The Warren Hills High School wrestling team won two of the first three matches to take a 9-6 advantage after three bouts in Friday night’s NJSIAA North II Group III final, and also prevailed in the final match of the evening.
In between, South Plainfield dominated in its usual fashion en route to a 57-14 victory.
South Plainfield (28-0) took the lead for good on the strength of Ryan Walsh’s pin of Austin Pidoto at 106 pounds, and then made it a rout behind convincing triumphs by its five GMC Tournament champions – 220-pounder Tory Russell, 126-pounder Corey Stasenko, 132-pounder Scott DelVecchio, 138-pounder Anthony Ashnault and 145-pounder Troy Heilmann – to cruise to its fourth straight sectional title and 11th overall since emerging as a state power in 1997.
“It feels good,” said Russell, who pinned Tyler Bridygham in one minute, 18 seconds. “Some teams wish to have these (sectional titles). We work hard for it, and hard work pays off.”
If the Tigers’ 220-pounder sounds ho-hum in victory, it’s because that was the collective mind-set of a South Plainfield squad that has bigger goals in mind.
“The main goal of the season is that Group title,” said Jordan Handwerger, who won by decision, 5-2, over Ryan Ostir at 170 pounds. “Everything else is working up to that.”
South Plainfield will face South Jersey Group III champion Toms River South in the Group III semifinals on Sunday, 10 a.m., at the Pine Belt Auto Center on the Toms River North campus. A win in that match coupled with a victory versus a to-be-determined foe at 3:30 p.m. will give the Tigers their second straight state Group championship and eighth overall.
“This is another sectional title but our main goal is that Group III state title,” said South Plainfield coach Kevin McCann, whose squad prevailed over Warren Hills in the sectional final for the second straight year. “So it’s just another stepping stone.”
Despite the lopsided score, there were enough flaws in the Tigers’ triumph for McCann to believe his charges won’t get complacent against a Toms River South team that captured its first sectional title by beating Timber Creek, 37-14, Friday night.
“I didn’t like the way we started, I didn’t like the way we finished,” McCann said. “But we gotta pick it up on Sunday.”