HOWELL – It is an area where opponents know they have to and think they can do some damage against Howell.
However, so far this season, the Rebels’ upperweights have not only been holding their own. They have been winning key bouts.
“We’re pretty much all grinders,” Howell senior 182-pounder Austin Silverstein said. “We’re in the room every day working hard with each other, just trying to get better.”
Howell’s middle to upperweights won four out of seven bouts to start Saturday night’s nondivisional match against Southern. Then, the Rebels’ strong lower weights broke the match open as Howell, ranked No. 1 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, defeated No. 6 Southern 29-21.
Silverstein’s 3-2 win over Joe Toci, when he escaped with 21 seconds left in the third and final overtime period, was the type of bout he admitted he might not have won at this time last season.
The win by Silverstein typlified the grind it out style of Howell in the match, where the two teams split four overtime bouts and also split four other bouts that were decided by one point in regulation.
Southern bumped everyone from 160-220 up a weight and Howell had enough answers to foil the strategy.
“You know what: They’re (the upperweights) working hard in the room,” Howell coach John Gagliano said. “The thing about them is they’re just working and grinding each other every day. You just watch them and they’re getting better off each other.”
David Nocks (152) recorded a key win for the second straight night when he defeated Sean Bowker 3-1 on a takedown with 38 seconds left in the first overtime.
Anthony Pozsonyi (160) followed with a 3-2 win over Nick Suriano on a first period takedown.
Nick Lurski (170) did his job by holding Matt Wilhelm, the Region VI champion last year at 138, to a decision. Silverstein’s win made it 9-3 and his brother Sean Silverstein (220) made it 12-6 with a 8-6 win over Connor Scully. Sean Silverstein broke a 5-5 tie with an escape with 28 seconds left and a takedown with 16 seconds left.
“As coach (Gagliano) always says, ‘Gas isn’t cheap, so we work on it every day to make sure we have that gas tank for bouts like that,” Austin Silverstein said.
Southern (5-2),was left to wonder how the match might have turned it out had it been able to win some of the upperweight bout it lost.
Southern coach John Stout feels his team, will get better with experience.
“They’ve (Howell’s wrestlers) got one year on us,” Stout said. “They have one more year of experience with kids in those situations before, that they wrestled in those situations, where our guys didn’t.
“All you can do is put them back in the situation over and over again. They’ll either figure it out or they won’t. Most times, we get them to figure it out.
The Rams did win in two overtimes at both 195 (Peyton Blauvelt) and heavyweight (Pat Ferraro).
However, Howell swept the 106-120 bouts with unbeaten freshman Kyle Slendorn (106) winning by major decision and Peter Dee (120), the Region VI fourth-place finisher at 106 last year, pinning.
That burst gave Howell, which lost to Southern twice last year, including the NJSIAA Group IV semifinal, a 25-9 lead with four bouts left. Kris Lindemann (138), the state sixth-place finisher last year at 132, clinched the match with a win by major decision in the next to last bout.
There is a chance these two teams could meet again in the sectional part of the NJSIAA Team Tournament.
Southern, which won South IV the last four seasons and nine of the last 10 seasons, moved to South V with the creation of Group V by the NJSIAA in the four public school sections.
Howell, which won Central IV last year for its first sectional title and has been classified as a Central Jersey school for years was moved to South Group V along with Brick Memorial.
“I hope so,” Stout said, when asked if he thought his team would wrestle Howell again.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; email@example.com