By Wayne Witkowski
Ed Jacoby has enjoyed back-to-back championships so far this school year at Carl W. Goetz Middle School, which few middle school athletes can claim.
As an Ocean County Middle School All-Star stopper, Jacoby helped the Goetz boys soccer team go unbeaten in the Red Division in the fall and followed it up as one of the leaders for the wrestling team that repeated as Red Division tournament champion. The eighth-grader had a 23-2 wrestling record.
Jacoby is one of six champions in the Red Division Tournament that saw 17 wrestlers in 26 weight classes get medals —11 of them reaching the championship finals.
It helped wipe out the frustration of a six-point, early-season loss to Toms River Intermediate North, which beat out Goetz for the regular-season division championship.
“We had two or three guys out early in the season when we had that match and then we progressed,” coach Ken Sims said. “A few wrestlers were new and had to get their technique down from less than a month of wrestling. A couple of guys had to get down to weight. Once that happened, it solidified the team.”
Goetz finished 7-1 in the division and 12-3 overall. It had nondivision losses to North Hunterdon Middle School and Monroe Township Middle School — each by five points — and victories over Phillipsburg Middle School and Watchung Hills Middle School. After that, the team went on a roll in the county with lopsided victories over nemesis Southern Regional Middle School, Toms River Intermediate East and Veterans Memorial Middle School in Brick and a convincing victory over crosstown rival and Blue Division champion Christa McAuliffe Middle School.
Goetz’s wrestlers also won the Garden State Classic in Princeton, pitting wrestlers from 17 teams from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey against each other. They showed well in the early-season Southern Slam showcase — a non-scoring event for teams.
Along with Jacoby, Sims also singled out the efforts of Kyle Epperly, who won the Garden State Classic, Southern Slam and Red Division tournament in a 22-2 season at 144 pounds, and seventh-grader Brett Blaess, who won the Garden State and Southern Slam and was runner-up in the Red Division tournament — his only loss in 23 bouts at 70 pounds.
“It was just their confidence and the kids looking up to them as the match starts to set the stage,” Sims said. “Epperly’s going to Shore Thing helped his technique, absolutely.”
Goetz wrestlers who won the Red Division went on to wrestle in the Tri-County championships against middle school wrestlers from neighboring counties. Michael Fiore was a Tri-County champion at 180 pounds and had his only two losses in 22 bouts in the Garden State Classic and Southern Slam finals. C.J. Villafort at heavyweight (285 pounds) got to the Tri-County finals before losing. Brad Galasso, who was 17-5 at 170 pounds, and Hunter Smith, who was 13-4 at 134 pounds, were Red Division Tournament champions.
“We had a nice, solid lineup down low,” said Sims, who was assisted by Eric Rado, Nick Farrar and Brian Kelly. “The kids worked hard and we had great assistant coaches, which was instrumental to our season. Teams were shut down over the break, but we practiced and stayed in shape.”
There were others who contributed. Team newcomer Diego Diaz, a seventh-grader, was 11-10 at 90 pounds but made the Tri-County and Red Tournament finals and placed in the other two tournaments. Mike Wischengrad (17-3) was runner-up in the Red Division, won the Garden State and was third in the Southern Slam. Justin Burkert was 9-5 but was runner-up in the Red Division, Garden State and Southern Slam. Nick Bectel, 18-2 at 105 pounds, was second in the Southern Slam.
Newcomer Mahadi Mytrue (15-3) at 150 pounds was third in the Red Division Tournament and Garden State but won the Southern Slam. Seventh-grader Robert LaGravenis was 19-3 at 100 pounds but finished third in all three tournaments.
Other wrestlers who placed in tournaments included eighth-grader Wyatt Rodriguez (105) and seventh-graders Julian Craig (75), Luke Temple (80) and Nick White (95), who give Sims reason to be optimistic for the future. So does Joe Scotto (70), Tim Salisbury (85) and Damian Lapari (126), a newcomer who started strong before missing the rest of the season with an injury.
Other eighth-graders who contributed during the season included Dan Fargione (80), Scott Waldron (110), Mitch Engle (116), Christian Pallone (126), Robert Hart (126), Kevin Lalley (144) and Jake Wendell (158).
Sims feels many of the graduating wrestlers who plan on going to Jackson Memorial High School will help that program continue its success, which last weekend repeated as NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV champions.