It may be districts week. It may be the first leg of the three-week individual wrestling season. But surprising Christian Brothers Academy has its sights set on the last team championship of the season.
Both CBA and defending team champ Long Branch advanced 11 wrestlers into today’s 10 a.m. District 22 semifinals. The Colts (108 points) produced more bonus points and hold a 5.5 point lead over the Green Wave (102.5 points). Raritan (95 points) sits in third place. CBA has not won a district team championship since 1968, according to the website theshoreconference.com. That is the only district team wrestling championship in the program’s history, according to theshoreconference.com.
This afternoon’s finals should start around 3:30 p.m. and all five returning champs have advanced. They are Middletown South’s Dom Franciosi (126), Ocean’s two-time champ Max Rallo (120), CBA’s Erik Beshada (138) and Mike Oxley (195) and Keansburg’s Tyree Sutton (195). Beshada is looking for his fourth title.
Every first- and second-seeded wrestler advanced into the semis. Among the 56 semifinalists is Red Bank Catholic senior Shawn McCord, a top seed aspiring to become his school’s first district champion in 13 years.
McCord (26-1), second at 195 last year, wasted no time taking down CBA’s Billy Groesbeck and posting the fastest fall on Friday night with a quick cradle in 18 seconds.
“Being a district champ would be huge to me and big for my school,” McCord said. “My main goal this year is to make it to Atlantic City. Now I’m the favorite at 220 … let’s get that district title.”
Sutton was the district’s Outstanding Wrestler award winner two year’s ago as a freshman … but Friday night was the 195-pound junior’s first postseason match in two years. The talented Sutton (29-1) bear hugged Keyport’s Kyle Lewis backward onto his backside and produced the pin in 25 seconds.
“I like upper body moves,” Sutton said. “Its amazing how much I missed wrestling last year. But I have been wrestling a lot. I am on travel teams and wrestled 84 bouts in the offseason. Hopefully, I can be a region champ and No. 1 in the state.”
This weight could produce a quality final. CBA’s Mike Oxley is a defending champ and reached Atlantic City last year.
The Colts’ Sebastian Rivera (31-0) is one of two unbeaten wrestlers competing in District 22. The other is Raritan’s Kyle Lynch (33-0, 182). Rivera is the solid favorite at 106 pounds despite the fact that he did not wrestle a year ago. Rivera weighed in at 94 pounds as a freshman and won just three of 10 bouts. During districts, he watched from the bleachers with the rest of the fans in the stands.
On Friday night, Rivera, a sophomore with an eye on Boardwalk Hall, cradled up Aziel Rosado in a fleet 35 seconds.
“Last year was difficult,” the highly regarded Rivera said. “I had to watch. I was too small. Now, I can compete. It is a great feeling. Hopefully, I’ll do my best. I’m hoping to get on the Atlantic City podium.”
Rumson’s Marcus Iwama (25-2) reached Atlantic City last year, but the junior is still looking to reach the district winner’s circle. The favorite in a solid 132-pound field, Iwama got Long Branch’s Aaron Torres for six takedowns and posted the fall in 4:39.
“I set my goals high,” Iwama said. “I placed third as a freshman and second last year. This year I want first. District 22 is extremely competitive and winning would be a hugh honor. Last year I lost both my bouts in Atlantic City. This year, I want to go there and place.”
Three third-seeded wrestlers suffered losses and saw their seasons end unexpectedly. At 126 pounds, Long Branch’s Tommy Flannigan (13-7) took down Ocean’s Constantin Ponrios three times and held on for a 6-4 victory. At 152 pounds, Ocean sophomore TJ Saldutti came from behind to edge Middletown North freshman third seed Tom Anderson 6-4 in overtime. Also, at 220 pounds, Middletown South’s Connor Spreen (8-3) emerged from the preliminaries to upset the Green Wave’s Joey Jasio, 3-1.
At heavyweight, CBA’s third-seeded Alex Petrocelli took down Red Bank Catholic’s Justin Sullivan with seconds remaining and prevailed 2-1 in a bout which could prove pivotal to the Colts team title chances.
Keansburg’s Dylan Alt (21-4) was originally the seventh seed in the stacked 170-pound field. The junior bounced up to 182 pounds, was given the third seed, and reached the semis after pressing Dylan Murphy in 1:38. Even without Alt, the 170 weight had a 20 bout winner, Raritan Tyler Jones (20-11) competing from the seventh seed.
CBA’s Beshada could collide with his former teammate, Long Branch frosh Austin Cannon (14-1), in the 138 pound final. Beshada hopes to become the sixth four-time District 22 champ.