There were no frayed nerves for Jacob Bell, even as it was becoming clear that the Ocean senior would be bumping up a weight class Wednesday and that his bout would also determine whether the Spartans would advance in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III tournament.
“I like going last. I like the responsibility. I always say, if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself,” Bell said.
Bell delivered a highlight-reel performance in a decision over Hopewell Valley’s Ian Butler at heavyweight, helping the Spartans to a 31-26 victory. Ocean, the defending section champion, faces top-seeded Brick in the final Friday.
Bell, a standout at 220 this season after placing third in the districts a year ago, used speed and versatility to score in the first period, catching Butler in a single, switching to high crotch, and then completing the takedown with a double.
That put Bell (28-3) on his way to a 6-2 decision.
“You got to do something to get opponents moving and if you do, stuff opens up,” he said.
Butler wasted position in the second period by staying too high on Bell, giving Bell the opportunity to pop his hips to escape. In the third period Bell scored again, missing on a Merkle but salvaging a half to take a 6-0 lead.
“He’s a hammer for us,” Ocean coach Cippy Apicelli said of Bell.
Ocean (20-5) had started the night on the right foot when 106-pounder John Benner grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat. Benner was down 3-2 to Austin Roskos by escaped with 30 seconds left and hung on for a 4-3 decision.
Orion Rovegno at 152 and Tommy Lyster at 182 were among those who delivered welcomed bonus points for the Spartans and Tyler Thompson did a credible job of not yielding a bonus point. Thompson scored late to hold Evan Carlton to a 7-1 decision. Rovegno scored with 10 seconds left to major Dan Lee and Lyster pinned Ward Taggert at 1:53.
The Spartans led throughout but their advantage was only 28-21 heading into the final two bouts, with undefeated Mike Markulec of Hopewell Valley (16-2) an obstacle at 220.
“I had to bump out my heavyweight and make a move there,” Apicelli said. “We won the toss and I had to make a decision and I moved (Bell) away from Markulic. I had to do what was best for our team. I would have loved to put Bell on him and (Dan Arias, who has a 17-13 record) on the heavyweight. If we were up 13 points, it doesn’t matter, but in this case it was too risky because if somebody gives up bonus points, we lose on tiebreakers.”
“Plus I felt really confident that Bell was going to get us a win,” the coach added.
Ocean’s section championship in 2012 ended a drought. The Spartans won titles five consecutive years through 2008.
“We have another chance. We have to keep wrestling like we are,” Bell said.