Colonials keeping progressing on mats with win over rival Patriots


By Jeff Appelblatt

In each meet, Freehold High School’s wrestling team has continued to show tremendous growth from last season.

Following a win in the annual Buc Classic Jan. 14 at Red Bank Regional High School, the Colonials hit the mats a few days later and defeated its top rival from Freehold Township High School, 35-31.

Freehold coach Matt Shepherd hadn’t seen his club defeat Freehold Township in the first 10 of his 11 seasons, so the victory Jan. 18 was a special one for him.

“We had never beaten them,” the coach said after the win. “The win was exciting.”

This was the year to pull out a win with this year’s wrestlers and the home crowd.

“We lost a couple of close toss-up bouts, but we got bonus where we needed to, and it was exciting. The atmosphere [at Freehold High School] was electric. The gym was packed. It was fun. It was a fun duel to be a part of,” Freehold’s coach said. “Everyone was on point and really doing what they had to.

“We had to win for the kids to really start believing. That was a good win. They’re a good team, [Freehold] Township.”

The Colonials’ most consistent wrestlers this year played a big role in the win. Nico Messina, Michael Gagliardo, Sean Neely, Dominic Theodosatos, Liam Tibbett, John Downey and Reid Osolin each won their weight classes.

However, Shepherd wasn’t going to let his squad reflect too long on any of its big victories. There’s still so much more competition ahead, which began with its most recent battle at Manchester Township High School.

“Now we’re just preparing. We got a big quad [Jan. 21],” Freehold’s coach said before the meet in Manchester. “We keep wrestling the way we are, hopefully we could come out of there real positive.”

The Colonials didn’t win the meet, but they walked away with a plethora of positives. They dominated the home team, 52-15, and Pinelands Regional High School, 50-18. They just couldn’t outlast the team from Ocean Township High School, which defeated Freehold, 41-18.

Competing is all that Freehold’s coach asks for from his wrestlers, especially against powerhouse teams like one the Colonials are slated to face Jan. 25. At 6 p.m. that day, they will travel to Howell High School.

“Howell is elite. We’re going to show up. We’re going to compete,” Shepherd said. “We tell the kids to trust the process. The process is preparing and don’t make any one match bigger than another. We’re going to go there. We’re going to compete. They’re really good, and we’re going to do the best that we can to try to score points, build our lead and keep wrestling.”

Howell’s only loss this season was Jan. 7 to Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 30-29.

Prior to meeting Howell, the Colonials faced Holmdel High School Jan. 24 in the preliminaries of the Shore Conference Tournament, which they haven’t been in since 2012, according to Shepherd.


“We’re the underdog. We work hard, and we’re trying to compete. We’re competing at a pretty good level right now,” the coach said. “Now that [the athletes] are starting to believe in the process, they’re starting to believe in everything we’re doing. We’re tasting some success, which is good.

“It really is a testament to their hard work.”