Greg Moran spent last wrestling season on the sidelines with a broken leg.
This season, the Barnegat senior has burned a path to the top of the district podium.
Moran pinned his way through the 195-pound bracket of the NJSIAA District 24 tournament Saturday, becoming the first Bengal in the program’s 10 years to go undefeated through the district tourney. In the final, he pressed Southern’s Pat Ferraro in 2:32 for his first district crown.
“I’m not out there trying to do anything special,” said Moran, who also pinned Toms River North’s Alex Scherer (3:24) in the semifinals and Central’s Dennis Corbin (1:13) in the quarters to improve to 31-0. “I’m just out there trying to do my best and win. I’ve had some good partners and coaches preparing me this season.”
The senior Bengal, who has been wrestling since fifth grade, didn’t go beyond the second period Saturday and was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler honor.
“I definitely had something to prove this year,” he said. “Now I’ll just go out next week and try to get to Atlantic City. It will be tough because I haven’t wrestled half of the top kids in the region. But at this point, I have nothing to lose.”
Also trying to get to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall will be Toms River South’s Antrez Clagon, who scored his first win against Southern nemesis Gerardo Jorge in a 3-2, 170-pound final that was decided by a penalty point during the ultimate-tiebreaker period.
“I just kept pushing, telling myself that I’ve lost enough to this kid,” said the junior Indian, who is 32-2. “I’ve worked my butt off to get here.”
Tied at 2 following three overtime periods, Jorge had choice for the rideout stint and chose defense. But a third caution call for the match resulted in Clagon getting the extra point to win.
“I thought I would get a takedown somewhere but didn’t,” Clagon said. “He’s a tough wrestler, but I had to get this.”
And while Clagon secured his first district title, Southern claimed yet another team title by sending 11 wrestlers to the finals, winning six of those title bouts and tallying 237 points. South was second with 161 points, followed by Toms River North at 128.
“After losing to Phillipsburg Sunday (in the NJSIAA Group IV team tournament), we weren’t broken as a team but we had to get back on track for today,” said Southern senior Nick Racanelli, who won an 8-7, ultimate-tiebreaker decision over North’s Dylan DaSilva at 152. “We showed tonight that we’re back on track.”
Four of Southern’s other champions included Chris Crane, who won a 16-6 major over North’s Patrick O’Donnell at 120; Bryan Brown, who captured the 132-pound crown with a 1-0 decision over Lacey’s Nick Vecci; Zach Wilhelm, who pinned Lacey’s Andrew Garrity in 1:01 to win at 145; and Jesse Bauta, who won at 220 with a 12-5 decision over North’s Mike Siwiec.
Matt Wilhelm, who won in 2012 but struggled with weight issues last year and barely competed, returned to the top of the podium with a 7-5 win over Pinelands’ Thomas Poklikuha at 138.
“Last year was hard,” Matt Wilhelm said. “But that pushed me into preparing and working harder for this season. Today I wanted to show that I could be at the top again.”
Four of Toms River South’s six finalists were on top Saturday. In addition to Clagon, sophomore Owen McClave snagged his second district title over Southern’s James Knoeller with a 4-2 victory at 113.
“When you wrestle a guy four times in two years, it gets tougher,” said McClave, who is 34-1. “I didn’t wrestle too well, but a win’s a win and my goal is to be on top of the podium everywhere I go from now on.”
South’s other title winners were Brandon Murray, who edged Southern’s Andrew Tonneson, 2-1, at 126, and Joe Salvato, who pinned Southern’s Peyton Blauvelt in 5:33 of the 160-pound contest.
Barnegat’s Jeff DeLuise won at 106 with a 7-2 decision over South’s Zack Martin, while North’s Tyler MacLaine won the Mariners’ only title at 182 with a 1-0 decision over Central’s Jake Paton. Central heavyweight Atanacio Carrillo snared the only title for the Golden Eagles with a 2-0 win over South’s James Kearney.