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Four area wrestlers place second in state tournament

Scott Jacobs

Jake Benner of Ocean Township High School was thwarted in his bid to retain a championship while three other area wrestlers also placed second when the state tournament wrapped up on March 4 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Benner, who won the state title as a junior at 138 pounds in 2017, was denied a second straight 138-pound state crown when he fell to two-time state champion Quinn Kinner of Kingsway Regional High School by a score of 11-2 in the championship match.

Kyle Slendorn of Howell High School fell in a state title match for the second straight year when he was edged by Lucas Revano of Camden Catholic High School, 4-3, in the final at 132 pounds. Slendorn, who helped Howell win a second straight Group 5 state title this winter, was the state runner-up in 2017 at 126.

Meanwhile, Dean Peterson of Saint John Vianney High School was decisioned by Joey Olivieri of Hanover Park High School, 6-3, in the 106-pound final.

Mitchell Polito of East Brunswick High School was defeated by Robert Howard of Bergen Catholic High School, 5-2, in the 120-pound title bout.

In the featured championship match of the day, Kinner had built a 6-0 lead on Benner in the first period when he scored a takedown and four back points. Kinner received the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award.

Kinner won the state title at 132 pounds during the 2017 tournament and is ranked No. 1 nationally. He is Kingsway’s first two-time state champion and will move on to Ohio State University, one of the top collegiate teams in the nation this season.

Benner, who successfully defended his Region 6 championship at 138 on Feb. 24, will go to another Big 10 school: Rutgers University.

The consolation bouts for places third through eighth were wrestled before the championship round on March 4.

Peterson’s Saint John Vianney teammate, Nicholas Caracappa, placed third at 170 pounds when he scored a third victory this postseason over rival Nick Addison of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, 5-3.

Caracappa decisioned Addison, 8-1, in the 170-pound final at the Shore Conference Tournament on Jan. 27 and edged him, 2-1, in the Region 5 championship match at 170 on Feb. 24.

In between those matches, Addison pulled out a victory over Caracappa. During the 170-pound semifinals at District 19 on Feb. 19, Addison edged Caracappa, 7-6. Addison went on to win the District 19 crown, while Caracappa placed third.

Placing fourth in the state were Saint John Vianney’s Steven Giannios at 220 and Nicholas Cofone of Middletown High School North at 182.

Another rivalry was renewed in the consolation matches for fifth place, where Joseph King of Colts Neck High School finally solved Richie Koehler of Christian Brothers Academy.

King won by a 6-1 score at 120 pounds to avenge losses to Koehler three times in Region 6 title bouts. Koehler won this year’s Region 6 championship when he trimmed King, 4-3, in the 120-pound final. Koehler had defeated King in 2017 and 2015 region title matches.

Scott Dupont of Holmdel High School and Howell’s Shane Reitsma fell in their fifth-place bouts to finish sixth at 152 and 170, respectively.

Finishing in seventh were Ocean Township’s Alex Poniros at 132 and Long Branch High School’s Kevin Cerruti at heavyweight. Also gaining medals with eighth-place finishes were Jerry Lleshi of Howell at 113, Kyle Hillermeier of Freehold Township High School at 170, Peter Wersinger of Long Branch at 195 and Cameron DiGiorgio of Christian Brothers Academy at 220.

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