Toms River South coach Ron Laycock had this best-case scenario in his head for two weeks regarding how his team could upend powerful South Plainfield in the NJSIAA Group III championship match on Sunday at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River North.
Laycock’s dream was enchanced even further when he found about before the morning semifinal match against Brick that 152 would be the starting weight for the South Plainfield match.
“When we walked in the weigh-in room (on Sunday morning) and they drew 145 (for the Brick match), I just looked at Joe and Paul (assistant coaches Joe Adelizzi Jr. and Paul Sternlieb) and said, ‘Is this a possibility?’ ” Laycock said. “Going in, I really thought we could wrestle with them.”
Laycock’s best-case scenario involved winning every weight from 152-113 and to build such a lead that South Plainfield’s thunder from 120-152 would not be a major factor.
Laycock’s best-case plan also involved having sophomore Joe Salvato at 160. However, Salvato, who has been battling a knee injury in recent weeks, injured the knee further in the semifinal match against Brick and was unavailable.
Also, South Plainfield, the No. 1 ranked team in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20, has a habit of turning dreams into just that — dreams.
The Tigers won several of the upperweight bouts Toms River South felt it could win and then the thunder of their lineup closed the match with four straight pins from 126-145 to record a 40-22 win. it was South Plainfield’s second second straight Group III championship and third in the last four years.
“You’ve got to hope you have a 24-point lead (heading into 126) and stay off your back in one of them,” Laycock said.
Toms River South’s plan also involved weighing in B.J. Clagon’s — last year’s 138-pound state champion — at 152 and away from South Plainfield’s 145-pounder Troy Heilmann, a two-time state runner-up. Lacycock’s hope was to get Clagon on Dylan Painton and get bonus points at 152 and have Salvato win at 160.
But, without Salvato, Laycock had to insert Garrett Applegate against Painton at 152 and bump Clagon up to 160. Painton majored Applegate with two back points in the final seconds and South Plainfield forfeited to Clagon.
“It was a little nervous on paper looking at them,” said South Plainfield coach Kevin McCann, about how Toms River South matched up with his team before the Salvato injury. “It worked out to our advantage when they sent Applegate out against Paintonn and I knew they were going to bump Clagon.”
“We still felt we had a chance (even without Salvato), but we weren’t as confident,” Laycock said.
Toms River South had a 13-4 lead after a major decision by Antrez Clagon, B.J’s younger brother, at 170 and a 3-2 win by Quntin DeCarlo at 182.
However, the Indians’ hopes were blown out of the water when South Plainfield’s Luigi Gerardi, with the aid of a stalling call in the second period, defeated Mike Rutter, 2-1, at 195. The Tigers then won the next two weights as state qualifier Tory Russell (220) pinned Marvin Hayden and Tyler Calderone (heavyweight) defeated James Kearney, 7-1. The Indians had to win 195 and heayweight to have a chance.
The Indians did come back to grab a 22-16 lead behind wins by Owen McClave (106), Kevin Corrigan (113) and an impressive 7-1 win by Brandon Murray over Ray Jazikoff at 120.
However, South Plainfield’s thunder of state sixth-place finisher Corey Stasenko, returning state champion Scott DelVecchio, three-time state champion and unbeaten for his career Anthony Ashnault and Heilmann all pinned in a combined 3:43.
“I think everybody watching us knows we weren’t intimidated,” Laycock said. “The kids went out there and wrestled our butts off.”
For Toms River South, it was the end of a magical ride that saw the Indians win their first sectional championship this past Friday night with the win over Timber Creek in the South Group III championship match. Timber Creek had defeated Toms River South the last three seasons in the South III final.
Toms River South defeated Brick, 37-19, in the semifinals. Brick, which was defeated, 54-9, by Toms River South on Jan. 23, won five bouts, including a 9-2 win by Bill Scott over Salvato and a pin by Ray Fattaruso at 195.