HomeIndependentIndependent SportsColts top Rebels to win Shore Conference team wrestling championship

Colts top Rebels to win Shore Conference team wrestling championship

The top team in the Shore Conference wrestling world is once again Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft. The Colts stole the show in the return of the team format that was last used for the Shore Conference Tournament during the 2016-17 season.

CBA defeated Saint John Vianney High School of Holmdel in the semifinals and Howell High School in the finals of the tournament on Jan. 31 at Middletown South High School in Middletown to win its first conference crown since 2016.

Winning the Shore Conference team title is just the beginning for Coach Billy Ashnault and his talented squad in 2021-22. The Colts have aspirations of winning a state team title and having some of their wrestlers place in the individual state tournament.

“I tell these guys every day that if you do what you are supposed to do, the team will take care of itself,” Ashnault said. “Competing as a team in big events like (the Shore Conference Tournament) is what wrestling is all about until you get to the district, region and state (individual tournaments). The biggest thing is these guys coming together as a team and picking each other up. All the credit goes to them.”

CBA defeated Saint John Vianney, 42-30, in the Shore Conference semifinals to claim its spot in the final against Howell. The Rebels defeated Middletown South, 34-21, in their semifinal match.

In the championship match, the Colts defeated the Rebels, 38-29, to earn the Shore Conference team title.

Junior Robert Canterino got the finals started in a big way for the Colts as he was bumped up a weight class to the 285-pound bout against Howell’s Thomas Richards. Canterino, a junior, delivered an 8-3 decision over Richards to give the Colts a quick 3-0 lead.

Sophomore Tyler Venet (106) followed by pinning Howell’s Mason Hultman in 1:00 to push the lead to 9-0.

“We knew we had to get those results on those toss-up matches and we did,” Ashnault said. “Up and down the lineup, we knew we were wrestling some tough individuals and we had to step up and battle with them.”

CBA took control of the match following the 113-pound bout that Howell’s Xavier Ortega won with an 8-2 decision. Ortega’s victory narrowed the Colts’ lead to 9-3.

Alex Nini (120) won a 4-0 decision and Garrett Totten won his 126-pound bout with a 17-1 technical fall to give CBA a 17-3 lead.

At 132 pounds, freshman A.J. Falcone kept wrestling until the final whistle against Howell’s Kieran Bruen. Trailing 1-0 as the seconds ticked down, Falcone scored a reversal with :03 left to earn a 2-1 decision over Bruen and extend CBA’s lead to 20-3.

“I thought time was out, but I kept wrestling and looked at the clock and saw there were still three seconds left,” Falcone said. “It was awesome. I felt confident in my technique and knew what I needed to do. All my hard work the last few weeks showed.”

Junior Julian George (138) pinned Howell’s J.J. Machnik in 1:50 to increase the Colts’ lead to 26-3.

The Rebels won at 144 pounds by disqualification on an illegal toss by CBA’s Nicholas Punzi to make the team score 26-9, but the Colts bounced back when senior Tyler Barrett (150) and junior Zander Silva (157) took the mat.

Barrett pinned his opponent in 1:16 to give CBA a 32-9 lead with five bouts remaining. That outcome meant that if Silva could win by a decision or a pin, the Colts would secure the tournament title.

Silva was up to the challenge against Howell’s senior captain, Nick Acque. Silva took down Acque and put him on his back in the second period for a pin at 3:03 to lock up the Shore Conference team title. Silva’s pin gave the Colts an insurmountable 38-9 lead.

“I went out there looking to execute and do what I can to get the six points (by pin) for my team,” Silva said. “We have big plans for the rest of the season. Everyone is hoping for the best as a team and individually. We can do anything we set our minds to.”

Howell’s wrestlers won the final four bouts at 165, 175, 190 and 215 pounds, but it was not enough to overcome the Colts’ lead. The final score was 38-29 in favor of CBA.

CBA (15-2) is the No. 1 seed in the upcoming South Jersey Non-Public A state sectional team tournament.

The Colts will be trying to win the sectional title and earn a chance to eventually battle elite teams like the Delbarton School of Morristown or Bergen Catholic High School of Oradell in the state team tournament.

If the Shore Conference Tournament proved anything, it was that CBA is more ready than ever to be mentioned among the top teams in the state with the wrestlers the squad has throughout the lineup.

“We have worked hard every day over the last two years to come from a young team that no one knew to being on top of the Shore Conference,” George said. “It’s awesome. The ultimate goal now is to be the state team champion.”

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