There was one thing motivating Toms River South’s Owen McClave on Monday in the closing seconds of the 113-pound championship bout against Freehold Township’s Nick DePierro in the Walter Woods Tournament at Middletown High School South.
“There’s nothing I hate more than losing,” McClave said. “I hate losing more than I love winning. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes, you’ve just got to push through and persevere.”
McClave, a sophomore who was an NJSIAA quarterfinalist and one win away from being a state placewinner at 106 last year, found a way against his workout partner at The Shore Thing Wrestling Club. Off a restart with 10.2 seconds remaining, McClave shot in, took DePierro down and then put him to his back for two back points and recorded a dramatic 9-6 win.
It was the second time this season McClave has defeated DePierro. McClave recorded a 3-2 win over DePierro in the championship bout of the TCNJ Pride Tournament at The College of New Jersey on Dec. 21. DePierro was one win away from being a state placewinner last year at 113.
“I’m looking forward to wrestling him again. Nick’s a great competitor and I enjoy competition,” said McClave, a sophomore. DePierro was leading 6-5 when McClave figured he’d try an old reliable move for him — “The Dump.”
“It worked for me countless times last year, and it worked for me again,” McClave said. “I didn’t think he’d go for it. I had tried it a couple of times earlier in the match and he defended it real well. I’m sure he knew ‘The Dump’ was coming. But when your back is against the wall like that, you might as well go with you’re good at. It pulled me through.”
The four-point move capped a rally from a 5-1 deficit early in the second period. McClave pulled within 5-3 on an escape in the second period and an escape with 1:24 left in the bout. He tied the bout 5-5 with a takedown with 48.8 seconds left. That was McClave’s first takedown of the bout. McClave then cut DePierro loose with 47.1 seconds left to give DePierro a 6-5 lead.
DePierro had built his lead on a takedown in the first period and another takedown 10 seconds into the second period.
“He caught me with a couple of things he didn’t catch me with at TCNJ,” McClave said. “He caught me off my attacks. I have to work on my shots and techniques I don’t really like wrestling my workout partners in matches because it’s always going to be so close. But, I kind of pride myself on winning the close ones. I always seem to pull out the 1-2 point matches.”
The 113-pound weight class in this tournament was tough. McClave defeated Jackson Memorial’s Fred Terranova, 3-2, the District 21 third-place finisher at 106 last year, in the semifinals. DePierro defeated West Orange’s Isaiah Adams, 1-0, in the semifinals on an escape early in the third period after he rode Adams out in the second period. Adams was the District 13 runner-up at 113 last year.
Bergen Catholic’s sensational sophomore Nick Suriano, the 106-pound state champion last year, is the heavy favorite to win the state championship at 113.
However, McClave and DePierro, who could well meet in the Region VI final, both have excellent chances to be state placewinners.
Christian Brothers Academy senior 195-pounder Mike Oxley won one of the other marquee championship bouts in the tournament with a 5-3 victory over Jackson Memorial senior Ken Bradley. Oxley also defeated Bradley last year in the Region VI 195-pound semifinals, 4-3, on a takedown at the buzzer. Oxley went on to win the region championship. Bradley advanced to the state quarterfinals and was one win away from being a state medalist.
“It was a good match. I was excited for it,” said Oxley, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Upperweight Wrestler. “We might see each other at the end of the year.”
Oxley had a takedown 53 seconds into the bout and another one with 1:20 left in the second period. He whizzered out of a Bradley takedown attempt with 32 seconds left in the second period.
Jackson Memorial, which had one champion in Connor Bohringer (182), one runner-up and two third-place finishers, won the team title with 115.5 points, Toms River South, which had three champions in McClave, Joe Salvato (160) and Antrez Clagon (170) was second. CBA, which had three champions in Sebastian Rivera (106), Erik Beshada (138) and Oxley, was third with 99.5 points.
Other champions from Region VI in the tournament were Jackson Liberty’s, Mike Russo, the state fourth-place finisher at 106 last year, at 120 and Manalapan’s Ben Aquilina (220), who recorded three pints in the tournament in a combined 1:52.
Watchung Hills Mike Magaldo, the state 112-pound champion in 2012 and a three-time state top three finisher, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Lower Weight Wrestler. It was the fourth straight year Magaldo, who has signed with national power Oklahoma State, has won a championship at this tournament.