Howell continues dominant season at region wrestling tournament


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Howell High School’s impressive wrestling season continued when the NJSIAA Region 6 tournament came to a close last weekend.

Howell, which included repeat NJSIAA Group 5 state and District 22 championships this winter, will send a program-record nine wrestlers to state tournament that will be held from March 2-4 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

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Those nine wrestlers qualified with their placements at Brick Memorial High School, which served as the host on Feb. 21 and 23-24 for the Region 6 tournament.

The Rebels featured two region champions in juniors Darby Diedrich at 126 pounds and Christian Murphy at 182.

Diedrich earned the title with a 9-5 decision in the championship match against Bordentown Regional High School’s Billy Moore. Murphy delivered a 5-1 decision over Christian Brothers Academy’s Sam Houston in the final.

Diedrich won last year’s Region 6 tournament at 120 pounds, while Murphy placed third at 160.

Finishing second for the Rebels were senior Kyle Slendorn, who lost at 132 pounds to Delran High School’s Bryan Miraglia by a 3-1 decision; freshman Paul Jakub, who was decisioned in the 145-pound final to Wall High School’s Jack Kelly, 8-3; and sophomore Shane Reitsma, who was edged by a 12-11 score to Ean Mueller of Brick Memorial at 170 pounds.

Slendorn and Reitsma were both No. 1 seeds and had claimed Region 6 titles in 2017. Slendorn won the region at 126 pounds and then went on to place second in the 2017 state tournament.

Reitsma won the 170-pound division at Region 6 but did not place in the state tournament last March.

Senior Jerry Lleshi (113 pounds), senior Dan Esposito (138) and junior Xavier Kelly (152) earned third-place finishes, while senior heavyweight Scott Prendergast placed fourth. Esposito was second at 132 pounds, while Kelly finished in third at 145, at Region 6 in 2017.

“I just kept doing what I’ve been doing in practice with my teammates,” Diedrich said. “I put in the work to be here, and I’m just glad that it all worked out.”

Diedrich believes the region championship should get him ready for the state tournament.

“In the end, you have to try to score,” Diedrich said. “That’s what it’s all about in AC. A win like this tells me what I have to do next week.”

Christian Brothers Academy took home three place medals at the Region 6 tournament.

The big winner for CBA was senior Richie Koehler, who captured the 120-pound title with a 4-3 decision over Colts Neck High School’s Joseph King in the final.

This result signaled the third time that Koehler has topped King for a Region 6 championship. He defeated King in last year’s 113-pound final by decision, 4-3, and also captured the 106-pound title with a 9-2 decision over King in the final in 2015.

Besides a second-place finish from Houston, a senior, who fell to Howell’s Murphy in the 182-pound weight class, senior Cameron DiGiorgio was the runner-up at 220 pounds after he fell by an 11-5 decision to Bordentown’s Jajuan Hayes.

“This is great,” Koehler said. “This is my last year competing at the high school level. Every one of those victories were even more valuable because of that. It’s just a proud moment.”

Koehler got his match-winning fourth point just seconds before the third-period horn in what was easily one of the best matches of the day. Koehler relished the fact that he got to face his old rival in King one last time, stating that every time the two champions battle, it’s always worth the price of admission.

“I’ve been in these situations before with him,” Koehler said. “It’s our fifth time facing each other. He steps up when it comes to regionals. I usually play it more conservative. I totally get his strategy, and I respect it a lot. I just knew that he would reverse me; he’s done it before. My movement was great, and I knew that I had to stay after it, and I got him there right at the end.”

Senior Dyon Womack, who placed fourth at 126 pounds, joins King, a senior, as Colts Neck wrestlers heading to Atlantic City.

Other first-place finishers at the Region 6 tournament included Freehold High School’s Nico Messina, a sophomore who defeated Long Branch High School’s Ryan Zimmerman in an 8-2 decision at 113 pounds, and Allentown High School’s Joseph Lamparelli, a sophomore who earned the 106-pound title with a 6-1 decision over Brick Memorial’s Vincent Santaniello.

“It feels really good,” Lamparelli said. “After coming in here last year as a freshman and losing in the semifinals, it feels great to come back here, get redemption and win in the finals.”

Allentown also had a third-place finisher in senior Liam McDermott, who decisioned senior Kyle Hillermeier of Freehold Township High School, 9-5, at 170 pounds.

“I think that this is great confidence booster,” Lamparelli said. “Coming off a great finish like that, I hope that I can take that momentum with me to AC and use it on Friday, Saturday and, hopefully, Sunday.”

Last year’s state champion at 138 pounds, senior Jake Benner of Ocean Township High School, retained his Region 6 title at that weight class when he pinned Manalapan High School’s Alex Baran, a junior, in 1:24.

Benner shared the state tournament Outstanding Wrestler award with Bound Brook High School’s Mekhi Lewis, the 160-pound champion, in 2017.

Including Baran’s second-place showing, Manalapan is sending three wrestlers to Atlantic City. Senior AJ Sorino (120 pounds) and sophomore Matt Benedetti (160) placed third in their respective weight classes.

“It was a good match,” said Sortino, who defeated senior Adam Manzo of Ocean Township in the third-place match. “It was very tiring, but I’m glad I pulled it through.”

Sortino said he felt great about advancing to Atlantic City.

“Ever since I started wrestling in eighth grade, I always wanted to go to states,” he said. “Last year, I got knocked out in the first round [of the regional tournament], so it was bittersweet. Just being able to place here and not just crap out like every other kid here does just because they advance. I just feel confident in my shot.”

Region 5 tournament

Monmouth County also had some dominant wrestlers in Region 5 that concluded on Feb. 24 at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington.

Raritan High School led the way with six wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament.

The Rockets boasted two first-place finishers in senior Russell Benson, who pinned Hunterdon Central’s Hunter Graf in 5:21 to claim the 132-pound weight class, and senior Ethan Wolf, who trimmed Saint John Vianney High School’s Steven Giannios by a 4-3 decision at 220 pounds. Benson won back-to-back 132-pound region titles with the victory, while Wolfe improved from a fifth-place finish at 220 last year.

Raritan also had two second-place finishers in senior AJ Erven at 138 pounds and junior Justin Acevedo at 195. Junior George Burdick placed third at 182, while junior Anthony Aquilano came in fourth at 160.

Saint John Vianney and Middletown High School North will each bring four wrestlers to Atlantic City.

Three Middletown North wrestlers came away with region championships.

Sophomore Tyler Klinsky won at 113 pounds with a 4-3 decision over Hopewell Valley Central High School’s Chris Lanciano; senior Santley Wojdylak pinned Vincent Romaniello of Hunterdon Central in 2:50 to claim the 145-pound crown; and senior Nick Cofone claimed the 182-pound weight class with a 5-2 decision over Hillsborough High School’s Michael Dooley.

Klinsky won at 106 pounds last year, while Wojdylak and Cofone improved from third place at 145 and 160, respectively.

Junior Jacob Anderson came in third for the Lions at 195 pounds.

Saint John Vianney produced one region champion in senior Nicholas Caracappa, who repeated as a champion when he decisioned Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Nick Addison, a junior, 2-1, at 170 pounds. Caracappa was the region champion at 170 in 2017.

The Lancers, who beat out Howell to win the Shore Conference Tournament this winter, also had two runners-up in freshman Dean Peterson, who lost by a 4-2 decision to Hunterdon Central’s Brett Ungar at 106 pounds, and Giannios, a senior, who was defeated by Raritan’s Wolfe at 220. Sophomore Tyler Pepe placed fourth at 120 pounds for Saint John Vianney.

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