After watching teammate Jordan Pagano win a title in overtime, South Brunswick High School senior Ali Yildiz felt obligated to duplicate the feat when his own Region V final exceeded regulation.
“It’s like every wrestler on our team feeds off each other,” Yildiz said. “As soon as I saw Jordan get it done in overtime, I knew in my head I owed at least that to him and to my coaches.
“We are pushing each other real hard and we are just trying to make it happen down in Atlantic City.”
Pagano and Yildiz, who won their respective 152- and 182-pound weight classes in Saturday’s Region V finals at the Hunterdon Central Field House, were among six Greater Middlesex Conference wrestlers to earn titles.
Sean Glasgow (138) and Jonathan Schleifer (160) of East Brunswick advanced to the next round as Region V champions, along with Perth Amboy’s Yasel Corporan (106) and Woodbridge’s Bobby Jordan (113).
The GMC also advanced six runners-up (Perth Amboy’s Angel Sanchez, Monroe’s Sal Profaci, J.F. Kennedy’s Collin Farley, Bishop Ahr’s Brian McCrystal, East Brunswick’s Michael Quintin, Spotswood’s Amico Odzelashvili) and four third-place finishers (J.F. Kennedy’s Brandon Simon, Monroe’s Tom Tehan, Perth Amboy’s Humberto Argueta, Old Bridge’s Erik DeJonge) to next weekend’s NJSIAA Individual Championships at Boardwalk Hall.
The top three finishers in each weight class from all eight regions qualified for the state tournament, which will be seeded Monday at the NJSIAA’s Robbinsville headquarters.
“We did very well here,” East Brunswick coach Matt Pazinko said of the GMC. “Those who came from District 19 and District 20 did a really good job. Guys are moving on and hopefully we can do some damage down in Atlantic City.”
Defending champion Profaci dropped a 3-1 overtime decision in the 120-pound final to Bound Brook’s Craig De La Cruz, who was named Outstanding Wrestler for winning what was widely regarded as the toughest weight class of any region.
The bracket featured four incumbent state place-winners. De La Cruz won in dramatic fashion, reversing Profaci with nine seconds left in a tiebreaker to snap a 1-1 deadlock.
Pagano scored a 3-1 decision over Bound Brook’s Josh Ugalde with a lightning-quick takedown in overtime.
“I was pushing the pace the whole match,” Pagano said. “Finally I got a shot. He went to headlock me and I kind of ducked it and got my two.”
Pagano rebounded from a district semifinal loss, which he said served him well for the remainder of the postseason.
“Getting that loss definitely prepared me for this tournament,” he said. “I finally felt like everything was coming back in place. I feel like I’m at my best right now. Ugalde is one of the best wrestlers in the state. I feel like if I can hang with him, I can hang with anybody.”
Yildiz provided the most dramatic moment of the finals in his 4-3 comeback win over Bound Brook’s Isaiah Soto.
After Soto escaped with 19 seconds left for a 3-2 lead in their tiebreaker, Yildiz charged Soto and scored a takedown on the edge with two seconds left.
“To be honest,” Yildiz explained, “it happened so fast. I looked up and I saw everybody cheering and I thought maybe I did it (score on the double leg). I was hoping that when I got the two that maybe it was over.”
Yildiz, who remained undefeated with a 38-0 record, said he sensed his opponent was fatigued.
“I heard him breathing in my ear pretty fast so I knew I needed to turn it on,” he said. “I didn’t really get the shots I wanted in the beginning, but I knew in the end that if I was able to get him in a scramble I would be able to come out on top.”
Gordon Wolf of Lawrence fell from the ranks of the undefeated with a 7-6 loss in the 138-pound final to Glasgow.
Corporan parlayed a first-period takedown into a 2-0 win over Bridgewater-Raritan’s Gianni Calo for the 106-pound title, while Jordan won the ensuing 113-pound bout by injury default over Sanchez, who hurt his left knee.
Schleifer won his second consecutive region title with a 13-0 major decision over Franklin’s Mike Fagg-Daves.