Ocean High School wrestling team defeats Middletown North

Ocean High School wrestling team defeats Middletown North


Ocean High School wrestling team defeats Middletown North



For Ocean Township, getting to the NJSIAA sectional final for the 10th time in the last 11 years wasn’t easy.

Top-seeded Ocean received a boost from the return of injured junior Zach Hertling along with an unexpected pin from sophomore Jeff Andre and held off No. 5 Middletown North for a 30-27 victory in the Central Group III semifinals Wednesday at Ocean.

Ocean (12-9) will host No. 3 Brick in the sectional final, tentatively scheduled for Friday, for the third straight year. Brick won last year after the Spartans captured the 2012 final.

“I’m proud of our kids,” Ocean coach Cippy Apicelli said. “We’ve had a lot of things going on here with injuries and just a whole lot of stuff. It took 14 guys tonight and we won by 3 points. Banged up, stuff like that, and sucked it up.”

Hertling, who finished third in the state at 120 two years ago and fourth at 132 last year, wrestled for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in his left knee Jan. 18 in a 5-0 loss to Hunterdon Central’s Gary Dinmore. Wrestling at 152 against Middletown North’s Thomas Anderson, Hertling twice took injury time, the last between the second and third periods.

“It was pretty painful,” said Hertling, who has not had surgery on the knee. “I haven’t even stepped on the mat since I hurt my knee. It was pretty painful. I guess I didn’t realize that I had a screwed-up knee and I went to take a shot, and it kind of hurt.”

Hertling built an 8-2 lead through two periods and held on in third for the win to give Ocean a 20-0 lead.

“I knew he had a strategy for going for my knee, which he did and he took a shot,” Hertling said. “I popped out my knee and then I was about to call it, and I just thought about the team and how important it is for the team to make it to the states and win a state championship. I said, you know what? I have to suck it up and get back on the mat and dominate.”

Hertling’s victory capped a run of five straight Ocean wins to open the match, which started at 126. Among the wins was an 18-2 technical fall by Max Rallo at 132 and Andre’s 1:18 pin at 138.

“Jeff Andre’s pin was huge,” Apicelli said. “We lost the toss, and I decided to send Jeff Andre and see what (Middletown North) would do, and Jeff Andre pinned the kid. If he doesn’t win we lose on criteria.”

“I just did a tilt,” Andre said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a pin, but the ref blew the whistle. It felt great. I went out there and wrestled as hard as I can for the team and tried to get the win today.”

Middletown North (16-9), which lost to Ocean 57-12 last month, won four straight bouts to pull to within 20-15, capped by Chad Freshnock’s 57-second pin at 195. Dan Loizos then answered with a pin in 1:03 at 220 to give Ocean a 26-15 lead with four bouts left.

After Lions heavyweight Carlton Spence won 5-4, Ocean’s Dave Tieto scored an 8-0 major at 103 to make it 30-18 with two bouts remaining. Ocean then clinched the win when Middletown North’s Logan Santos could only get a 12-8 win over Ocean’s Gerell Cox.

Hertling wasn’t the only injured wrestler back for Ocean. Jason Lawhon returned after suffering a torn meniscus last month, and lost to the Lions’ Anthony Fabiano, 2-0, at 182.

“You had two kids come back, one from a surgery, one from a ruptured ACL,” Apicelli said. “Lawhon tore his meniscus and he just had it removed. If they don’t wrestle tonight, we don’t win. I think (Lawhon) was fine, he just hasn’t been on the mat so he wasn’t in the best of shape, but that will come.

“And then it’s not just them. It’s Tieto with a major, it’s Gerell Cox fighting off his back three times from underneath, every single guy, and we won by 3 points.”

Next up for Ocean will be yet another sectional final against Brick.

“We’re going to let it fly,” Apicelli said.

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