Toms River High School South’s wrestling program has been looking for a signature win in recent seasons.
“We knew this year was probably our best opportunity,” said Toms River South coach Ron Laycock. “We had an experienced group of kids.”
The Indians’ first chance this season at that signature win turned into a bitter disappointment with a loss to Jackson Memorial on Dec. 19.
However, Toms River South made the most of its second chance on Wednesday night. It received consecutive pins from freshman Owen McClave (106) and senior Kevin Corrigan (113) and then a win by decision by junior Brandon Murray (120) in the final bout to record a 33-24 win over Southern.
According to Laycock, it was Toms River South’s first win over Southern since the mid 1980s.
“It’s been a long time for all the seniors and everybody on the team,” said Corrigan, who was the NJSIAA fifth-place finisher at 113 last season. “It feels great to come out here and actually wrestle as a team, instead of a bunch of individuals.”
Three days after the Jackson Memorial loss, Toms River South, ranked No. 5 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 and No. 17 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20, labored to a 35-31 win over Toms River North in a match in which it wrestled without B.J. Clagon, the state 138-pound champion last year, and Matt Theobold (138), a two-time state qualifier.
“We were very disappointed in our Jackson performance, and we wrestled terrible against Toms River North,” Laycock said. “We had a big pow-wow after that. The entire attitude has changed, and I think it showed (on Wednesday night).”
In a match with several low-scoring bouts, the Indians (8-1, 2-1) were able to grind out enough wins to put themselves in position to take advantage of their strength down low.
Theobold eked out a 1-0 win over Jake Campana as he rode Campana out in the second period and then escaped early in the third.
Sophomore Joe Salvato (160) recorded a 3-2 win over Gerrado Jorge on a takedown early in first period.
Sophomore Antres Clagon (170) defeated Cory Case 3-1 on a takedown midway through the third period.
“We had our lineup back,” McClave said. “We just had a good feeling. The coaches were feeling good about it. We felt we had the matchups. It all just worked out.”
When sophomore Mike Rutter (195) recorded a 9-5 win over Patrick Ferraro, the Indians were ahead of the game.
Southern (2-2, 1-1), ranked No. 2 in the APP Top 10 and No. 7 in the NJWWA Top 20, led 24-18 going into the lower weights after Jesse Bauta (220) rallied for a 6-4 win over Marvin Hayden on a four-point move in the final 35 seconds and heavyweight Cody Smead came back after almost being pinned by James Kearney and pinned him.
That put McClave, who has an excellent start to his career, against James Knoeller, a transfer from Lacey who just became eligible to wrestle on Wednesday.
“I knew I was getting a pin long before this match started. I knew I was getting a pin last week,” McClave said. “I always think the highest possible. It didn’t mattter to me who it was.”
McClave took Knoeller down immediately and then to his back to record the fall in 21 seconds.
Corrigan, knowing a pin would put Murray in a position where all he needed to do was avoid getting pinned for the Indians to win the match, did likewise against Cody Brodwater and recorded the pin in 25 seconds.
“I feel like the pressure is like a privilege. You earn that right to have the spotlight on you,” Corrigan said.
Murray, who recently returned to the lineup, turned Pat Mooney for three back points early in the third period and then held on for a 4-3 win to set off a celebration amongst the Indians’ wrestlers, coaching staff and fans.
“If we wrestle like we did (on Wednesday night), we can beat anybody,” McClave said.