Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Jacob Wicks honors family's lofty wrestling name

LOPATCONG TWP. -- Imagine what it's been like for Phillipsburg junior Jacob Wicks to traverse the wrestling circles -- with his father considered to be one of the all-time greats among upper weights in this area and throughout New Jersey?

Jamie Wicks still has people talking nearly 31 years after he won his second state title for Delaware Valley. Anyone who saw him will never forget his hulking frame and raw power, a fierce competitor looking to hit those big throws. That's a mighty high bar for any young wrestler.

But Jacob Wicks, who also competes in the upper weights at 182 pounds despite weighing in at 172.7 the morning of the District 13 Tournament, scoffs at even the slightest comparison to his dad.

Jacob Wicks (left) and Travis Jones at the HWS Tournament.
"I'm not even close to his level of experience and beast mode," Jacob said while trying to hold back laughter shortly after winning his first district title on Saturday at Phillipsburg High School.

"I've been trying my best."

Wicks is among an area-high 12 qualifiers for Phillipsburg in the Region 4 Tournament that  begins on Thursday night at Union High School. Seven champs, including Wicks, received first-round byes into Friday's quarterfinals. The top four wrestlers at each weight class advance to the 86th State Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Jamie Wicks, a two-time state champion at 171 pounds (1987-88) who earned the Outstanding Wrestler Award following his 4-2 win over Union's Larry Guarino -- his finals opponent the previous season -- in '88, was a three-time district and two-time region champion. He is still Del Val's all-time winning percentage leader with a career mark of 92-5 (.948).

Jacob added his name to the family list of district titles with a 5-0 win over Woodbridge senior Yusuf Elbayar. After two years toiling on the junior varsity level and with no varsity bouts entering this season, Wicks (23-13), a high energy and extremely likable young man who weighed 193 over the summer, emerged as a key contributor to the Stateliners' run to a sixth straight sectional title and Group 4 finals appearance.

"He's been such a huge surprise," coach Dave Post said following the team's 30-24 win over North Hunterdon back on Jan. 16, in which Wicks was pinned late by Nathaniel Fossett. "He started out at 145 last year and we moved him all over the place [on JV]. He went undefeated on JV. We knew he could be good. He's a great kid."

How did Jacob Wicks get that good? Maybe it was those secret video sessions watching his father dominate in high school.

"I actually found them in a closet, he doesn't know I watch them as much as I do," Jacob said. "He only caught me once."

Jamie Wicks is one of the most humble individuals you'll ever come across. I got the chance to know him a bit when he was inducted into the Region 1 Hall of Fame several years back at Wallkill Valley, and you'd never know what a great athlete he was on the mat just by having a conversation with him. He's also kept a low profile at Jacob's matches. But Jamie has offered his son some valuable advice.

"He says he sees a lot of him in me -- the way I attack and am always moving forward," said Jacob, who also bears a strong facial resemblance to his dad. "He always says, 'The best defense is a great offense.'

Jamie Wicks wanted his son to be a multi-sport athlete, but Jacob felt that wasn't going to work if he wanted to wrestle at a higher level. So he gave up football. That proved to be a good move.

"I made the decision to just wrestle," Jacob said. "I want to improve."

Improve he has, so much so that Wicks' opponents have taken notice. Kittatinny senior Zach Mafaro, a sixth-place finisher in last year's state tournament who won his third district title on Saturday, paid Wicks, arguably the most improved Stateliner since the season began, a compliment following their first meeting -- a 3-2 win for Mafaro on Jan. 10 at The Pit.

"He said I came out of nowhere," said Wicks, who was pinned in 59 seconds in their rematch at the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament finals two days later. "He said I was really strong for a little guy, and he'd be seeing me later on [in the season] at states."

Wicks, a No. 6 seed in Region 4, isn't content with that district title. He'll look to earn that first trip to Atlantic City this week, starting with a quarterfinal matchup against Westfield senior Tim Miller (23-5), a District 14 runner-up.

"It's nice to win one [district title]," Wicks said. "I just want to make it to states -- and place next year."

Region 4 first-round results
(Phillipsburg and Voorhees wrestlers)

106 -- Jr. Josh Rich (26-13, D14-2), Voorhees, p. Fr. Anthony Bistany (23-7, D14-3), St. Joseph-Metuchen, 3:05.
113 -- Fr. James Day (28-11, D13-3), Phillipsburg, d. So. Dylan Kolakowski (19-15, D15-2), Watchung Hills, 13-6.
120 -- Sr. Aidan Taylor (31-9, D14-2), Voorhees, d. Sr. Ken Beck (22-14, D15-3), Middlesex-Dunellen, 11-6.
126 -- Sr. Bryce Parenti (25-13, D13-2), Phillipsburg, p. So. Jack Murray (19-15, D15-3), Watchung Hills, 3:31.
126 -- Sr. Hunter Rinehart (33-7, D14-2), Voorhees, md. Fr. Jaimen Bryant (22-11, D13-3), Somerville, 16-8.
132 -- Sr. Travis Jones (33-4, D13-2), Phillipsburg, tf. Sr. Will Kauffman (20-15, D13-3), Bernards, 16-0, 4:40.
145 -- Sr. Shaeed Greene (30-8, D13-3), Plainfield, d. Sr. Luke Hardin (11-20, D13-2), Phillipsburg, 9-2.
170 -- Sr. Matt Brandner (31-6, D14-2), Voorhees, p. Sr. Jesse Fornes (31-8, D16-3), Elizabeth, 2:24.
285 -- Jr. Cody Cruts (14-20, D13-3), Phillipsburg, p. Sr. Krystian Pasek (18-17, D16-2), Linden, 5:25.

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