By Jimmy Allinder
High school wrestling teams often face the reality that last year’s success doesn’t necessarily translate to the next season.
The results of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament held Jan. 29-30 at Piscataway Township High School proved exactly that for area teams.
South Plainfield High School won the team title, as has been the case for eight consecutive years. However, Monroe Township High School and East Brunswick High School both finished lower in the team standings compared to last year.
While the Falcons were impressive when placing second in 2015, they dropped two spots in this year’s tournament. The Bears finished in third last year but fell to ninth place.
The only area wrestler to win a gold medal was the Falcons’ Nick Lombard, who scored a 5-1 decision over East Brunswick’s Alec Gleason in the 126-pound match.
The Falcons had another wrestler in the finals, defending 220-pound champion Nick Goff. However, South Plainfield’s Zack DelVecchio scored a 5-4 decision to win the weight class.
East Brunswick had two other opportunities to win gold medals, but 106-pound Mitch Polito dropped a 3-2 decision to South Plainfield’s Joe Heilmann and 120-pound Marc Schleifer was upset by John F. Kennedy (JFK) Memorial High School’s Aaron Coleman, 8-7, on a last-second, three-point reversal.
“All three of our wrestlers in the finals had great tournaments getting there, and the whole team did well, I thought,” East Brunswick coach Matt Pazinko said. “In my opinion, Mark [Schleifer] competed in the toughest weight class and was joined by four state-caliber wrestlers. In the final, Mark was in control for most of the match but was caught in the final seconds and gave up five points. That’s an example of how difficult it is to win when one mistake can cost the match.”
Pazinko said Polito lost to an opponent (Heilmann) he met many times before and tried to change tactics by being more aggressive in the GMC bout.
“Mitch pushed the action, but Heilmann did a good job of fending off his shots and shooting him out of bounds,” his coach said.
As for Gleason’s loss to Lombard, Pazinko felt his wrestler’s nerves got the best of him.
“To beat Lombard, Alec needed to be at his best, and I don’t think that was the case,” he said. “However, these two could meet three more times before the end of the season, so we are hoping for a better performance.”
In third-place consolation matches, Monroe’s 138-pound Don Albach was victorious by a 2-1 decision over Bishop George Ahr High School’s Tyler Underwood, and 160-pound Jared Parison lost an 11-9 decision to South Plainfield’s Nick DiFrancisco.
In fifth-place consolation matches, South River High School 152-pounder Quinn Ciesielski defeated Paul Vargas of J.P. Stevens High School, 10-9, and East Brunswick’s 160-pounder Matt Miskanic dropped an 8-5 decision to Giovanni Magee of JFK Memorial.
The NJSIAA sectional team tournament is set to begin Feb. 8 with quarterfinal matches, and Monroe is the only area team to have qualified.
The Falcons (fifth seed) visit Manalapan High School (fourth seed), with the winner advancing to face top-seeded Howell High School in the semifinals two days later. The finals are scheduled for Feb. 12.