Manalapan grapplers improve to 10-1 with victory over Colonials


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MANALAPAN — The Manalapan High School wrestling team’s 2022-23 home opener on Jan. 4 against Freehold High School could not have gone any better in the eyes of Coach Scott Pressman.

“Most of the guys wrestled really well,” Pressman said. “They came out really amped up and were aggressive on the mat. We had a good week of practice and it showed.”

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The Braves (10-1) recorded nine pins en route to a 61-13 victory over the Colonials of Freehold Borough.

The dual meet began at 157 pounds, where Manalapan’s Dan Orsen pinned his opponent in 37 seconds. The Braves won the first six bouts – five by pin – in the Shore Conference A North Division contest.

Orsen, Sergey Zavalnik (175), Kenny Wines (190), Constantine Kilaras (215), Artem Reinikov-Jouk (285), Andrew Mucciolo (113), Anthony Vitola (120), Gage Grant (126) and Vincent DePierro (132) all won their bouts by pin against Freehold.

Manalapan’s Austin Stakemann (165) scored a 7-1 decision over Cristofer Martinez and his teammate Vincent Kain (150) ended the dual meet with a 14-1 major decision over Hunter Miller.

“We came out strong and we finished strong,” Orsen said. “We all did good.”

Manalapan’s 10-1 start in 2022-23 marks a significant turnaround from the Braves’ 3-9 start in the 2021-22 campaign.

Last season, the Braves were able to right the ship to finish with a 14-12 record and win the NJSIAA District 18 team championship.

Pressman, now in his 16th season as coach, said COVID-19 played a role early last season and led to his squad hitting a “speed bump” in the beginning of the campaign.

With a full off-season of work and preseason practice, the Braves have been impressive on the mat in 2022-23.

Manalapan has scored more 40 team points in each of its 10 victories. The Braves’ only loss in a dual meet came at the hands of parochial powerhouse Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft.

“We have a good group of kids who have done well and work hard in the (practice) room to make each other better,” Pressman said. “We go by the mantra of trying to get better every day. That is what we shoot for. It’s a long season. We are still far away from a perfect product.”

The Braves are led by returning region tournament qualifiers DePierro, Wines, Vitola, Kain and brothers Andrew Mucciolo and Anthony Mucciolo.

DePierro is coming off an impressive junior campaign that saw him go 26-4 and qualify for the state tournament.

Vitola, Kain and Andrew Mucciolo won district titles and qualified for the region tournament a year ago, while Wines and Anthony Mucciolo each posted more than 20 victories.

The Braves are working hard to make a run at the Central Jersey Group IV team title this season.

Manalapan won the Central Jersey Group V team title in 2019-20 and reached the Group V state championship match that season.

“We have a lot of guys back from last season ready to do big things and who have helped kick off this season way better than last season,” Wines said. “Everybody has been working hard all off-season to get ready to go.”

Manalapan will take its 10-1 record into a quad-meet at Hightstown High School on Jan. 7. The Braves are scheduled to face Hightstown, Middle Township and Princeton.

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