Four champions lift Manalapan wrestling team to District 18 title


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In the final wrestling event of the 2021-22 season during which team scoring was counted, the Manalapan High School Braves scored 213 points to win the NJSIAA District 18 team championship on Feb. 19 at home.

The Braves won their first district team title since 2017 and the program’s ninth crown. Manalapan produced four district champions and will send 10 wrestlers to the Region V tournament. The top three wrestlers in each weight class advance to the regions.

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Coach Scott Pressman said, “I’m just happy for the kids. Our boys have grown a lot throughout this year and wrestled well enough to win. They came to work every day like we asked them to. I was happy to see it all come together for them.”

Andrew Mucciolo (113), Anthony Vitola (120), Vincent Kain (126) and Vincent DePierro (132) each won a district title and helped lead the Braves to first place among the nine competing teams.

Mucciolo pinned South Brunswick’s Garv Sen at 1:45 in the 113-pound final to win his first district title. Mucciolo is 27-4 in his sophomore campaign.

Vitola, who is a junior, won his first district crown with a 13-2 major decision over East Brunswick’s Aedan Samson-Huggins in the 120-pound championship bout.

Winning the title felt like redemption for Vitola, who lost in the 106-pound district title bout as a freshman. The coronavirus pandemic cancelled the district tournament in 2020-21.

“It feels good to win, especially after not having districts last year,” Vitola said. “Every practice, you look up at the district board (at the school) and see who has won over the years. It was cool to see more guys put their names up there.”

Kain won his district title when he defeated No. 1 seed Anthony Paulino of Holmdel in the 126-pound final. The Manalapan sophomore defeated Paulino, 13-6, to improve to 18-8.

DePierro won his district title in the final seconds of the first period in the 132-pound final. DePierro turned Spotswood’s Madden Obado to his back and pinned him with :02 left in the period. The victory pushed DePierro’s record to 21-1.

“It feels amazing,” DePierro said.”It feels great to win the districts as a junior.”

Manalapan’s Advait Speuri (106) and Kenny Wines (190) reached the championship bout in their weight classes and each grappler finished second to earn their trips to the region tournament.

Anthony Mucciolo (138), Darius Collenton (157), Ryan Wosnitzer (175) and Matt Damato (285) each placed third to earn their trips to the region tournament.

The last two seasons have presented many challenges the Braves and Pressman have had to deal with because of COVID-19. Those challenges made having a full season and winning a district team title this winter more rewarding for the program

“It was a relief to go out and compete all season. It was great being able to finish (the regular season) and get to the postseason where the kids can compete in the state tournament and win championships. It’s great we are getting back to who we are as a New Jersey wrestling community,” Pressman said.

Holmdel was the only other Monmouth County high school that competed at the District 18 tournament. The Hornets placed fourth in the team standings with 136 points.

Luke DuPont (190) won his first district title by pinning Wines in :45 in the finals. In his semifinal bout against East Brunswick’s Russell Novak, DuPont recorded a pin in :19.

“It feels great,” DuPont said. “I have had some really tough competition in my past district tournaments, so it feels great to finally come out on top.”

DuPont is 29-2 and has his sights set on advancing to the state tournament like his brother, Scott, did in 2018. Scott DuPont was a two-time district champion for the Hornets and is the school’s only state tournament medalist in program history with a sixth-place finish at 152 pounds four years ago.

“Hopefully I can make it up there (to the podium at the state tournament),” he said. “My brother was sixth. Hopefully I can beat him and get fifth.”

Holmdel had seven wrestlers qualify for the Region V tournament.

Paulino (126), Alexander Todisco (150), Jaden Gallo (157), Jack Cleary (165) and John Steele (175) finished second in the district tournament, while Rowen Blackmore (106) won his third-place bout by a 9-4 decision to qualify for regions.

Hopewell Valley Central High School from Mercer County placed second in the team standings with 196 points. South Brunswick High School from Middlesex County placed third in the team standings with 148 points.

The Region V tournament will be held at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington starting on Feb. 25.

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