EGG HARBOR TWP.
For Josh Pineda and Steven Bergamo, now it’s on to the unknown.
Both Vineland High School sophomore wrestlers advanced Friday night in the Region 8 Tournament with quarterfinal wins at Egg Harbor Township High School. They will both wrestle in today’s semifinals at 10 a.m. The top three placewinners in each weight class advance to next weekend’s state tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The two Fighting Clan grapplers were certainly excited about moving on.
“It’s great, last year I didn’t make it this far, I was out the first round, and right now I just feel pumped,” Pineda said.
“It feels great, I love it, I love this feeling,” Bergamo said.
Pineda won 1-0 over Lower Cape May’s Eric Pruszinski at 106 pounds. A locked-hands call was the only scoring. But Pineda had to fight off a tilt for almost the entire duration of the second period to keep from falling behind.
“I was holding it and I thought he got me,” Pineda said. “I was worried. At that point, I have to use all my strength to get out of that move. If I don’t, he wins the match.”
Bergamo stepped on the same mat as his teammate immediately following Pineda’s win. He reversed Delsea’s Tom Carney and scored a fall in 2 minutes, 32 seconds at 113. The match was scoreless at the time.
“I felt his hips drop,” Bergamo said. “I stepped back, just caught his leg, and sat back, hoping for the defensive pin. Then he squirmed away and I got right on top of him and held him right there.”
Bergamo said Pineda’s win fired him up for his match.
“Seeing him go out there and win got me all pumped up,” Bergamo said. “Then I’m just going out there off his momentum and continuing it.”
Bergamo beat Carney 5-1 in the district finals just a week ago.
“I was a little nervous going in there knowing he wants to come back and beat me,” Bergamo said. “I figured he was coming back strong so I knew I had to step it up.”
Both Pineda and Bergamo reached regions last year, but failed to win a match in the preliminary round. That experience played a role Friday.
“Last year when I came here, I was nervous, it was my first time ever at regions,” Bergamo said. “This time, I just came in calm. I think that was the key.”
Bergamo, the third seed, will face second-seeded Jodeci Robinson of Clayton in the semifinals. Pineda has top-seeded Patrick D’Arcy of Holy Spirit next. They’re both trying to become the first Vineland wrestler to reach states since 2003.
Both Millville wrestlers are still alive in the tournament too, advancing to the semifinals. Ed Shockley was a 6-0 winner over Diego Gonzalez of Gloucester at 195 and Obi Kali won 11-5 over Pitman’s Will Cioffi of Pitman at 220.
Shockley is making his third appearance at regions, but Friday night’s win was his first victory at the tournament.
“I’m so hungry this year it’s not even funny,” Shockley said. “I’m done settling for getting to regions, I’m not even settling for getting to states, I want to place at states. I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
Buena has two wrestlers still alive in the semifinals as well. Top-seeded Billy Ward pinned his way through at 126. At 113, Luis Rivera also pinned, decking Absegami’s Yanni Patsaros.
“It meant a lot to get that win because I was really nervous for my first region match,” Rivera said.
Ward, who is going for his fourth region title, has Schalick’s Newt Richardson in the semifinals. Rivera has top-seeded and defending champion John Amato of Timber Creek.
Richardson won 5-3 over Washington Township’s Dylan LaPalomento in what many considered to be an upset. It is the third straight year Richardson has advanced to the semifinals.
“To be back there again, I just know I need to keep improving and keep to my game plan,” Richardson said.
After placing fourth in each of his first two trips to regions and barely missing out on a trip to states, Richardson is stoked for the chance to go to A.C.
“That’s been the motivation that I’ve had throughout the entire year, making it to states,” Richardson said.
St. Augustine’s Jarred Hodges had one of the biggest upsets of the night, knocking off top-seeded Steven Passarella of Washington Township 3-2 at 132. Hodges was one of three Hermits to advance to the semifinals, joining Tom Gattinella (120) and Tyler Sentman (170).
Delsea has three wrestlers left in the semifinals as John Hennelly (152), Dylan Dobzanski (170) and Bryan Dobzanski (220) — all won Friday.