Wall’s improbable wild ride continues.
The Crimson Knights Express is going to Toms River’s Pine Belt Arena. Move over Bergen Catholic, and Southern Regional, and Phillipsburg. Make way for a NJSIAA Groups championships first-timer.
Wall, the Central Jersey Group II fourth seed, knocked off defending sectional champ Long Branch, 33-26, Friday night. Often a sectional bridesmaid, it took the Crimson Knights 34 years to reach the winner’s circle. Wall freshman Matt McKenzie did it on his first try. The freshman closed out the match, defeating Connor Mullan, 10-3, at 182 pounds.
The turning point in this section final came at 138 and 145 pounds. The Green Wave (23-4) led, 17-16, when Crimson Knights junior Josh Glantzman (19-4) took the mat against previously unbeaten freshman Austin Connor (13-1) at 138. Connor had decisioned Glantzman, 3-1, during the dual season.
This time, Glantzman held off Connor’s offense, then countered for a takedown in overtime to win, 3-1. With five bouts to go, Long Branch still seemed to have a slight advantage. But for the defending champs, disaster struck at 145. Senior Nick Menkin took down Wall’s Jack Wishart five times and appeared on track to win by at least a major decision. The excitable Menkin illegally slammed Wishart to the mat on a takedown try and when the Crimson Knight junior could not continue he was awarded the victory by injury default.
“It was Long Branch’s responsibility to bring the Wall wrestler safely onto the mat,” referee Kurt Karcich said. “He used too much force. It was an easy call. It was a clear slam.”
The slam resulted in a probable 10-point swing at 145 pounds and provided Wall with the break it needed. After 145, Wall (16-5) led 25-17 with Brett Donner (27-1, 160) and McKenzie (25-2, 182) to wrestle two of the final four bouts.
“What a nerve wracking match,” said Wall’s eighth year coach Brian Fischer. “So many turning points. We got a pin from Aldo (Guisse) at heavyweight in a toss-up bout, Glantzman won over an unbeaten kid and McKenzie, just a frosh, handled the pressure in the final bout.
“It took everything we had from top to bottom to beat them, (Long Branch) is one quality team. My kids are amazing kids. They believed in it. The kids believed.”
Wall has turned it up a notch the past few weeks, surviving first Raritan and now Long Branch. And the slam.
“You’ve got to wrestle the right way,” Fischer said. “You have to follow the rules. Our kids, they had unity. Every day they said we are one unit, one family. They believed that. We had a tough road, a tough section, and we came out on top.”
Long Branch had beaten Wall, 31-23, last month. Friday night, the Green Wave took it to Wall from the neutral position, posting 16 more takedowns (31-15), in an attempt to turn decisions into major decisions, etc. But in the middleweights, Wall would win three of four bouts despite getting dominated from the neutral position.
Glantzman’s long arms allowed him to fight off Cannon for the first six minutes of their 138 bout and led to his victory.
“I’m good friends with Austin,” Glantzman said. “The team needed me. I had to get after it. I stuck to my game plan. I get kids frustrated, and when he got off balance, I took advantage. This title feels great … and I excited that I can go get something to eat too.”
Wall should wrestle the South Plainfield-Hanover Park winner on Sunday in the Group II semifinals.
Wall 33, Long Branch 26
195: Romanelli (W) md. Covin 11-2; 220: Jasio (LB) d. Van Glahn 5-2; HWT: Guisse (W) p. Tomlinson; 106: Conlon (LB) p. Valente; 113: Tovar (W) d. J. Hernandez 3-2; 120: A. Hernandez (LB) by forfeit; 126: Jones (LB) Demuner 13-8; 132: McClelland (W) d. D. Rios 5-1; 138: Glantzman (W) d. Cannon 3-1 (OT); 145: J. Wishart (W) by disqualification ovver Menkin; 152: Perez (LB) tf. Tiano 26-10; 160: Donner (W) tf. Shohet 21-6; 170: A. Rios (LB) md. T. Wishart 18-8; 182: McKenzie (W) d. C. Mullan 8-3.