Joe Ghione had doubts through much of this season.
The doubts for Brick Memorial’s senior 138-pounder came after he sustained a serious elbow injury on Dec. 21 in the TCNJ Pride Tournament at The College of New Jersey.
“For a long time, I thought my days as a Mustang were over,” said Ghione, Saturday night after he won the 138-pound championship in the District 23 Tournament with a 7-2 win over Wall’s Josh Glantzman. “At the beginning of the year, I was really entertaining surgery. I was very lucky and blessed to not have it and take the long road and recover on my own and let it heal and have faith in my body.”
Ghione was sidelined until Feb. 1, which was the day of the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and championship match. His first bout in his comeback did not go well as he was cradled three times and majored by Howell’s Kris Lindemann in Brick Memorial’s match against Howell in the SCT final. Lindemann’s win clinched the match for Howell.
Ghione, a two-time state sixth-place finisher, a three-time state qualifier, a two-time Region VI champion and a three-time District 23 champion, said when he first came back he was wrestling with one arm.
“It was a helpless feeling,” Ghione said. “I came back earlier than maybe I should have. A lot of the year, I was learning to wrestle with one arm.”
Ghione avenged the loss to Lindemann in Brick Memorial’s loss to Howell in the NJSIAA Central Group IV championship match. He said there has been improvement each week with the arm.
“I have faith it will be 100 percent at regions,” Ghione said. “I get little stingers. It’s a little bit uncomfortable at times, but it is not at the point where I can’t move it. It’s very mobile. It’s come a very long way.”
The thought through much of the year was that when Ghione came back he was going to compete at 132 pounds. His first bout against Lindemann came at 132. His second bout against Lindemann came at 138, with Lindemann bumping up to 138 from 132. Ghione said he feels stronger at 138 and the elbow feels better with him being at 138.
“I don’t need any more concerns than getting back on the ball and getting my technique back,” Ghione said. “I don’t need any weight setbacks.”
Ghione will be the top seed at 138 because of his past accomplishments in the state tournament. Among the other contenders at 138 is Christian Brothers Academy’s Erik Beshada, a four-time District 22 champion and Southern’s Matt Wilhelm, a two-time District 24 champion.
“I’m excited for Friday. I have faith in myself and faith in the training, not only what I did to recover, but all the training in the summer. I put so much work in the summer to what I’m capable of doing, ” Ghione said.
Change In Seeding Procedure
The NJSIAA has changed the seeding procedure for its eight region tournaments.
The second and third place district tournament finishers at each weight class will be pre-seeded based on the points system that was used to pre-seed wrestlers for the district tournaments. Then, head-to-head results will be used to compile the final seeds for the second and third-place finishers. .
The top four seeds among the second and third-place finishers will then be seeded 1-8 with the four district champions. Those eight wrestlers will be pre-seeded using the criteria the NJSIAA has used for years. That criteria is based on past state tournament and region tournament advancement. Final seeds will be determined by head-to-head results.
The bottom four seeds among the second and third-place finishers will then be placed into the bracket with the highest-seeded second place finisher wrestling the lowest third-place finisher, etc., etc.
The Region VI Tournament will be seeded this morning at Toms River North.
The tournament will take place Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River North. The preliminary round is Wednesday night. The quarterfinals are Friday night and the semifinals, two rounds of wrestlebacks, the third-place and championship bouts are Saturday.
The top three at each weight qualify for the NJSIAA Individual Championships, which are March 7-9 at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City.
By The Numbers
Forty of the 43 schools in Region VI will have at least one wrestler in the tournament. Thirty two schools will have multiple wrestlers in the tournament.
Southern, Howell and Brick Memorial will each have 11 wrestler. Christian Brothers Academy, Long Branch and Wall will each have eight wrestlers. Jackson Memorial, Brick and Toms River South all have seven wrestlers. Raritan, Point Boro and Toms River North have six and Manalapan, Middletown South, Middletown North all have five.
Southern had the most district champions with six. Brick Memorial had five district champions, Howell, Wall and Toms River South had four district champions and Jackson Memorial, Raritan and Brick each had three district champions.
Marco Quintero, who finished third at 145 in District 24, became Lakewood’s first wrestler to qualify for the Region VI Tournament since heavyweight Damian Banach in 2011. Banach, who was third in District 24, won a bout in the Region VI Tournament before losing his next two.
Monmouth’s Jose Hernandez was the lowest seed from the District 21-24 tournaments to advance to the Region VI Tournament. Hernandez (13-17) was the No. 8 seed at 132 in District 23.