The 132-pound weight class was looking like one of the toughest in recent memory in Region VI through most of the season.
However, the developments at the seeding meetings for the District 21, 23 and 24 tournaments changed that and made 132 a bit more manageable for those quality wrestlers who are still competing at that weight in the District 21-24 tournaments this weekend.
The District 21, 23 and 24 Tournaments, which are three of the four sending tournaments into next week’s Region VI Tournament, will conduct their tournaments today as one-day events at Manalapan and Brick Memorial high schools and at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River North, respectively.
The District 22 Tournament, the other sending tournament into the Region VI Tournament, started on Friday night at Red Bank Regional with the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds and will conclude today with the semifinal, third-place and championship bouts.
The top three wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes in the District 21-24 tournaments qualify for the Region VI Tournament, which will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 28 and March 1 respectively at Pine Belt Arena. The season concludes with the NJSIAA Individual Championships March 7-9 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Everyone in Region VI was wondering throughout the season whether all the quality wrestlers who competed at 132 at various times through the dual-meet season were going to stay there.
In District 23, there were three wrestlers who competed at 132 during the dual-meet season who had participated in the state tournament in the past. Two of those had been state medalists It turns out none of them will compete at 132. Neptune’s Nasiyr Brown and Point Boro’s Ryan Budzek will both compete at 126 and Brick Memorial’s Joe Ghione will be at 138.
Brown, the state eighth-place finisher at 113 last year, beat Budzek, 4-1, on Jan 11. Brown is just 8-1 on the season. He did not wrestle until Jan. 11 and has not wrestled since Jan. 25. His loss was by pin to Colts Neck’s Nick Ottaviano, the favorite to win the District 21 126-pound championship.
The loss to Brown is the only one on the season for Budzek, who was the Region VI champion at 126 and was one win away from being a state medalist last year. The only time Budzek competed at 126 during the dual-meet season was on Jan. 15. The other part of the Budzek dropping down to 126 is that teammate Daniel Nobbs, a state qualifier in 2012 at 120, will compete at 120.
Ghione was sidelined much of the season because of an elbow injury sustained Dec. 21 in the season-opening TCNJ Pride Tournament at The College of New Jersey. Ghione weighed in at 132 for the TCNJ Pride Tournament and on Feb. 1 for the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal and championship match, but he has weighed in at 138 since.
Another wrestler who left the 132 group after wrestling both there and at 138 through the dual meet season is Toms River South’s Brandon Murray. The District 24 champion last year at 120, Murray will compete at 126.
There were some other interesting, but not unexpected moves in District 21 and 23. In District 21, Howell’s Joey Schultz, the Region VI runner-up at 160 last year, will compete at 160 after competing most of the season at 170. Schultz did weigh in at at 160 for both the SCT semifinal and final and the Central Group IV final. His two 3-1 wins over Brick Memorial’s Cliff Ruggerio, one of which actually came at 170, were vital in the Rebels’ wins over the Mustangs in the SCT final and Central Group IV final.
Schultz could have one of the more intriguing finals in Region VI’s four district tournaments against Jackson Liberty’s T.J. Liquori, who is a two-time District 21 champion.
The 160-pound weight class is now a very deep one in Region VI with Schultz, Liquori, Wall’s Brett Donner, a state qualifier at 152 last year, Ruggerio and Toms River South’s Joe Salvato. A junior, Salvato has never competed in the District 24 Tournament because of injuries. He has not wrestled since Feb. 1
The 106-pound weight class in Region VI, which was already intriguing became even more so with the decision of Jackson Memorial’s Fred Terranova to compete at 106. Terranova, who wrestled mostly at 113 and several times at 120 throughout the season, already has wins over two of the other medal contenders at 106 in the region. He majored Brick’s Daniel Rackliffe 13-0 on Jan. 8 and defeated Brick Memorial’s Giovanni Ghione, 9-3, on Feb. 12.
Terranova’s presence at 106 created a potential semifinal bout in the District 21 Tournament against Howell sophomore Pete Dee, who has two 1-0 wins over Ghione. Dee dropped to the No. 4 seed because of a loss to Jackson Liberty’s Nick McConnel on Jan. 30.
The 195-pound weight class became a bit less congested with the decision by Manalapan’s Ben Aquilina to compete at 220. Aquilina, who is 30-2 with one of his losses coming via disqualification, had pinned Christian Brothers Academy’s Mike Oxley, the defending Region VI champion at 195, on Feb. 4.