With a dual meet whose outcome could likely determine the Greater Middlesex Conference White Division championship tied through nine bouts, a marquee showdown between two of the state’s top 126 pounders was understandably nixed.
Bishop Ahr bumped incumbent third-place NJSIAA Tournament finisher Kyle Brady away from returning state qualifier Sal Profaci, a move that put the Trojans in a six-point hole which they quickly erased by winning the final four bouts en route to Friday night’s 41-25 victory.
“I would love to see Kyle and Profaci wrestle,” Bishop Ahr coach Nick Tonzola said of the friendly rivals, who last met in October at the Ironhorse with Profaci winning by decision.
“They are in our county and they are in our region (both wrestlers will drop to 120 pounds for the postseason). I’m sure I will see it. Today it was about the team. Kyle and his family understood and supported the decision. The guys rallied around it and we won. That’s unselfish on Kyle’s part and he went out there and did his job.”
After Profaci pinned Tyler Underwood at 126 pounds to give the Falcons a 25-19 lead, Brady responded with a pin of Anthony Aversano to knot the score.
The McCrystal brothers – Greg and Brian – followed with a pin and major decision, respectively, while teammate Eddie Abouhayla closed the dual with a pin to produce the final margin as Bishop Ahr (6-3) won its fifth straight.
“That’s a move we had to make,” Brady said of bumping away from Profaci. “It would have been nice for the fans to see and all of us to see. In that situation, we had to let them get the points and then us get the points back because you don’t know what’s going to happen at the next weight. It was just better team-wise and helped get us some momentum to go into the last four bouts.”
Bishop Ahr put itself in position to win the dual, which began at 160 pounds, by inserting Devin Michael at 170, a move that allowed the Trojans to bump at 182 through 220.
Jake Seider (195) and Tom Cardaci (220) responded with a pin and a decision, respectively, over Pat Dressel and Nick Goff, enabling Bishop Ahr to take a 12-10 lead, one of four lead changes on the night.
“Bumping up, you are still expected to go out there and get the victory,” said Cardaci, who was quick to deflect attention from himself and Seider. “Overall it was the whole team stepping up.”
Bishop Ahr won nine bouts and limited bonus points, especially at 170 and 120 pounds where Michael and Pat Passintino lost by major decision and decision, respectively, to Wesley Glessman and Chris Muce.
“All the credit goes to their kids tonight,” Monroe coach Bill Jacoutot said. “They won some of the swing matches (160 and 106) and even their kids where we thought we could get bonus points did a great job of shaving.”
Jon Black opened the dual with a gutsy 2-1 decision over Quincy Charleston in which he wrestled the final 50 seconds on a bum left knee. One of the many walking wounded on Bishop Ahr’s roster at the start of the season, Black injured his knee in the season-opener against Old Bridge.
Two-time defending division champion Bishop Ahr will likely win its third consecutive crown with a victory over J.F. Kennedy on Jan. 17.
Competing without incumbent region qualifier Alli Raja (113/120 pounds), the Mustangs dropped a 39-27 decision to Monroe last month. They can create a three-way tie atop the division with a win over Bishop Ahr. Brady could square off against incumbent state runner-up Carl Buttitta in that dual.
J.F. Kennedy coach Bill Deniz, meaning no disrespect to the Trojans, squarely placed a target on Monroe’s back last month when he said the Falcons “are going to win it (the division title).”
Tonzola said that statement coupled with the Home News Tribune’s rankings – Monroe is No. 4 and Bishop Ahr is No. 6 – allowed his team to enter the division dual in the unusual position of underdog. The role emboldened him to bump the lineup.
“You’ve got to win seven bouts and then out-bonus,” Tonzola said. “So you try to find the best seven matchups. So in every lineup you look to make moves. When you are an underdog it’s easier to make moves because if they backfire you are an underdog. When you’re a favorite or are supposed to win you can make a move that costs you matches.”
Jacoutot said he and his assistant coaches mapped the dual out before hand and never felt they should win on paper.
“I don’t know that we were favored,” he said. “They’ve been around for a while and they’ve got some seasoned kids in their lineup.”