Warning, what you are about to read might be a little too much reality for some of you.
At 7:06 p.m., Christian Brothers Academy’s Mike Oxley slowly made his way off the Boardwalk Hall NJSIAA semifinals wrestling mats. The senior held his head high as he marched behind the stands. It was not until he got behind the crowd and onto the practice area that he collapsed onto the mats.
Oxley was the last Shore wrestler standing in the winner’s bracket. All five Region VI wrestlers to reach the semifinals lost.
Just six years ago, the Shore Conference, which makes up all of Region VI, crowned seven state champions and had nine finalists.
This year there are no superstars like Mark Worthy or Damion Hahn or B.J. Clagon here at the Shore. The Shore is still loaded with talent. Including preliminaries and wrestlebacks, the region won more bouts than it lost.
Oxley won his quarterfinal 5-0. Looked tough. Real tough. When he took off his glasses and walked on the mat, you could see the Clark Kent resemblance. In the wide-open 195-pound weight class, perhaps this Colt would be the first CBA wrestler since 1969 — since Pete Black — to win a state title.
While Oxley has wrestled like a champ all postseason, he is just not quite superman level.
“No Shore wrestler made the finals, darn it,” Oxley said. “I felt like the whole region was behind us. I feel like I let them down a little bit.”
Just then Brick’s Kyle Wojtaszek walked by. “Hey Wojo, did you win?” Oxley asked the Green Dragon, who shook his head yes. “Yahoo,” Oxley offered.
“I think we all root for each other in our region,” Oxley said. “We are almost like one big team down here. I honestly don’t feel that with the other regions. Did Tyree (Sutton) win?”
In his semifinal against Franklin’s Ralph Normandia, Oxley came close, losing 3-2. He tried a cradle in the second period, he got a solid single leg in with 20 seconds remaining, but Normandia had the strength to pull away from danger.
“I want to end my high school career with a win,” said Oxley, who has 93 career wins and is guaranteed to be a state placewinner. “I want to place third, or fifth.”
Which might define where the Shore is at this year. None of the Region VI semifinalists — Oxley, Mike Russo (120), Joey Schultz (160), Nick Costa (182), and Oxley’s 195-pound colleague Sutton — could generate any offense in the semis. None of them scored any takedowns, or picked up any backpoints or gained any reversals.
On the other side of the mat, the Shore has 18 state placewinners, which is more than last year. Should the region’s lack of a finalist set off any alarm bells?
“We were spoiled a few years ago. Now I don’t think it’s that we have come down to earth, we’ll be good again, but we are in a different part of the cycle right now,” Raritan coach Rob Nucci said. “We’ll work hard to get back. We’ll get better . . . although I don’t think we’ll ever get to the level we were at six years ago.”
Southern Regional exemplifies the state of Region VI wrestling best. Two Rams, Eric Wilhelm (145) and Geraldo Jorge (170), will climb the podium and pick up placewinner medals tomorrow. But although Southern placed seventh in the state this year, the Rams did not have any true superstars.
“This is just one of those years,” Southern coach John Stout said. “We have very, very competitive kids, we just don’t have a superstar. We still have a very tough region.”
Jackson Liberty’s Russo and Keansburg’s Sutton are juniors. Both will be back next year. Both lost close semifinal bouts. In Russo’s three bouts in the winner’s bracket he only gave up five points. For Sutton, reaching the state semis after sitting out his sophomore season provides promise for his senior season.