Southern showed off its depth on Saturday night as it defeated Howell 28-19 in a matchup of contenders for the NJSIAA Group IV championship.
Southern is the favorite to win the South Group IV championship for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. Howell is a major contender, along with Brick Memorial in Central Group IV.
The Rams (5-0), ranked No. 3 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 and No. 13 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20, recorded key wins in the first two bouts of the match and then two more key wins at 195 and 220.
Andrew Tonnessen (126), the District 24 runner-up at 126 last year, defeated Anthony Gagliano, 5-4, in the first bout of the match. Gagliano entered the bout 11-0.
Southern’s Bryan Brown (132) put Howell (12-2), ranked No. 2 in the APP Top 10 and No. 11 in the NJWWA Top 20, squarely behind the eight-ball in the next bout with a 3-1 win over Kris Lindemann. Brown was the District 24 runner-up at 113 in 2012. He did not wrestle varsity last year. Lindemann was 28-2 last season, but did not wrestle in the District 21 Tournament because of an injury sustained just before the districts.
A major decision win by Matt Wilhelm (138), the District 24 champion at 106 in 2012, a 7-1 win by Zach Wilhelm (145), the state eighth-place finisher at 112 in 2011, and a win by Nick Racanelli (152), the District 24 runner-up at 145 last year, gave Southern a 16-0 lead after five bouts.
Howell won the next three bouts to close within 16-10 before Pat Ferraro (195) and Jesse Bauta (220) gave the Rams wins in key tossup bouts. Bauta, a two-time District 24 third-place finisher, pinned Kyle Cocozza, the District 24 champion at 220 last year, to give Southern a 25-10 lead with four bouts left.
A 9-2 win by James Knoeller (113), the District 24 runner-up at 106 last year, clinched the match for Southern with a bout remaining.
IN THE JACKSON LIBERTY TRI:
RARITAN 28, LONG BRANCH 26: The Rockets, ranked No. 4 in the APP Top 10 and No. 15 in the NJWWA Top 20, made a lot out of their six bout wins to edge the No. 10 Green Wave in a match that could be a preview of an NJSIAA Central Group II match.
Raritan (16-2), which swept the tri, collected bonus points in four bouts and had 10 bonus points in all, including three pins. Long Branch, which won eight bouts, had just two bonus points. That came via a technical fall by Nick Menkin (145).
Consecutive pins by Kyle Polonsky (220) and Patrick Toal (heavyweight) gave the Rockets a 28-20 lead with two bouts left. Long Branch won the final two bouts.
IN THE CBA TRI:
CBA 34, BRICK 28: Wins in the final three bouts, including a pin by Mike Oxley (220), the Region VI champion at 195 last year, enabled the Colts (6-1), ranked No. 9 in the APP Top 10, to rally for the win over the No. 8 Green Dragons (5-3).
Alex Petrocelli’s 4-1 win at heavyweight gave CBA the lead and unbeaten sophomore Sebastian Rivera’s win by technical fall at 106 in the final bout clinched the win.
IN THE OCEAN QUAD:
OCEAN 30, ROXBURY 27: Dan Loizos’ escape with six seconds left in the 220-pound bout, the final bout of the match, gave him a 5-4 win over Clayton O’Leary and the Spartans (7-1) the win over the Gaels in a matchup of contenders in what looks like will be a wide-open Group III state tournament next month.
A pin by Ocean’s Jason Lawhon, the District 22 third-place finisher at 160 last season, of Peter Sutton, the District 2 runner-up at 182 last season, tied the match heading into the final bout.