Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wrestling: Hardin helps 'Liners surge past Streaks

LOPATCONG TWP. -- It was nice to be home again for Phillipsburg's wrestling team.

The Stateliners won 11 bouts, including five pins and a major decision, as they rolled to a 49-12 win over Warren Hills in their first home dual meet of the season on Wednesday night at Phillipsburg High School.

Phillipsburg improved to 59-14 all-time vs. the Streaks.
"We thought we could win 12 bouts, and we almost did," said P'burg coach Dave Post, who perhaps was most pleased with one of the losses as freshman Joey Innamorato dropped a 4-3 decision to Blue Streaks junior Greg Slivka at 120 pounds.

Phillipsburg (3-0), which has now won 33 straight against Warren Hills (5-1) since a pair of losses in 1990, will enjoy competing at home through Jan. 12, as it next hosts Raritan (Thursday) and Monroe (Saturday) in a pair of independent matchups to cap this week.

"It was nice to be wrestling in our home gym," said senior Luke Hardin, whose 11-6 upset-win over Logan Nauta at 138 pounds fueled a nine-match run for P'burg that ended when Post opted to forfeit the final bout at 220.

Senior Bryce Parenti's pin at 126 gave the 'Liners a 12-6 lead they would not relinquish after splitting the first four bouts, while senior TJ Abode's pin at 160 clinched it with four bouts left.

Here are four takeaways from the Stateliners' dominating performance in the 73rd meeting with Warren Hills.

1. Uppers carry their weight

Phillipsburg finished with a 25-7 edge in takedowns, including six by junior Jacob Wicks in a 14-5 major of freshman Tyler McCatharn at 182. Wicks (7-4), who did not wrestle a varsity bout during his two previous seasons, secured his final takedown with five seconds left in the third period for the major. The son of two-time Delaware Valley state champion Jamie Wicks is part of an ever improving set of upper weights, which was a question for P'burg heading into the 2018-19 season as it bids for a sixth straight Group 4 title.

"The guys have gotten a lot better," said Post, who also saw freshman David Pierson hit a four-point move with 57 seconds left for a come-from-behind 7-6 win over district runner-up Nick Hildebrant, while senior Austin Roth registered a first-period pin at 195. "We took a ton of shots [as a team]. Our percentage of scoring wasn't as good as it could have been, and we weren't getting in clean on our leg attempts. But we were aggressive from start to finish. Getting those takedowns with five seconds left only happens when you've been in the grinds before."

2. Streaks can't capitalize

The night began with promise for Warren Hills as senior Duro Ajayi dominated Cody Cruts for an 11-4 win in the opening bout at 285. Ajayi, who collected four of his team's takedowns, including a four-point move at the edge early on, missed his chance for a major decision as Cruts escaped with 37 seconds left in the third period. It was that kind of night for coach Dave Sbriscia's team, which lost two bouts in which it rated as a favorite at 138 and 170, while needing to hang on late for another at 120 as Slivka gave up an escape and nearly a takedown in the final 11 seconds against Innamorato.

"We didn't wrestle smart," Sbriscia said. "We were behind the 8-ball wrestling Phillipsburg. In matches where we were favored, we did things to lose."

3. Schedule paying off for 'Liners

Phillipsburg is already reaping the benefits of opening its season in the rugged King of the Mountain and Bethlehem Holiday Classics. Don't be deceived by some of the Stateliner records, having faced the kind of competition has gotten this team battle tested early on and it showed in this one. Case in point was 120, where Innamorato (3-5) gave Slivka (9-2) all he could handle in a tight loss, while Hardin totally controlled the matchup with Nauta, scoring four in the first period and getting three takedowns to none. He was in position for a major until Nauta, who chose top down 11-3 after two periods, got a turn for three back points in the closing seconds.

"I wrestled two really good kids in the [Bethlehem] Holiday Classic," said Hardin, who dropped 8-7 decisions to Joe Dolak of Parkland (Pa.) and Alec Schrum of North Penn. "I know I can beat good kids. [Assistant] coach [John] Horak has been pushing me in the [practice] room, telling me that I'm as good as anyone. I've been working on my [single-leg takedown]. I know I have a good single. I'm just treating every [opponent] the same and wrestle as hard as I can."

"We needed those bouts at 120 and 138 to come out and show something," Post said. "They've had a hard time finding their mojo."

4. Culture club

Sbriscia wasn't putting any of the blame for a tough loss on his team's early schedule, which included five lopsided wins in duals against North Warren, Voorhees, Cresskill, Mahwah and Demarest.

"I wish I could say we wrestled tough," the first-year coach said. "The message we've been harping on is being physical and toughness. I didn't see that tonight. That's not what's expected at Warren Hills. To change that mentality is going to take a little bit of time. We needed to wrestle better tonight. The days of saying, 'Hey it's P'burg against Warren Hills,' isn't going to happen anymore. That's the only way to change the culture and change the expectations."


285 -- Sr. Duro Ajayi (11-1), WH, d. Jr. Cody Cruts (4-6), 11-4.
106 -- Fr. James Day (12-5), P, d. Fr. Jared Lee (7-4), 3-0.
113 -- So. Logan Maczko (8-5), P, d. Fr. Noah DiNapoli (8-4), 10-4.
120 -- Jr. Greg Slivka (9-2), WH, d. Fr. Joey Innamorato (3-5), 4-3.
126 -- Sr. Bryce Parenti (11-5), P, p. Fr. Stephen Malia (5-3), 4:12.
132 -- Sr. Travis Jones (9-2), P, p. Jr. Nick Gorab (5-8), 1:42.
138 -- Sr. Luke Hardin (3-5), P, d. Jr. Logan Nauta (7-6), 11-6.
145 -- Sr. Kyle Tino (9-6), P, d. Sr. Chris Ostir (8-4), 7-4.
152 -- Sr. Cody Harrison (8-1), P, p. Jr. Geir Nemeth (5-7), 1:43.
160 -- Sr. TJ Abode (7-5), P, p. Fr. Caden Crawford (0-1), 1:43.
170 -- Fr. David Pierson (5-5), P, d. Jr. Nick Hildebrant (6-4), 7-6.
182 -- Jr. Jacob Wicks (7-4), P, md. Fr. Tyler McCatharn (6-5), 14-5.
195 -- Sr. Austin Roth (8-4), P, p. So. Logan Polcari (5-6), 1:29.
220 -- Sr. Nick Galka (9-2), WH, forfeit.
Records -- Warren Hills 5-1; Phillipsburg 3-0.
Official -- Joe Rossetti.

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