The state Group III semifinals started unfavorably for the South Plainfield High School wrestling team, but opening the dual meet against the strength of Delsea’s lineup wasn’t the sole reason the Tigers endured a lopsided 35-15 defeat.
“It’s not where we started,” South Plainfield head coach Kevin McCann said. “It’s that we didn’t do our jobs. We thought we could steal some of those in the middle there and we didn’t and then the momentum was all on them and we couldn’t respond and we couldn’t bounce back.”
The strength of Delsea’s lineup begins with Lorenzo Ruggiero at 145 pounds, which is where the semifinal began at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton on Sunday morning.
Anthony King of Paulsboro, right, wrestles Andrew Gombas of Bound Brook in the 170lb bout at the Group I State Team Wrestling Championship, Sunday, February 15, 2015, at the Sun Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ.
An incumbent state qualifier and transfer from Timber Creek, Ruggiero scored a 3-0 decision and teammate Dom DeMarco followed with a 10-2 major over Chris Maszczak as Delsea raced out to a 7-0 advantage.
Jordan Handwerger followed with a clutch 2-0 decision for South Plainfield over Brad Dobzanski, who entered the semifinals with a 21-3 record and is widely regarded as one of the top 160-pounder in the Region 7 and Region 8 area.
The Tigers then lost back-to-back heartbreakers. Nick DeFrancesco dropped a 4-3 decision at 170 pounds to Brett Hughes (his attempt at a big throw just before the final buzzer sounded was almost successful). Christian Gonzalez, who was leading Vince Degeorge 7-5 before after taking the Delsea 182-pounder to his back in the opening minute, got pinned with 28 seconds remaining in the third period.
Delsea (24-3) went on to win six of the next seven bouts to pull away with 106-pounder Joe Heilmann notching the lone decision for South Plainfield. Teammate Kyle Bythell’s 8-1 decision over backup Dustin Ziesloft, who was filling in for injured freshman standout Billy Janzer (Delsea also lost Vin DeFrance, a two-time state qualifier as an upperweight, to injury before the season started).
“I would have liked to see if we stole some of those and we took away some of the momentum what would have happened,” McCann said of the first half of the dual meet. “Maybe we could have rebounded. But when we are down (by a significant margin and we’ve got to pin and score major bonus to be in the match, that throws your game plan off.”
Delsea’s forfeit in the final bout accounted for the rest of South Plainfield’s scoring.
“They are a great team and they are well-coached,” McCann said of Delsea. “The difference was they were tougher than us today.”
The Tigers, who end the dual meet portion of their schedule with a 23-7 record, will now turn their focus to extending their state record district tournament team championship streak to 31 in a row.
“Now it’s their individual season,” McCann said. “They have their individual goals (qualifying for regions and states) and if they accomplish their individual goals, the team (title) will take care of itself when it comes to districts.”
145: Lorenzo Ruggiero (DELS) over Frank Ferraro (SOPL) (Dec 3-0) 152: Dom Demarco (DELS) over Christopher Maszczak (SOPL) (MD 10-2) 160: Jordan Handwerger (SOPL) over Bradley Dobzanski (DELS) (Dec 2-0) 170: Hughes Brett (DELS) over Nicholas DiFrancesco (SOPL) (Dec 4-3) 182: Vince Degeorge (DELS) over Christian Gonzalez (SOPL) (Fall 5:32) 195: Jake Hallowell (DELS) over Dion Pender (SOPL) (MD 8-0) 220: Joe Fabrizio (DELS) over Dakota Pauls (SOPL) (Dec 5-0) 285: Mark Chaney (DELS) over Matt Szeman (SOPL) (Dec 2-0) 106: Joe Heilmann (SOPL) over Chris Recinto (DELS) (Dec 7-2) 113: Edison Echevarria (DELS) over Jake Giordano (SOPL) (Dec 7-4) 120: Hassett John (DELS) over Ryan Duhamel (SOPL) (Dec 3-0) 126: Tom Carney (DELS) over Ryan Walsh (SOPL) (Dec 8-6) 132: Kyle Bythell (SOPL) over Dustin Zeisloft (DELS) (Dec 8-1) 138: Daniel Hedden (SOPL) over (DELS) (For.)