Monroe's Profaci off to a good start in NJSIAA Wrestling Championships

Monroe's Profaci off to a good start in NJSIAA Wrestling Championships

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Monroe's Profaci off to a good start in NJSIAA Wrestling Championships

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ATLANTIC CITY

A small contingent of Monroe High School wrestling fans, seated in Section 106 of the lower bowl among the 9,212 spectators at Boardwalk Hall, erupted following Sal Profaci’s 3-2 pre-quarterfinal round victory over Delbarton’s Christian Innarella on Friday night.

The bout – arguably the biggest of the NJSIAA Individual Wrestling Championship’s opening round – took place on Mat No. 7 while seven other lower profile matchups were simultaneously contested.

Profaci’s supporters recognized the magnitude of his victory over an incumbent third-place finisher who, like himself, has more than 100 career victories.

A third-place finish in a brutal 126-pound weight class at Region V forced Profaci to wrestle a preliminary-round bout before facing Innarella, who highly respected Daily Record of Morristown wrestling beat writer Joe Hofmann predicted would win a state title.

Profaci lost in the Region V semifinals to North Hunterdon’s Ryan Pomrinca, who went on to defeat incumbent state champion Craig De La Cruz of Bound Brook in the region final.

All three advanced to today’s quarterfinals, which begin immediately following the conclusion of the first wrestleback round, which starts at 10 a.m.

Three other Greater Middlesex Conference wrestlers – J.F. Kennedy’s Carl Buttitta (145), South Plainfield’s Inan Sikel (152) and East Brunswick’s Jonathan Schleifer (160) – also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Ten more wrestlers from the league – six of who lost in the preliminary round and four of who fell in the pre-quarterfinals – will attempt to wrestle their way back for a medal in the double-elimination format.

Franklin’s Mike Fagg-Daves (170) and Ralph Normandia (195) also advanced to the quarterfinals.

“You look at the bracket, everybody is tough coming out of the region,” Profaci said of his weight class. “To accomplish my goal obviously of getting on top of that podium, I’m going to have to wrestle these guys.”

Profaci, a junior making his third trip to Atlantic City, will face Pont Pleasant Boro’s Ryan Budzek in the quarterfinals with the winner facing either De La Cruz or Peter Lipari of Bergen Catholic in the semifinals.

“I think it just opened my eyes that I can beat anybody in the state at that weight,” Profaci said of coming out of Region V. “You see guys losing (such as the previously undefeated de La Cruz) who haven’t lost all year. Obviously, the guy I lost to, Pomrinca, is a very good wrestler, but (the region) is a confidence-booster to get you battle-tested and ready to go this weekend.”

Buttitta, the top overall seed in the state tournament at 145 pounds who hasn’t lost since falling in the conference tournament final to South Plainfield’s Ray Jazikoff, advanced with a 6-1 decision over fellow region champion Mark Papaneri of Cherry Hill West. He will face St. Peter’s Prep’s Ryan Burkert in the quarterfinals.

J.F. Kennedy coach Nick Cilento said Buttitta has been a different wrestler since squandering a 4-1 lead to Jazikoff in the GMCT finals.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Ray, but we were confident to win that match and he ends up upsetting us,” Cilento said. “I think that lit a little fire under Carl. It took us almost 30 minutes to get the kid to calm down. It was all the right emotions, and he’s doing all the right things since. He’s been a different kid in the room. He’s working harder than ever, and I think you are seeing that down here. He’s done an excellent job.”

Sikel, one of four South Plainfield wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament, advanced with a 3-2 decision over Southern Regional’s Nicholas Racanelli. He will face Delbarton’s Joseph Tavoso in the quarterfinals.

“I’m hoping my teammates can bounce back because I want them to succeed because they work just as hard as me,” said Sikel, the lone wrestler from a storied program still in the hunt for a state title who wants to make his hometown proud.

“The town has been so supportive of me. I have to represent them well. They have done so much for me growing up.”

Schleifer, who many feel represents the league’s best chance for a state title, improved to 35-0 with a 3:18 pin over Tim Liquori of Jackson Liberty.

He will meet Bergen Catholic’s Jordan Pagano, who transferred from South Brunswick last year, in the semifinals.

The semifinals start at 7 p.m

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