HomeExaminerExaminer SportsAllentown's Rugo earns 100th career mat victory

Allentown’s Rugo earns 100th career mat victory

By Wayne Witkowski

Allentown High School’s gym was packed for the second straight match last week with the crowd hoping to see Jordan Rugo get his 100th career victory Jan. 15, and he gave them what they wanted.

Dropping from 170 to 160 pounds for the first time this season, Rugo got a first-period pin against Notre Dame High School to remain unbeaten after 14 bouts. But the large gathering also was there to see the Redbirds continue their winning ways at home as Rugo’s pin spotted Allentown a 30-0 lead en route to a lopsided 69-15 triumph. Only two of Rugo’s victories this season have gone the distance.

Justin Buechler, wrestling his first varsity match, won by pin at 132 pounds, as did Nolan Pecci at 145 and Connor Marks at 152 in the fast start that ran Allentown’s record to 7-0 in the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) Patriot Division. Allentown is 9-5 overall, surpassing last year’s win total with the victory.

“The kids have been buying into this and the school’s behind us with the administrators as well as a lot of students at the match,” first-year coach Mitch Nock said. “It’s nice to see.”

Earlier in the week, Allentown beat CVC division leader Nottingham High School, 44-21, behind winning efforts from Liam McDermott, who is 15-3 at 170 pounds, Zach Turner, who is 19-2 at 182, and Theodoros Vlahos, who is 10-3 at 220.

Also, Isaiah Faiz is 12-2 at 135 pounds.

But the big test was Jan. 20 when the Allentown was scheduled to have a division showdown with Hopewell Valley Central High School, which entered the week on a 47-meet win streak in Mercer County.

“We believe we can hang with them,” Nock said prior to the meet. “[The key] is saving bonus points — not getting pinned and pinning when we have the opportunity and winning the close matches.”

On Jan. 16, Allentown dropped two of three matches in a quad meet to Point Pleasant Borough High School, 69-12, and Hillsborough High School, 44-19, to see an end to a five-meet win streak. The Redbirds beat Central Regional High School, 44-29. Nock said he rested wrestlers in certain matches — as many as eight starters against Point Pleasant Borough — to keep them healthy for the Jan. 20 showdown.

Allentown also has the Mercer County Tournament Jan. 29 and 30. Hopewell Valley has won seven titles in the last eight years. Three wrestlers will look to repeat as county champions: Sebastian Rizzo, who wrestled at 113 pounds, Rugo at 152 and Turner at 182. Rizzo is 11-3 wrestling at 120 pounds this season. It’s a big reason why Nock said he is not surprised at the team’s solid start in its division and overall this season.

“From 152 to 182 [pounds], we have district place-winners who are region caliber and the three county champs,” Nock said.

“Hopefully this will turn around things and put us in the right direction.”

Boys basketball

Tristan Millet has picked up his scoring of late and has commandeered at point guard the well-balanced attack that has led Allentown (7-4) to four straight victories.

“He’s starting to take a leadership role very well,” coach Jay Graber said. “We’re playing a lot better lately — better on defense and the offense is more unselfish moving the ball. The players are not concerned about points scored but the common goal of winning games.”

Against struggling Robbinsville High School Jan. 15, Millett led four players in double figures with 20 points. Bekim Nikovic followed with 17, and Hunter Gerling and Payton Jackson had 12 and 11, respectively, in the 73-57. Allentown also had four players in double figures in a 69-62 victory over Trenton Central High School Jan. 13, as Millett and Nahshon Taylor scored 19 and 18, respectively, Gerling fired in 14 and Nikovic had 11. Millett’s 18 points fueled a 57-28 victory Jan. 11 over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South.

Allentown has a big stretch coming up starting with a Jan. 22 home game against Princeton High School (3-8) and a Jan. 25 showdown at Ewing High School (8-1), which comes into the week with five straight victories after a loss to Union Catholic Regional High School. The Redbirds also play Jan. 30 at Eastside High School (Paterson), which comes into the week 7-1.

“Every game is important. For our team, it’s about coming together and playing well and good defense,” Graber said. “Once we don’t do that, we can lose to anybody.”

Along with cohesive team play, Allentown also has tapped into the versatility of Nikovic, who leads the well-balanced lineup with 13 points a game as a strong force inside who also has stepped outside for shots, including three 3-point baskets against Trenton.

Girls basketball

Allentown (7-3) reeled off three straight victories after a loss to Hopewell Valley, capped by a 71-11 victory over Robbinsville Jan. 15. Kali Hartshorn and Sarina Campanella led the way with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Hope Narozniak, Bianca Santos and Ryan Weise added eight points each.

Balance and depth showed in a 59-37 victory over Trenton Jan. 13. Weise scored 16 points and Santos fired in 12, while Katie White came off the bench to score eight points and Camille Flim played a good floor game when two starters ran into foul trouble. Weise led a 55-33 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro South Jan. 11, as Weise scored 20 points, Campanella scored 12 and Santos grabbed 11 rebounds.

“All 10 of my kids have played in every game,” coach Linda Weise said. “We’ve jumped out fast in the first quarter [of many games] and when we do that, it deflates opponents and makes it hard for them to get into the game.”

Allentown has a game Jan. 22 at struggling Princeton before a CVC Freedom Division showdown at home against Ewing, which is unbeaten in the conference, at home Jan. 25. Allentown and Hopewell Valley are tied for second place and each with one division loss.

“We have to just continue to play together and rebound the basketball because Ewing has some big kids inside,” Weise said. “We’ll be ready.”

Ice hockey

The Robbinsville-Allentown Ravens (8-5-0) ran their losing streak to three games with a 7-4 loss to state power Roxbury High School at Iceland City in Hamilton. Shawn Camisa scored twice and John Francis had a goal and an assist against Roxbury (7-7-2), which broke the game open with a 4-1 second-period surge. Joe Pontrelli scored the other goal for Allentown, which came off losses to high-powered opponents Kinnelon High School, 5-2, and Montclair High School, 4-1.

“We played three top northern New Jersey teams for the sake of preparing ourselves against the faster, better teams we could see in states, should we qualify,” coach Dan Bergan said. “While we performed well and showed we can play with anyone, anything short of a ‘W’ is unsatisfying. We’ve had a few players play well, but the Roxbury game left me very disappointed. They were an excellent team on a roll, but I felt it was a golden opportunity for us that we let slip by. I was not happy at all about the five-man coverage that produced a seven goals-against result. There were simple breakdowns everywhere, including one sequence where all five players made mistakes and the puck ended up in our net.”

And Bergan said the goaltending also needs improvement.

“While they have been strong overall, they haven’t taken the jump to elite status I had hoped for,” Bergan said. “While they ‘steal’ enough shots to make up for it most times, there have still been too many unnecessary ‘technique’ goals every game that could be eliminated.”

Bergan said an upcoming stretch against CVC Colonial Division teams will determine the team’s season over the next three weeks.

“We look forward to making a big push to determine the senior legacy of this group,” he said.

Indoor track and field

Kassidy Mulryne had an eventful day for Allentown’s indoor girls team at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, running on two school record-setting relays and clearing 5 feet in the high jump individually for fifth place.

Sami Tendler, Jesse Bragger, Mulryne and Devon Hoernlein recorded a school record 13:20 in the distance medley for 11th place. She also ran the opening leg on the record-setting sprint medley that clocked 4:36.22. Carly Roche, Tamra Miller and Sara Guter ran the other legs.

Lorna Drexler threw a personal best of 31-10 in the shot put.

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