Monday, February 27, 2017

Wrestling: Regions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 by the numbers

We're nearing the end of the high school season, but before we start to focus on the 84th State Championships in Atlantic City, let's take a look at some of the highlights from the five region tournaments that house teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area.

47 -- We have that many wrestlers from Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex moving on to next weekend's state tournament, including seven from Pope John, In all, 16 advanced out of Region 1, while Region 3 produced 11. Over in Region 5, Hunterdon Central and Delaware Valley combined for nine qualifiers, while Region 4 had seven between North Hunterdon and Voorhees, leaving four to come out of Region 2 with Hopatcong and Lenape Valley.

12 -- Lenape Valley ace Nick Palumbo is among the 11 region champions from the area -- winning his first title at 145 pounds in Region 2 at Mount Olive. Palumbo (41-0), who is the lone unbeaten wrestler in the area, is the 12th champion for the Patriots and first since Matt Benvenuto in 2013.

Robert Melise was the OW at Region 3.
120 -- Speaking of champions, Phillipsburg now has 120 overall after junior Brian Meyer (145) and senior Robert Melise (220) won their second consecutive titles, as the 'Liners advanced an area-best five wrestlers in the new-look Region 3 Tournament at West Orange High School. Melise, a state finalist last season, earned the Outstanding Wrestler Award, steamrolling the field with three pins in a total of 3 minutes, 58 seconds. They are also just the fourth and fifth Stateliners to go back-to-back since 2000 -- joining current coach Dave Post (2002-03), Jon Gregory (2005-06) and Brandon Paetzell (2013-14). Matt Lane won two non-consecutive titles in 2009 and '11, while Paetzell got his third in '16.

14 -- Hackettstown junior Alex Carida continued his strong postseason run by winning the 138-pound title at Region 3 -- becoming the Tigers' 14th champion. Carida (37-2), who also won his first district title a week earlier, is five wins shy of becoming the 11th wrestler at the Warren County school to reach 100, as heads to Atlantic City for a second straight season with a career mark of 95-24.

5 -- Pope John cleaned up at Region 1, crowning a school-record five champions and advancing seven wrestlers -- the most of an school in the Open Mike area -- to AC. Freshman Eddie Ventresca (113), sophomore Robert Garcia (132) and juniors Jake Rotunda (126) and Reece Mulduun (160) all won their first titles, while sophomore JoJo Aragona (120), who ended the program's 11-year drought last season, is the first to repeat since Devin Perez (2002-03). It's also the most champions in a single season for the Sussex County school since 1975, when Steve Opitz, John Frick, Ted Hawke and Hugh Albora won for the Lions, who now have 23 overall.

43 -- Delaware Valley ended its three-year drought without a champion as junior Kyle Lightner won the 195-pound championship at Region 5. The Terriers advanced three wrestlers as seniors Connor Mills (132) and Matt Kolonia (138) finished fourth and second, respectively. Lightner, who looks to become the school's first state finalist since 2010 (Bobby Stevely at 125), should be in contention to finish high on the podium in AC, is the seventh winner under coach Andy Fitz in his 10 seasons at the helm of his alma mater.

3 -- Voorhees has had its share of talented brothers over the years, but senior Michael Fernandes (160), junior Scott Fernandes (182) and sophomore Lewis Fernandes (195) could eventually rank among the best. The quality trio were among the top-four finishers in their weight classes at Region 4. Michael and Lewis were finalists, while Scott placed fourth at Union High School.

96 -- Hunterdon Central had some tough luck in the championship round at Region 5, but senior Victor Lacombe came through with his second straight title at 220 and the program's 96th overall. Jack Bauer (113), Hunter Graf (120), Peter Nace (126) and Michael Iodice (182) all finished second, while Bryce Hall (138) took third to give the Red Devils six state qualifiers.

70 -- North Hunterdon didn't get its 71st champion overall, but junior Andrew Gapas (132) and senior Charlie Tordik (285) finished fourth, while senior Cole Marra (152) finished third for the Lions. Tordik (32-2), the HWS champ at heavyweight, took his first two losses of the season.

46 -- For only the third time since 2005, High Point did not have a champion in Region 1, but the 'Cats are sending three wrestlers to Atlantic City as sophomores Brandon LaRue (106) and Devin Flannery (113) and junior Shane Kobis (138) will make their first trips to states after runner-up finishes in the region. Head coach John Gardner (1987-90) and assistant Billy Smith (2010-11) combined to win six regions titles at the Sussex County school and it shouldn't be long until it adds more names to the list of 46 region winners.

20 -- Sparta has enjoyed one of its best seasons in recent years and a big reason why it won the program's first sectional title in 17 years is a talented group of upper weights -- led by state qualifiers Robert Gennat (195) and Zach Herbert (285), who finished second and third, respectively in Region 1. The Spartans will look to break an 11- year run without a region champ -- Phil Takacs-Senske was their last and 20th overall in 2007 -- next season.

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