For the 10th straight year and 12th time overall, the Hopewell Valley Central School wrestling team is the champion of the Mercer County Tournament
Hopewell Valley out dueled the tournament favorite, Hightstown High School, to win the program’s 12th county championship in 13 years in the event that was wrestled at Robbinsville High School on Feb. 1.
Hopewell Valley scored 252.5 points while runner-up Hightstown came in with 242.5 points.
“We all strive to think about what’s best for the team,” said Hopewell Valley coach Mario Harpel. “The kids went out and wrestled hard and kept moving.”
The key for the Bulldogs to keep the Mercer County championship in Hopewell Valley was the effort of their entire lineup. Thirteen of the 14 Hopewell Valley wrestlers placed in the top six, a balanced effort that is so crucial to a team in pursuit of winning a tournament.
Junior Josh Beigman, a 182-pounder, was the lone Hopewell Valley wrestler among the seven Bulldogs who advanced to the final round to bring home a gold medal.
Beigman decisioned Lawrence High School’s Connor Verga, 8-5, in the 182-pound title bout.
Beigman made a stellar comeback in the semifinals against Allentown High School’s Paskal Miga to make it to the championship bout. He capped a rally to post a 12-10 victory when he scored a takedown in overtime. Beigman had rallied from a 10-6 deficit in the third period to force OT.
Hopewell Valley received second-place finishes from Christian Micikas at 113 pounds, Jacob Venezia at 120 pounds, Allen Lopez at 126 pounds, Alejanero Lopez at 138 pounds, Brian LaCross at 195 pounds and Christian Cacciabaudo at 220 pounds. The Lopez wrestlers are brothers.
John Snyder, the 285-pounder, came in third place for the Bulldogs, while his Hopewell Valley teammates, 132-pounder Joe Vannozzi and 152-pounder Brian Zeglarski, each placed fourth in the tournament.
Kyle Doherty, a 106-pounder, 160-pounder Ben Shevlin and 170-pounder Gael Vasquez each won his fifth-place consolation bout to contribute to the championship showing by Hopewell Valley.
Hightstown produced the most county champions with four winners.
Kether Thornton won the title at 132 pounds, Chris Stavrou claimed gold at 195 pounds, Bryan Bonilla placed first at 220 and Branden Hansen captured the title at 285 pounds to help Hightstown finish second in the team standings.
Robert Fattore, a 106-pounder, and 160-pounder Alex Stavrou both took home silver medals for the Rams, who had six finalists.
Elijah Rodriguez edged Ewing High School’s Owen Weigle for a 4-3 decision in the 145-pound third-place match to bring home the only bronze medal for Hightstown.
Placing fourth were Joe Obst at 120, Gio Morina at 126 and Nico Leaver at 170 for Hightstown.
Despite coming up short of winning the team county championship, Hightstown coach Mike Russo was happy with what his squad has been able to accomplish this season.
Hightstown has already secured the Colonial Valley Conference Colonial Division title and ended Hopewell Valley’s 50-match winning streak in the conference. Hightstown defeated Hopewell Valley, 42-30, on Jan. 25.
Russo believes there are even more special things ahead for Hightstown this season.
“We’ve come a long way and have had a great season,” Russo said. “This is one of the best teams we’ve had in years. They’re good wrestlers, but better people. I think we can get a couple guys to Atlantic City (site of the state tournament) and be one of the best teams in our district.”
Allentown High School’s Joey Lamparelli won the 120-pound title to become a four-time Mercer County Tournament champion. He was the recipient of the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award.
Three Princeton High School wrestlers won Mercer County championships.
Princeton stole the show at the county tournament during 138-152 pound championship matches when Aaron Munford, Dominic Riendeau-Krause and James Romaine all brought home gold medals.
Riendeau-Krause was impressive during the tournament in the 145-pound bracket, winning all three of his matches by a fall.
Romaine edged the No. 1 seed, Matt Paglia of Allentown, 1-0, in the final of the 152-pound bracket to win gold for Princeton. Munford captured the title at 138.
As a team, Princeton scored 152.5 points to beat out Allentown by two points to finish fourth in the team standings.
Robbinsville finished in third place with 168 points.
West-Windsor Plainsboro High School North had a solid showing in the tournament, picking up a silver and two bronze medals to finish eighth in the team standings.
Matt Moore placed second in the tournament for the Knights, picking up two pins going into the heavyweight final where he lost to Hansen by a 2-0 decision. Moore finished fifth in the county last year.
Tommy Zovich (170) and Tim Glynn (195) all took earned third-place finishes for West Windsor-Plainsboro North.
“It’s been amazing what we have been able to do in this past year,” said West Windsor-Plainsboro North coach Evan Pettus. “Our best finish last year was Matt Moore in fifth place. For the program going forward, it’s really encouraging for our younger guys to see us have success.”
Lawrence High School placed sixth in the tournament. Verga, 145-pounder Careem Frost and J170-pounder Jake Dallarda each finished as a runner-up for the Cardinals.
Notre Dame HIgh School’s Mason Louderback rolled to a 11-2 victory over Robbinsville’s Isaiah Lederman in the third-place match of the 138-pound bracket to take home a bronze medal.
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