualifiers should be an interesting one. M. Liebl is wrestling real well of late, while DiGeronimo, a two-time district champion, has missed some recent matches. Kittatinny likely needs two of the close ones, unless it can minimize the damage down low. In any event, this should be really tight.

Prediction: High Point, 32-31.

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