By Matthew Rocco
The Long Branch High School wrestling team kicked off the postseason with a trip to the Shore Conference Tournament (SCT) semifinals.
The Green Wave have counted on both veterans and underclassmen throughout the season, and the team used the same formula during its run to the final four of the Shore Conference. Freshman Ryan Zimmerman pinned Vincent Franzone of Colts Neck High School for the win at 106 pounds, while senior Justin Navarro (182) and junior Pete Wersinger (195) also had pins in a 31-28 win in the SCT quarterfinals.
Senior Hunter Marhan (220) recorded a pin in the final bout of the day, clinching the victory for Long Branch.
In the semifinals, sophomore Kevin Cerruti pinned Howell High School’s Jake Wurtz for his 12th win of the season. Zimmerman, sophomore Luke Arnold and juniors Wersinger and Dan Santos Silva joined Cerruti in the win column, but it wasn’t enough, as the Green Wave fell, 41-19.
Long Branch started the tournament with a 40-27 win over Wall High School.
The Green Wave, who lost five district champions after last season, have filled the void with some young grapplers who quickly made an impression on the varsity level.
With a record of 23-5 on the season, Zimmerman is tied with Wersinger for the team lead in wins. Sophomore Luke Arnold (152) has gone 20-8, eclipsing the 20-win plateau for the first time in his young career. Sophomore Rey Guzman is 13-9.
Long Branch has also benefited from standout seniors, including Carlos Irizzary and his 21-8 record.
The Green Wave (16-6) remain one win behind Middletown High School North for first place in the Shore Conference B North Division. Long Branch is 5-1 in dual meets against division opponents.
Long Branch will host a meet Feb. 11 featuring Ocean Township High School, Ewing High School, Nottingham High School, Point Pleasant Borough High School and Robbinsville High School. Wrestling starts at 10 a.m.
Seeding for the NJSIAA tournament was set for Jan. 31. Sectional quarterfinals will begin Feb. 6.
The individual state tournament will begin with district competition Feb. 17-18.