Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Wrestling: 3 takeaways from High Point-P'burg

Phillipsburg's wrestling team just completed a brutal run of five tough matches over 12 days, including four against state-ranked teams and another against archrival Easton (Pa.). So what else is new, right?

"When we made the schedule the previous season, we knew [this stretch] was going to be a grind," said Post, whose squad went 3-2 in that span with wins over Toms River North (29-28 on Jan. 16), Easton (42-22 on Jan. 23) and High Point (34-24 on Monday) and losses to North Hunterdon (30-24 on Jan. 15) and Southern (36-24 on Jan. 18). "[High Point] was supposed to be in the middle [originally slated for Saturday, Jan. 18], but it's now the bookend to it. When you wrestle in close matches, our kids know how important every takedown is. It teaches them and they learn a lot."

P'burg returns to the new gym on Saturday vs. Newton.
Those tough stretches also put the Stateliners, ranked No. 10 in the New Jersey Writers Association Top 20, in position for team success and the program's annual run at sectional and Group 4 state championships. No. 12 High Point has the same designs in Group 2 and a rugged schedule as well. That matchup on Monday night at The Pit certainly did not disappoint those who expected a tightly-contested match (Open Mike had it a seven-point margin of victory for the 'Liners).

"This one lived up to the billing," said P'burg coach and former wrestler Dave Post, now 3-0 in these "Return to The Pit" matches, which began when the new high school opened across town for the 2017-18 season.

"This place brings back a lot of memories for me personally. We had everything set up and [assistant coach Scott] Silvis and I sat in our two [customary chairs on the bench] waiting for [High Point to arrive] and he turned to me and said, 'Feels like we never left.' I'm very thankful to the [P'burg school] administration for allowing us to do this every year."

Here are three takeaways from Monday night's big independent matchup:

1. Missed it by that much

To get an idea of just how close this one was for those who didn't see it, consider that five of the 14 bouts were decided by two points or fewer -- all wins for P'burg, which High Point coach John Gardner lamented in a postmatch interview session. That stretch included a key 5-3 decision from 'Liners sophomore James Day over state qualifier Clayton Utter, who got in deep twice on double-leg takedown attempts in the final 11 seconds of their bout at 113 pounds. That win avenged a 10-3 loss to Utter last season in the Stateliners' 30-27 dual-meet victory in Wantage.

"I was really worried about the team aspect [against High Point]," Day said. "I wanted to do what I can for the team."

Post credited his wrestlers for pulling out the close ones, particularly in the third period. Sophomore David Pierson executed a reversal with 31 seconds left for a 2-1 decision over PJ Soldano at 182, senior Jacob Wicks with a takedown and two back points with 57 seconds to go en route to a 6-4 win against Sean Van Wingerden at 195, senior Cody Cruts converted a takedown with seven seconds left for a 4-2 win over Troy Van Orden at 285, and junior Logan Maczko hit a merkle to collect four decisive points in the final seconds of a 7-5 win over Charles Antcliff.

"We had a couple come-from-behind victories," Post said. "The fans are so close [to the mat] here and as a wrestler, you can start to feel the crowd and you get like this second wind. The crowd gets loud and you find this extra gear."

2. It's all about the matchups

High Point got the flip in hopes of matching up sophomore stud Brian Soldano against Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex champion Nate Zastowny at 160, but P'burg sent out James Palitto and the 'Cats were not in an advantageous position to chase Zastowny at 170. With junior Alex Buchwald coming off early-season injuries, Gardner instead opted to send out reserve sophomore Troy Tiger and the teams traded pins.

"Even winning the flip, the guys [opposing coaches sent out on the mat] dictate what happens," Gardner said. "That's why it takes 14 guys to be successful."

3. Eyes on the prize

High Point will likely be the top seed in North 1, Group 2 when the official sectional tournament pairings are released early next week following Saturday's cutoff. Phillipsburg, which was No. 2 in North 2, Group 4 this week, will most certainly have to go on the road in its bid for an eighth straight championship and the program's 39th overall with that loss to No. 1 North Hunterdon.

"We look to make a run through [team] states," Day said. "The individual goals will be put off until March."

The 'Cats, who are the overwhelming favorite in Group 2 after a runner-up finish last season, should receive a boost when junior Nick Douma returns, most likely at the start of sectional week on Monday, Feb. 10. His return will also lend some needed flexibility to the lineup as he can be inserted around 132 and enable junior Josh Gervey (132) and senior Billy Talmadge (138) to maneuver up for desired matchups with the loss of freshman Shane Woolf (145), who is out with a knee injury.

The emergence of freshman Roman Citro (103) and sophomore Charles "Chuck" Antcliff (113-120), who could be a major factor in the postseason, down low, is also good news for High Point. This gives the 'Cats, who also feature state medal contender and senior Devon Liebl (126), a formidable run from 106 through 138. Throw in Soldano, a state qualifier last season, and that's seven wrestlers who can be counted on for wins in most matches. The upper weights also look to be turning the corner as the efforts from 182 on up were good in tough losses against P'burg. Three juniors -- Sean Van WingerdenJustin Klass (220) and Troy Van Orden will be counted on heavily in 2020-21.

"We have a number of guys, like Sean Van Wingerden, Van Orden, Chuck Antcliff and Buchwald, who can compete and provide six minutes or longer," Gardner said.

No comments:

Post a Comment