By Wayne Witkowski
Zach Turner became the second Region 7 wrestling champion in Allentown High School’s history and locked up a return to the NJSIAA championships at 182 pounds when he rallied from a 2-1 deficit early in the third period of the finals.
The pin, Turner’s third in his four region tournament bouts and 28th in a 35-3 season at 182, came off a cradle move. It earned him a return to the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships starting March 4 at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Turner’s victory avenged his 10-8 overtime loss to the same Hamilton High School West wrestler, Christopher Stout, in the District 25 finals.
Turner is joined in the state championships by 160-pounder Jordan Rugo, who pinned his first three opponents before suffering his first loss in 26 bouts, a 11-5 decision to Connor Rogovich from Cherry Hill High School West.
It marks the first time in school history that two Allentown wrestlers advanced to the state championships as region finalists.
Region champions get an opening-round bye in the state championships, so Turner will open his bid for a state title in the second round.
Ross Scheuerman was a region champion in 2011.
Two other wrestlers who advanced out of District 25 fell short of making the state championships but were region place-winners: heavyweight Theo Vlahos placed among the top six and sophomore Liam McDermott finished among the top eight at 170 pounds despite suffering an arm injury during the tournament.
“He was wrestling with one arm from there,” coach Mitch Nock said.
As for Turner, Nock said, “He came into the tournament extremely focused and is very intelligent. He works hard and loves wrestling, giving only his best.”
Turner’s semifinals pin was against Northern Burlington County Regional High School’s Fred Miller, who eventually won his consolation bout.
As for Rugo who came in as a two-time District 25 champion, Nock said he wrestled extremely confident in Region 7 but lost to a wrestler who was a little stronger and faster than him that day. Rugo led early before his opponent took over the bout.
“We’ll see what happens if they wrestle again,” Nock said. “I thought they all wrestled really hard and proved they belong.”
The efforts came a few days after Allentown finished in a three-way tie for the Colonial Valley Conference Patriot Division title — its first division championship since 2007. Allentown also finished with its best record against Mercer County opponents in school history at 12-1. Allentown, at 15-8 overall, had a complete turnaround from a 4-9 record against Mercer opponents and an 8-17 overall record a year ago.
Allentown (20-6) nailed down its third straight 20-win season and rebounded from a 59-52 loss to Ewing High School in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals Feb. 22 with a pair of victories: 69-52 over Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Feb. 25 and 63-48 over West Windsor Plainsboro High School North the following day.
Allentown pulled away from an early lead in the two victories. Kali Hartshorn sank 24 points against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, and Ryan Weise and Sarina Campanella added 18 and 17 points, respectively. Weise fired in 30 against West Windsor-Plainsboro North, including eight 3-point baskets, and Camille Flim had 11 points.
In the Mercer County Tournament semifinals at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, fifth-seeded Allentown hung close against top-seeded Ewing until an 8-0 run late in the first half led to a 10-point advantage at halftime for Ewing. Hartshorn’s 22 points led Allentown, which had split two division meetings against Ewing, winning the latter one, 57-52, a week before the tournament game.
Allentown was missing emerging backup forward Katie White, who was out with an ankle injury, when it hosted Nottingham High School in its NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III opener Feb. 29. The Redbirds in late December rolled to a 63-41 victory over Nottingham (13-12). Allentown is looking for a return to the sectional semifinals from a year ago.
Hope Narozniak also continues to be out with an injury.
The winner advanced to a March 2 game against the winner of No. 4-seed Hopewell Valley Central High School (17-7) vs. No. 13-seed Lawrence High School (8-16) — two familiar Colonial Valley Conference Freedom Division opponents.
“Nottingham obviously is a much different team from when we played them back in December, and so are we,” Allentown coach Linda Weise said. “The biggest key for us is to play together as a team, to play unselfishly and to play good defense.”
Nahshon Taylor went on a scoring tear when Allentown (14-11) rallied from a loss to Trenton Catholic Academy in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals by winning its last two games over West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 54-49, Feb. 26 and Robbinsville High School, 63-47, the following day as it headed into the Central Jersey, Group III tournament at Pennsauken High School Feb. 29.
Taylor led the scoring in both games, scoring 27 against West Windsor-Plainsboro North and 23 against Robbinsville. Allentown lost to Bridgewater-Raritan High School, 64-55, Feb. 24, and Taylor finished with a team-high 15 points.
Allentown is seeded No. 10 and Pennsauken is seeded No. 7 in the state sectional tournament. Raritan High School and Neptune High School play in the opposite bracket, and the winners of those games collided March 2.
“We’ve been playing well at the right time,” coach Jay Graber said as his team secured its second straight winning season. “We’re excited for the postseason. Having another winning season is nice, but we have bigger goals. We have to play tough on defense and to make good decisions offensively.”
Graber said Pennsauken matches up with his team size-wise, but Pennsauken is quick and athletic. But his team has enjoyed good balance with three players often in double-figure scoring and sometimes four, as well as different players leading the way in scoring at different times.
Indoor track and field
Kassidy Mulryne was one of seven competitors to clear 5-4 in the high jump and finished 10th at the Meet of Champions Feb. 27 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River. She was last in that group of seven based on misses, behind the top three finishers who cleared 5-6.
Robbinsville-Allentown (12-9-3) dropped its NJSIAA Public A tournament opener for the second straight year, falling to Manalapan High School, 5-2. After Manalapan scored two quick goals, Josh Rosenbaum rallied the Ravens back when he rebounded in a shot by John Martin in the second period. Shawn Camisa later pulled the Ravens to 3-2, but Manalapan answered with a shorthanded goal that coach Dan Bergan said afterward put his team into a little bit of a panic.
Manalapan (10-9-3) had three lines and its depth helped it on a tough schedule that included a 4-3 victory over two-time Non-Public A state champion Christian Brothers Academy this season.