Wrestlers get unexpected start in prelims

Wrestlers get unexpected start in prelims


Wrestlers get unexpected start in prelims


The preliminary round of an NJSIAA region tournament always has wrestlers in it who never expected to be wrestling for survival on the first night of the tournament.

Region VI has some of those storylines tonight as the tournament gets underway at 5 p.m. at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North.

The preliminary round consists of the runners-up and third-place finishers in each of the 14 weight classes from Districts 21-24. The winners of tonight’s 56 bouts advance to the quarterfinals, which take place at 5 p.m. on Friday at Pine Belt Arena. The season will end for 56 wrestlers tonight. The district champions in each of the 14 weight classes from Districts 21-24 have a bye into the quarterfinals.

Among those wrestlers who probably did not expect to be wrestling tonight is Ocean’s Zach Hertling, the state third-place finisher and Region VI champion at 120 last year.

Hertling (24-2) was upended by Raritan’s Jason Bohal in the 132-pound District 22 final. That loss not only has forced Hertling to have to wrestle a preliminary-round bout against Barnegat’s Joe Mandara, the District 24 third-place finisher, but it also dropped him from the No. 1 seed to the No. 4 seed.

If Hertling wins tonight, he will be facing a tough quarterfinal-round bout on Friday night against Southern’s Zach Wilhelm, the District 24 champion and state eighth-place finisher at 112 in 2011. Hertling defeated Wilhelm, 7-0, in last year’s region 120-pound semifinals.

Among the others who probably did not expect to have to wrestle in the preliminary round are Long Branch’s Jake George (152) and Jackson Liberty’s Matt Russo (120), both of whom were state qualifiers a year ago.

George, who was defeated by Middletown South’s Andrew Blasco in the District 22 final, is at least used to having to wrestle in the preliminary round. It is the third straight year he has had to wrestle in the round after being defeated in a district final.

Last year, George was able to bounce back from losing to Middletown South’s three-time state qualifier Nick Herring in the district final and advanced to the region final, where he was defeated by Herring again.

George, who because of his loss in the district final dropped to the No. 5 seed, will wrestle Red Bank’s Evan Brown, the third-place finisher in District 22.

If George wins tonight, he will have a rematch with Blasco in the quarterfinals. Wall freshman Brett Donner, who defeated George in overtime in January, is the top seed and is also on George’s side of the bracket.

Russo, whose twin brother Mike is the top seed at 106, was defeated by Colts Neck’s Pete Ottaviano in the District 21 final. That loss dropped him from the No. 3 seed to No. 4. He will meet Long Branch’s Andy Hernandez, the District 22 third-place finisher.

If Russo wins, he will meet Toms River South’s red-hot Brandon Murray, the District 24 champion, in the quarterfinals.

Among the other state qualifiers from past years who have to wrestle in the preliminary round are Point Boro’s Daniel Nobbs (120), Brick Memorial’s Jared Staub (126), Raritan’s Anthony Scarcella (126), Brick Memorial’s Tyler Richardson (170) and Matawan’s Glenn Cross (182). It was not unexpected that any of these wrestlers would be forced to wrestle in the preliminary round because they were all in either tough weights or weights that had either state placewinners or state qualifiers.

The highly competitive 126-pound weight class, which has multiple triangles in it, most of which involve Staub, could be reseeded again after it was reseeded Monday night, Region VI president Scott Ferris said Tuesday afternoon.

Manalapan, which finished a surprising second in the team standings in the District 21 Tournament, has a region-high seven wrestlers in the preliminary round.

The Braves, who have eight wrestlers in the tournament, including John Appice, the state seventh-place finisher at heavyweight and region top seed at heavyweight, finished just eight points behind Howell and two points in front of Jackson Memorial in the District 21 team standings. Manalapan led the team standings at District 21 more than halfway through the championship round.

NJSIAA Group IV and District 23 team champion Brick Memorial, which has a region-high 11 wrestlers in the tournament, has six wrestlers in the preliminary round.

Group IV runner-up Southern, which edged Toms River South by a point for the District 24 team championship, Group II state runner-up Long Branch, which won the District 22 team championship, Central Group III champion Brick, Ocean and Barnegat all have six wrestlers in the preliminary round. Both Southern and Long Branch have 10 wrestlers in the tournament. Ocean and Brick each have eight.

Toms River South has nine wrestlers in the tournament, but just three have to compete tonight. The Indians have a region-high six district champions.

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