TRENTON – There were no satisfactory answers for Jackson Memorial senior Brody Graham on why his team in a matter of days was able soar to new heights, only to finish with a plummeting drop Sunday with a 38-12 loss to Phillipsburg in the NJSIAA Group IV final Sunday at Sun National Bank Center.
Jackson Memorial started the day with a semifinal 33-27 victory over Clearview Regional but Graham said he sensed trouble. Graham, a heavyweight who plans to play defensive end for the Pennsylvania University football team in the fall, and Connor Bohringer were the only members of the team to sweep their two bouts.
Against Phillipsburg, Jackson Memorial recorded just five takedowns, three of them from Sean Leahey in his 9-4 decision over John Kaluzny at 152 pounds.
“We had a bunch of people who had some mistakes against Clearview. I was hoping we all got it out of our system but a lot of people didn’t come to wrestle in the second match,” Graham said. “You just can’t do that against a team like Phillipsburg.”
Jackson Memorial (18-6), which was seeking its fifth state title and first since 2011, was never in contention against the 19-time champion Stateliners (19-1).
Even the Graham-Matt McGowan-Mike Spino trifecta was unable to pay off. The trio pulled off decisive consecutive pins against both Clearview and on Friday night against Brick (giving Jackson Memorial its seventh sectional championship).
Graham decisioned Phillipsburg’s Kyle Nothnagel 1-0, but McGowan was pinned in the following bout by Kyle Markus at 106 pounds, and Spino was on the wrong end of a 4-3 decision against Tom Kosar. McGowan and Spino each own 23 victories this season.
Even if others on the team were waiting for another boost from those three wrestlers, it was unrealistic. Phillipsburg had a commanding 22-9 lead with top wrestlers on deck entering the Graham-Nothnagel.
“That can’t happen every match. Maybe that was on people’s minds. I hope it wasn’t. This needed to be an overall team effort,” Graham said.
Phillipsburg thus won its second straight state title. Only Paulsboro has won more state team wrestling championships (28) than Phillipsburg, but Jackson Memorial coach Aaron Gottesman said the Stateliners’ lengthy history at this level was no excuse for his team’s loss.
“They’re here a lot but in the last 10 years but we’ve been here 7 times. It’s not like we haven’t been here. That’s no excuse,” Gottesman said. “A mat is the same size wherever you go. It’s reffed by the same rules, so I don’t care if this was the first time they were here or the 100th time they were here, we just got outwrestled.”
Phillipsburg won its semifinal 59-6 over Roxbury.
Bob Jordan 609-984-4343, firstname.lastname@example.org