By Matthew Rocco
Long Branch High School and Ocean Township High School brought home team titles from the NJSIAA district wrestling tournaments.
The Green Wave’s Carlos Irizzary earned a gold medal at 120 pounds in the District 23 competition, while Ryan Zimmerman (106), Chris Dean (126), Isaac Shohet (138), Luke Arnold (145), Dan Santos Silva (170) and Hunter Marhan (220) placed second in their respective weight classes to propel Long Branch to a win. Rey Guzman (113) and Peter Wersinger (182) posted third-place finishes.
The top showing at districts — the Green Wave’s 11th district title — continues another winning campaign for Long Branch. The Green Wave are 20-7 on the season, including a 5-1 divisional record in Shore Conference Class B North. Long Branch made it as far as the semifinals in the Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, where it fell to first-seeded Jackson Memorial High School by a point, 26-25.
Wersinger and Irizzary lead the team in wins this season. The Green Wave also have a strong group of underclassmen, including freshman Zimmerman and sophomore Guzman.
Ocean Township outlasted Christian Brothers Academy by a slight margin, 171 points to 167, to win the District 24 team championship, giving the Spartans 15 district championships in school history.
Alex Poniros (126), Nick Villapiano (132) and Jake Benner (138) earned gold medals on their way to the Region 6 tournament. The Spartans also had second-place finishers in Jack Nies (106), Saif Ali (145) and Clayton Oates (220). John Santos (113) and Adam Manzo (120) finished third in their weight classes.
Poniros and Nies have quickly risen to the top ranks in their freshman season. Both grapplers have surpassed the 30-win plateau. Benner, a junior, also has more than 30 wins to his credit.
Shore Regional High School, which placed fifth in the District 24 team standings, saw Austin Cannon take the individual title at 160 pounds.
Red Bank Catholic High School had the eighth most points, followed by Monmouth Regional High School in ninth place.
The Caseys’ Ethan Byrne (132) and Steven Cmielewski (170) extended their seasons with second-place showings. Tyler Flynn (138) of Monmouth Regional also grabbed a silver medal.
In District 18, Red Bank Regional High School’s Finn Smith booked a ticket to regions by claiming third place at 120 pounds.
Saint John Vianney High School was the third-best club in District 19, as Tyler Pepe (106), Nicholas Caracappa (170), Josiah Walker (182) and Steven Giannios (220) led the way with gold-medal runs.
The top three finishers in each weight class reserved a spot in regions — the last step before the state individual championships in Atlantic City. The Region 6 tournament, hosted by Brick Memorial High School, was scheduled to start Feb. 22 and continue Feb. 24-25. Region 6 includes Long Branch, Ocean Township, Christian Brothers Academy, Red Bank Catholic, Shore Regional and Monmouth Regional.
Red Bank Regional and St. John Vianney compete in Region 5. The Region 5 tournament is scheduled at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.