Tickets were punched to Atlantic City —the venue for the state wrestling tournament–during the Region 5 Tournament at Franklin Township High School on Feb. 29.
Headlining the fray going to compete at this week at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City was Saint John Vianney High School’s 2019 state champion, Dean Peterson.
Last year’s state champion at 113 pounds will try to repeat as New Jersey’s best when he wrestles at 120 pounds.
Peterson is having a tremendous junior year, standing at a perfect 32-0 after his impressive performance at Region 5.
All eight region tournaments were concluded on Feb. 29. Now, the final wrestling event of the 2020 season, the state tournament, will be staged March 5 through 7 at Boardwalk Hall.
The top four finishers in each weight class from each of the eight regions qualified for the state tournament.
At Region 5, Peterson rolled to a 15-0 technical fall victory in the quarterfinals and then pinned Middletown High School South’s David Hussey in the first period during their semifinal match.
But he faced a challenge in the region final against Shore Regional High School’s Jack Madia, who gave the state champion fits.
Peterson was able to edge Madia for a 11-9 decision to become a two-time region champion, becoming only the second wrestler in Saint John Vianney’s history to achieve that feat.
The junior is now a three-time state qualifier and is locked on becoming a two-time state champion.
“Winning another state title is the end goal,” Peterson said. “I’m feeling great. I decided to stay at 120 and challenge myself. I’m excited about the state tournament.”
Peterson wasn’t the only Lancer bringing home gold from the region tournament.
Both Nicholas Diaz, a 126-pounder, and 182-pounder Blake Clayton were crowned Region 5 champions for Saint John Vianney.
Freshman Joseph Giordano defeated Sayreville War Memorial High School’s Dylan by a 3-1 decision to place third in the 106-pound bracket, giving the Lancers four wrestlers in the state tournament.
Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School enjoyed a productive day at Region 5, finishing second overall with 124 points.
North Hunterdon High School, the Group 4 state team champion this season, scored the most points in Region 5 with 130.5. North Hunterdon finished ranked No. 3 in the state behind No. 1 Delbarton School and Bergen Catholic High School.
A program-record five wrestlers will be heading to Atlantic City this week for Rumson-Fair Haven.
Aiden Shaughnessy, a 113-pounder, and 160-pounder Shay Addison each won gold at Region 5, which marked just the second time in school history that Rumson-Fair Haven has had multiple region champions.
Max Brignola finished in second at 145 pounds for Rumson-Fair Haven, when dropped his first bout of the season, a 3-2 decision to Hunterdon Central Regional High School’s Colton Washleski in the final.
A state qualifier last year, Brignola is back in the state tournament for a second year in a row and is focused on finishing on the podium.
“I have bigger goals this season and the biggest one is to try to be No. 1 on the podium,” said Brignola, who is 34-1 and scored two pins at Region 5.
Brignola’s brother Tyler, will also be competing in the state tournament when he placed fourth at 152 pounds.
Jack Kelly continued showcase the power Rumson-Fair Haven has in the middle of its lineup when he pinned Holmdel High School’s Victor Wladica 25 seconds into the second period of their third-place match at 170 pounds to qualify for the state tournament.
Making program history by having five wrestlers qualify for the state tournament and finishing second in the team standings behind the No. 1 public school in the state, Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Heller couldn’t have been happier for his squad’s performance.
“For our kids to come into this tournament and perform that well is awesome,” Heller said. “We’re on the up and up. This has been a long time coming. It’s a lot of people’s hard work coming together and these kids being dedicated enough to get the job done.”
Manalapan High School, the Central Jersey, Group 5 champion and Group 5 state finalist, sent four wrestlers to Atlantic City.
Justin Schifter, a 113-pounder, and 195-ppunder Gavin Claro each placed second at Region 5. It’s the second year in a row that Claro will wrestle in the state tournament.
After being upset by Rumson-Fair Haven’s Addison, 2-1, in the quarterfinals at 160 pounds, Matt Benedetti fired back with a vengeance in his next three matches to place third and became a three-time state qualifier.
Benedetti won his next two matches by a 16-0 technical fall and a 13-0 major decision and then defeated Marlboro High School’s Edward by a 14-2 decision in their third-place match.
The senior is 39-1 heading into the state tournament.
Senior Hunter Konstantoulas became a two-time state qualifier for Manalapan, placing fourth at 145 pounds.
“Our team has been solid all year,” said Manalapan coach Scott Pressman. “They’re solid people. We’re a team first oriented program. We all care about each other. We want to try to get as many kids as we can on the podium at AC.”
Holmdel’s Michael Pavlinetz broke a 37-year drought, becoming the program’s first region champion since John Mullan in 1983 by taking home the 220-pound Region 5 championship. Pavlinetz battled from the No. 5 seed to win and become a first-time state qualifier.
The senior pinned Old Bridge High School’s Elijah Mack in the third period to advance to the final, where he defeated Hopewell Valley Central High School’s Christian Cacciabaudo by a 7-2 decision.
Middletown High School South’s freshman Jack Zaleski won his first championship for the Eagles when he took Region 5 gold at 106 pounds.
Zaleski won by a 14-5 major decision against Marlboro High School’s David Rubin to become the second freshman in Middletown South history to become a region champion.
It was a banner day for Allentown High School on Feb. 29 at the Region 6 Tournament at Jackson Liberty High School.
Allentown seniors Joseph Lamparelli, Matt Paglia, Nicholas Golden and Paskal Miga all qualified for the state tournament.
Lamparelli, Allentown’s all-time winningest wrestler, became a four-time state qualifier when he placed second at 120 pounds
The senior came up just short of winning his third region title when he fell by a 6-4 decision to Middletown High School’ Norths Fred Luchs in overtime. Lamparelli had decisioned Luchs, 9-3, a week earlier in the District 22 final to become to become a four-time district champion.
Lamparelli stands at 39-1 this winter going into the state tournament.
Golden scored his first trip to Atlantic City when he won by two pins before he fell by a 3-2 decision in the 160-pound final to Red Bank Catholic High School’s Sabino Portella. Golden had defeated Portella at District 22 on Feb. 22 to win his second district title.
At 170 pounds, Paskal stole the show with his upset ride to the final round.
Paskal shocked the No. 2 seed, Anthony Bailey of Raritan High School, with a 13-6 decision to advance to the semifinals, where he earned his first trip to Atlantic City with a 7-3 decision over Long Branch High School’s Jack Friedman.
Paskal then fell to Hamilton West High School’s Ryan Bennett in the final by a 11-3 major decision.
Paglia rounded out the four-man senior band going to the state tournament for Allentown when he placed fourth at 145 pounds. That finish earned Paglia his first berth in the state tournament.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports