This old fashioned wrestling doneybrook seemed straight out of 1984.
Like back in the day, this NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II semifinal had coaches urging their wrestlers to “go old school,” to go for cradles.
And like back in the day, after two hours of back and forth, this battle between an upstart Wall team and the top-seeded Raritan Rockets came down to those grappling gladiators who weigh in at heavyweight.
If the Crimson Knights’ 220-pound heavy Aldo Guisse (14-8) could go the distance, endure six minutes without landing on his backside against Raritan’s 273-pound state-ranked heavy Pat Toal (24-1), Wall would survive and advance into tomorrow night’s Central Jersey Group II sectional championship match at Long Branch. If Toal pinned Guisse, Raritan would have evened the score at 28-28 and won on the criteria most first points scored.
Guisse survived. He kept his composure against the aggressive onslaught from the larger Toal. Guisse kept his focus despite getting penalized for stalling three times. Raritan coach Rob Nucci’s hands were clasped behind his head, subconsciously trying to help Toal turn Guisse for the fall.
But with the help of the Wall routers in the bleachers chanting “Aldo,” Guisse held Toal to a 9-2 decision and Wall prevailed, 28-25.
Just like in 1984, the heavyweights took center mat for the final act.
“The coaches told me don’t get pinned, but I really wanted to win,” Guisse said. “This bout took forever. In the middle of the match, I thought to myself, ‘Who do I love more, myself or my team?’ That made me stronger. We won. My teammates won it with me.
“I did not feel like I was out there all alone. My mates were with me.”
Raritan had the experience advantage and started eight seniors. Wall countered with eight wrestlers who entered the match with winning streaks of six bouts or more. The first seven –Denzel Tovar (12 in a row), Joe DeMuner (six in a row), Josh Glantzman (11 in a row), Jack Wishart (six in a row), Brent Donner (22 in a row), Matt McKenzie (six in a row), Tyler Romanelli (15 in a row) and Guisse (six straight).
The first seven Crimson Knights all won. Guisse won the match for his team by staying off his back.
“I told Aldo the team comes first, and just like our team, he overcame an uphill battle and did his job,” said Wall coach Brian Fisher. “We lost the coin flip and were fighting an uphill battle all night. But we overcame, we just keep coming together as a team. When someone falls down, someone else steps up. This was absolutely and old fashioned battle.”
The bouts were split 7-7. Raritan led, 12-10, after the lower-weights, but the Crimson Knights (15-5) received a hugh lift once again from sophomore Joe DeMuner at 120 pounds. In a toss-up bout against Ryan Broderick (20-10), DeNuner caught the Rocket senior getting too aggressive going for a reverse and put him on his back for the fall in 323.
Raritan was forced to wrestle without sidelined Dylan Siedenberg (22-5) at 132.
Wall won the middleweights, 12-3, afterwhich the Crimson Knights led, 22-15. The critical bout here came at 145, where Jack Wishart took down Jarred Lonnay twice but just held on to prevail, 6-5.
Freshman Matt McKenzie (25-2) took down senior Connor Sheehan (27-4) twice to win 5-2 at 170 pounds. At 220, Wall senior Tyler Romanelli decisioned Kyle Polonsky, 9-4.