A little of this and a little of that as we have had time to digest a busy weekend of wrestling.
It has become obvious Howell’s success at the end of last season when it won the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time and the NJSIAA Central Group IV championship for its first sectional title, has given it the confidence to become an elite program.
The talent has always been there at Howell. It has always had very good teams. But, for a lot of years, it could never get over the top.
But, with the steely resolve, it now wrestles with, Howell has been able to move to the next level
The Southern=Howell match Saturday night was the perfect example of Howell’s resolve.
It was match where neither team gave an inch. It was the type of match Southern wins more times than not. But, it was Howell that was able to find a way to win 29-21.
The Rebels won four of the seven bouts from 152-heavyweight, with six of those bouts being decided by two points or less and four in overtime.
Howell is balanced and puts a wrestler out on the mat in every weight that has a chance to win given the right matchup. It also has some hammers in freshman Kyle Slendorn (106) and juniors Peter Dee (120) and Kris Lindemann (138).
The Long Branch-Wall match Saturday morning, won by Long Branch 32-28, was fascinating.
Not having standout Brett Donner (170) in the lineup, obviously, hurt Wall.
However, it must be noted Wall won the flip and was able to bump away from Andy Hernandez at 126. The Crimson Knights were able to get a pin at 132 in a bout that was 2-2 in the third period and they won in double overtime at 138.
Also, with the match decided, Long Branch coach Dan George elected to forfeited at 113 in a bout that would have been a tossup.
Long Branch’s lineup is also the most settled it has been all season with Joey Jasio getting down to 220 and John Tominlinson being able to be inserted at heavyweight and Tommy Flannigan getting down to 138.
Wall has been battling injuries all season.
Donner (high ankle sprain) has not wrestled yet this season.. Jack Wishart (145) returned to the lineup last week after an ankle injury, Chad McClelland (152) has been battling a shoulder injury and the Crimson Knights had a 106-pounder Saturday for the first time.
When Wall gets all the pieces in the lineup, it will be a tough out in South Group III. The one drawback is it does not have the depth some other teams in the Shore have.
Our journey for the weekend ended Sunday at the Rutgers Athletic Center, with the Minnesota-Rutgers match.
Seeing Rutgers wrestle these Big Ten powehousess is a neat experience. It has certainly excited New Jersey wrestling fans and given the Rutgers program a new energy.
When former Toms River South star Ken Theobold rallied for a 7-6 win in the 149-pound bout to give Rutgers a 12-0 lead after four bouts, the RAC rocked like it probably did that night when the Rutgers’ men’s basketball team upset No. 4. Wisconsin .
Everyone knew the thunder in Minnesota’s lineup was coming, but it was a great moment for the Rutgers program.
Rutgers is going to struggle right now to win matches in the Big Ten, but wrestling in that conference is going to make its program better in the long run. It will help coach Scott Goodale and his coaching staff it in recruiting and help the program have wrestlers who will earn All-America honors.
Rutgers does have wrestlers right now who can consistently win Big Ten bouts and have a chance to earn All-America honors. It just does not have the depth programs like Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, which Rutgers hosts Friday night, and Ohio State, which Rutgers hosts on Feb. 1, have.
However, if you are a wrestling fan and have not yet attended a Rutgers match against a Big Ten team, do so.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; firstname.lastname@example.org