It’s been a long, tough road for the Hanover Park wrestling team.
But now the Hornets can finally say it: They are Section 2, Group I champions once again.
Hanover Park stormed out to a 22-0 lead on Caldwell and the Hornets then stayed off their backs on the way to a 35-25 victory in the sectional finals against Caldwell.
Hanover Park dominated on its feet in the early going and avoided giving up bonus points later on in the match on the way to the victory.
Coach James LaValle’s team will make a return trip to Toms River North High School for the state Group I championships Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The Hornets will face Kittatinny, which defeated Lenape Valley in Section 1 last night.
“This is definitely cool,” said Hanover’s 126-pounder Gennaro Cuccolo, who had a 21-9 major over Vincent Helfer. “We lost some good kids from last year’s team and we had to rebuild, but we did it. We worked pretty much from Thanksgiving on to get here.”
“This is a great feeling,” added 170-pound Anthony Bassolino, who had nine takedowns in a 19-6 win over Nick Sibilia. “It’s nice to be able to go back-to-back. Getting back to Toms River was our goal. We set goals in the beginning of the season and that was one of them.”
The Hanover match started at 120 and that was a preview of what would take place in the coming weights, when the Hornets completely controlled the match on their feet.
Hanover built a 22-0 lead at one point and, while the Hornets were able to rack up bonus points in the lower and middle weights, Caldwell’s more established upper weights couldn’t.
After the Hornets built a 22-point lead Caldwell could get no closer than seven points at 26-19 after Joe Bongo’s 3-2 win over Will Julich at 220 pounds.
But Hanover clinched the match at 285, when Nick LaShell won by forfeit to make it 32-19 with two bouts to go.
“This feels real good,” said LaValle, the former three-time state champ in his first year as head coach. “I’m proud of every one of the guys. Some kids got us points, some kids saved us points. Everything we worked for went our way.”
Hanover state champion Anthony Cefolo began the match with a pin over Mario Pitch in 4:32 and things would continue to build. Cefolo was up 7-3 and Pitch was called for stalling before Cefolo threw him straight to his back for the fall.
Cuccolo’s win saw him roll up 10 takedowns and that was emblematic of the way the early going went for the Hornets, who had 24 takedowns in the first five weight classes to Caldwell’s none. The Chiefs didn’t have their first takedown of the night until the sixth weight class, when 152-pound Ryan Schaffer had a takedown on Drew DeRosa with three seconds left in the second period of their bout, won by Schaffer, 8-5.
But before Schaffer could even get Caldwell on the scoreboard, Hanover’s Joe Zecca (132), Christian Bassolino (138) and Anthony Oliveri (145) padded their team’s early lead.
Zecca had six takedowns and had a 20-5 technical fall win over Jack Watson. Bassolino had four takedowns in a 9-1 win over Ryan Condit. Oliveri had the team’s most thrilling win of the night when he had a reversal with 25 seconds left in a 6-5 win over Mike Della Riva, making it 22-0.
After Caldwell’s Ray Iodice (160) pinned Ryan Paff in 3:17, Bassolino got some of the points back with his big victory.
Caldwell went on to win the next three weight classes but the Hornets were able to keep the damage to a minimum. Joe Valentino won at 180 over Anthony Lee, 5-3, before Joe Galioto majored Eric Boccard, 8-0. That set up Bongo’s win at 220.
Austin Nash (113) finished the night for the Hornets when he beat Nick Russomanno, 8-1.
106 — Dean Caravella © pin. Leo Stefanelli, 1:26.
113 — Austin Nash (H) dec. Nick Russomano, 8-1.
120 — Anthony Cefolo (H) pin. Mario Pitch, 4:32.
126 — Gennaro Cuccolo (H) maj. Dec. Vincent Helfer, 21-9
132 — Joe Zecca (H) tech. fall Jack Watson, 20-5 (5:41).
138 — Christian Bassolino (H) maj. Dec. Ryan Condit, 9-1.
145 — Anthony Olivera (H) dec. Mike Della Riva, 6-5.
152 — Ryan Schaffer © dec. Drew DeRosa, 8-5.
160 — Ray Iodice (C) pin. Ryan Paff, 3:17.
170 — Anthony Bassolino (H) maj. Dec. Nick Sibilia, 19-6.
182 — Joe Valentino (C) dec. Anthony Lee, 5-3.
195 — Joe Galioto © maj. Dec. Eric Boccard, 8-0.
220 — Joe Bongo © dec. Will Julich, 3-2.
285 — Nick LaShell (H) won by forfeit.