Home Tri Town Tri Town Sports Howell’s Keosseian captures state 220-pound title in Atlantic City

Howell’s Keosseian captures state 220-pound title in Atlantic City

Tom Brenner

By Wayne Witkowski


Howell High School’s wrestling team had its share of trips to the podium at the NJSIAA championships March 5 at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, as three were state place-winners in 40-win seasons, led by 220-pound champion Eric Keosseian.

Keosseian, who struck first with a takedown early, pinned Don Bosco Preparatory High School’s Peter Acciardi at 2:22 in the championship bout. Acciardi escaped early in the closing seconds of the first period to pull to 2-1 when Keosseian put Acciardi on his back in a reversal and then scored the pin to raise his record to 42-2. Keossein finishes his career with 133 victories — five short of the school career mark set by Zac Cunliffe.

Keosseian was eighth in the state last year.

He is only the third state champion in Howell’s 52 years of wrestling — the first since Joey Langel won the 112-pound class in 2008.

Junior Kyle Slendorn came close to giving Howell two state titlists but lost in the 126-pound finals to Hanover Park High School sophomore Nicholas Raimo.

Raimo struck quickly, as he scored three takedowns in the opening period. Slendorn got escape points from the first two to make it 6-2. Raimo scored a reversal in the second period and Slendorn escaped to make it 8-3 before Raimo put Slendorn on his back in the third period and he escaped for the final points.

Slendorn finished 42-2 with 116 career victories and a shot next year at the career record held by Cunliffe.

Both Howell wrestlers won by decision in their first four bouts en route to the title matches.

In his run to the title as the No. 3 seed, Keosseian decisioned Zach DelVecchio of South Plainfield High School in a 4-2 tiebreaker and beat Montville High School’s Lirdo Leka, 10-4, in the quarterfinals. Earlier, Keossein decisioned Highland Regional High School’s Devon Starks, 9-1, and Westfield High School’s Phil Ricca, 8-0.

Slendorn, the No. 7 seed, beat Paulsboro High School’s Anthony Duca, 5-2, in the semifinals and pulled out a 5-4 victory over West Morris High School’s Zach Delvecchio — the No. 2 seed — in the quarterfinals. Earlier, Slendorn shut out South Plainfield High School’s Jack Giordano, 3-0, and Lacey Township High School’s Luke Moynihan, 7-0.

Howell’s Darby Diedrich finished in seventh place at 120 pounds, as he pinned Michael Kelly of St. Peter’s Preparatory School at 2:59. Diedrich, who went 5-2 in Atlantic City, finished 41-5. He bounced back from a loss to Camden Catholic High School’s Lucas Revada (43-3) in a 3-1 sudden-death overtime bout.

All three keynoted Howell’s run to the Group V championship and an unbeaten roll through the Shore Conference A North Division in a 30-1 season.

Also for Howell, freshman Shane Reitsma lost, 11-6, in the fourth round of wrestlebacks at 160 pounds to Joe Schiele of Morris Hills High School (43-2). Reitsma ended the season 41-2.

Christian Murphy, a sophomore, lost in the second round of wrestlebacks at 160 pounds in an 11-5 decision to Matthew Dallara (21-4) of Hasbrouck Heights High School. Freshman Luke Rada (123) and sophomore Xavier Kelly (145) lost their wrestleback openers after dropping their opening-round bouts March 3. Rada lost a 10-4 decision to Hunterdon Central Regional High School’s Jack Bauer to end the season at 29-11. Kelly was decisioned, 5-1, by Monroe Township High School’s Nicholas Lombard to close out a 31-9 season.

Jackson Memorial

Jackson Memorial High School’s three wrestlers fell short of earning a place among the top finishers in the state for the second straight year.

Seniors Matt McGowan (132 pounds) and Tim Hamann (152) lost tiebreakers in the third round of wrestlebacks. Junior David Lemay (220) was eliminated earlier. McGowan wrestled in the state championships for the second year in a row.

“The most positive thing is we have one kid back who was trying to place,” coach Doug Withstandley said. “For the two seniors, they’re both great wrestlers and really good kids who were better in dual meets for our team than they were in competing for themselves. They did wrestle hard, carried themselves well and should be proud.”

McGowan had his season ended, 3-1, by Anthony Croce of Camden Catholic High School (38-6). Hamann lost, 3-2, to James Caldwell High School’s Gerald Jones to finish 25-12. Lemay lost by major decision, 16-7, to Samuel Rogers of Piscataway Township High School (27-12) in his first wrestleback bout. Lemay finished 32-7.

The trio’s efforts helped Jackson Memorial’s young team finish 15-9, including 6-1 in the Shore Conference A South Division, a Central Jersey, Group IV championship and runner-up finish in the District 25 team standings. Only four leading seniors graduate.

Jackson Liberty

Josh Bollard, a junior at Jackson Liberty who made it seven straight years of state championship qualifiers at his school, was pinned in the second round of the wrestlebacks by Justin Carifi of Parsippany Hills High School (38-4) at 1:13.

Bollard finished his season 33-8.

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