Thursday, February 6, 2020

Wrestling: Innamorato, 'Liners set to make title run

Just days from the start of the team portion in the postseason, Phillipsburg's wrestling team appears to be in championship mode.

The Stateliners won 13 bouts and nearly pulled off an upset in another while cruising to a 45-3 victory over Delaware Valley in a Skyland Conference cross-divisional match on Thursday night at Phillipsburg High School.

P'burg is now 281-53-3 all-time vs. HWS opponents.
"That was a performance that tells me that we are ready to win a state title," P'burg coach Dave Post told Mike Moore of Stateliner Sports, as his team drew the No. 2 seed in North 2, Group 4 and will host No. 7 Millburn in a first-round clash on Monday after closing out the regular season against Ocean Township on Saturday. "You want to have your guys ready to rock-and-roll at this time of year and that was absolutely what we were looking for. Without one little over-collar shrug, we might have won all 14 [bouts]."

Phillipsburg (12-2), which has won 38 out of a possible 40 sectional titles in its storied history and is No. 10 in the New Jersey Writers Association Top 20, was dominant from start to finish against Del Val (15-7), which was coming off a 49-16 loss at Warren Hills this past Saturday and has now dropped 13 straight in the series with P'burg since a 42-9 victory on Feb. 1, 2006. The Terriers, who scored their fewest team points against the 'Liners since a 66-0 loss on Jan. 25, 1996, have surrendered 52 takedowns while converting 18 in their last two matches, as P'burg enjoyed a 26-7 advantage -- none bigger than a last-second conversion by sophomore Joey Innamorato, a returning district champion, in his 2-1 victory over Del Val senior Gage Crater, a two-time district runner-up who entered the marquee matchup with 99 career wins, at 126 pounds.

"We looked really good on our feet," said Post, now 10-0 against Del Val and 159-25 overall in his 10 seasons in charge. "We were very confident and got to our tie-ups. Everybody has their own go-to leg attack Can you control the tie-ups and make sure that you get your position where you fire off your attack. We were getting to our underhooks. We were clearing ties off when we weren't in good tie-ups. Just capitalizing when we weren't waiting too long. Once you get to your hook, you got to get going."

Innamorato (20-6), who took bottom and was unable to get out in the second period, let Crater up to start the third period. Crater, now 99-37 overall, got in on a single-leg attempt with 22 seconds left on the clock, but Innamorato fought it off and was able to get behind Crater for a takedown with just 2.1 seconds to go.

"When you get ridden out, that's a thing where you can hang your head and easily say this match is over," Post said. "Our guys want to come and fight when they're on the mat and that's exactly what we did."

Another P'burg highlight, despite a loss, was the performance by sophomore Sean Stasiulaitis, who dropped a 7-5 decision to Del Val senior Derek Schepens, a fourth-place finisher in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament at 106 pounds. Tied at 4 after two periods, Schepens (18-12) scored a takedown off a standing shrug -- his third takedown overall and second off that move -- in the third period for the winning points. Sophomore James Day followed with a major decision at 113 as the Stateliners won the final eight bouts to close out the program's 987th victory.

"We were not that close with him at Pin Cancer [a 10-4 loss], but we were right there [tonight]," Post said. "Great leg attacks, just a little bit tentative when we got to the collar. Had we fired off those attacks, like the takedown [in the second period] that we got, we would have finished a lot higher percentage."

Phillipsburg, now 38-6 overall against Del Val in a series dating to 1975, even prevailed in the upper weights where the Terriers rated a slight favorite in a few bouts. Sophomores Nate Zastowny (170), who opened the match with a 16-second pin, and David Pierson (182) staked the 'Liners to a 9-0 lead before senior Jacob Wicks posted a 2-1 win over HWS Tournament runner-up Zach Zuchowski at 195. Junior Gage Horvath followed with a 6-1 decision against Nick Moose -- his second win in two meetings this season -- at 220, while senior heavyweight Cody Cruts used a pair of third-period takedowns for a 6-3 victory over Ryan Sutter, who dropped a 5-3 decision when they met at Pin Cancer, as the 'Liners seized an 18-0 lead through five bouts.

"Just the tenacity we wrestled with, I don't think we took a second off, Post said. "We tell the kids all the time that you only get six minutes to showcase your stuff. Why go out there and waste time? You have to believe that you're in good enough shape that you can wrestle hard for six minutes, and even if you give up a score, you're going to come back."

170 -- So. Nate Zastowny (24-5), P, p. Sr. Nick Ferri (7-8), :16.
182 -- So. David Pierson (18-10), P, d. Sr. Matt Zdepski (7-15), 3-0.
195 -- Sr. Jacob Wicks (21-8), P, d. Sr. Zach Zukowski (17-9), 2-1.
220 -- Jr. Gage Horvath (19-9), P, d. Sr. Nick Moose (19-11), 6-1.
285 -- Sr. Cody Cruts (20-7), P, d. Sr. Ryan Sutter (11-4), 6-3.
106 -- Sr. Derek Schepens (18-12), DV, d. So. Sean Stasiulaitis (10-13), 7-5.
113 -- So. James Day (22-6), P, md. So. Robert Groogan (15-13), 12-4.
120 -- Jr. Logan Maczko (16-6), P, md. Jr. Cooper Gill (18-11), 11-1.
126 -- So. Joey Innamorato (20-6), P, d. Sr. Gage Crater (25-5), 2-1.
132 -- Jr. Jason Tino (17-12), P, d. Sr. Chase Christie (15-14), 7-1.
138 -- Fr. Hunter Cleaver (5-6), P, d. Jr. Corey Crater (16-14), 8-6.
145 -- Sr. Jared Kukor (16-9), P, md. Sr. Shane Reynolds (15-12), 11-3.
152 -- So. Matt D'Onofrio (16-11), P, d. Fr. Garett Tettemer (19-9), 4-2.
160 -- So. James Palitto (4-3), P, d. Jr. Tyler Lagun (9-11), 3-1.
Records -- Phillipsburg 12-2; Delaware Valley 15-7.
Officials -- Frank Leitner and Mike Internoscia.

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