Ashnault, So. Plainfield edge Bergen Catholic
The strengths for both Bergen Catholic and South Plainfield were well-defined heading into Thursday's showdown, and with the match starting at 160 pounds it was going to come down to which team could flex its muscles the best.
The Crusaders cleaned up the upperweights as was expected to jump put to a big lead, but it wasn't enough, not with an electric group of lightweights ready to pounce for South Plainfield. Down by 24 after dropping the first seven bouts, South Plainfield, ranked No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Power Rankings, rallied with seven consecutive victories of its own for a 34-24 come-from-behind win over No. 3 Bergen Catholic.
Junior Troy Heilmann and senior Tyler Hunt delivered pins during the Tigers (2-0) seven-bout run and junior Scott DelVecchio won by injury default over Connor Melde at 132 pounds to swing the momentum for good. South Plainfield was able to pick up bonus points in six of its seven wins, which also included major decisions by Ray Jazikoff at 113 and Dylan Painton at 152 and a technical fall from Anthony Ashnault at 126.
“I think our upperweights did well holding it close where they needed to,” DelVecchio said. “We didn't give up as many bonus points as we thought and definitely held them to a close enough range where we could bring it back down low and that's what we did.”
“If people are putting down our upperweights they just went with all these guys that were state qualifiers and place-winners and they minimized the damage,” said South Plainfield head coach Kevin McCann. “That's what we need from them all year.”
Bergen Catholic knew it had to build a cushion before getting into the meat of South Plainfield's lineup and started strong with consecutive major decisions by Johnny Sebastian and Michael Kruklinski at 160 and 170, respectively. The Crusaders won decisions from 182 pounds through heavyweight to open a 20-0 lead before Tyler Casamenti's 17-7 win over Ryan Walsh pushed the lead to 24-0 seven bouts in. Bergen Catholic, however, was hoping for more bonus points during that run than three. The Tigers had lost seven straight bouts in almost the least-damaging fashion possible and weathered the storm for its heavy hitters.
“We knew that was our opportunity, that we had to sweep the upperweights and we did,” said Bergen Catholic head coach Dave Bell. “We were hoping to get a few more bonus points up there but if we win at 132 and didn't get majored at the end we win the match. There could have been a different tone to the match.”
Jazikoff's 14-4 major decision over Matt Rose got the Tigers on the board and Heilmann followed with a 1:29 pin of J.P. Ascolese at 120 pounds. After Ashnault won by technical fall at 126 it was suddenly 24-15. The Crusaders had their stopper waiting in the wings, though, before an unfortunate injury turned the tide of the entire match. DelVecchio had taken Melde down early and led 2-1 in the first period. As the Tigers junior was going for a takedown near the edge of the circle Melde crashed to the mat and did not get up. He had a small cut on his head from and used up all his blood time before also exhausting his injury time to cause the default. A groggy Melde was eventually helped off with an apparent concussion, though no official diagnosis has been given at this time. The resulting default represented a potential nine-point swing should Melde had won by decision. Instead of Bergen Catholic picking up a win in the middle of all that firepower, it found its lead trimmed to just three with three bouts left.
“I didn't see what happened but above his left eyebrow he had a big knot and it swelled up pretty quickly,” Bell said. “He got a head or an elbow to the eyebrow.”
“I know on our way in we skimmed heads a little bit and I didn't think it was anything serious,” DelVecchio said. “But when I walked over there he looked a little out of it. Hopefully he gets better soon.”
Melde won last year's meeting, 2-1, and DelVecchio came out came out aggressive and determined to turn the tables on the state medalist.
“I knew it was going to be a good match and I knew I had to come out strong and that's what I did,” DelVecchio said. “I knew my team needed a win and I wasn't going to hold anything back.”
“I think he had his number today,” McCann said. “Scott's right there. He lost 3-1 last year and he's right with those guys. He doesn't get the respect he deserves.”
Hunt pinned Mike Moore in 44 seconds at 138 pounds to give South Plainfield its first lead of the match at 27-24. Corey Stasenko's 7-2 decision over Michael Maye at 145 pushed the lead to six and forced Bergen Catholic in a pin-to-win scenario. Dylan Painton deleted all hopes of a comeback by finishing off Matthew Mangini with a 13-0 major decision at 152 to complete the seven-bout, 34-point comeback.
“Our main guys that we needed to win knew what they had to do and knew the damage was minimized up top and it was in our grasp,” McCann said. “Troy did a phenomenal job, he barred him up and did what he needed to do.”
South Plainfield has now won the last four meetings versus the Crusaders. Bergen Catholic was without standout junior James Dawson, who has decided not to wrestle to concentrate on football. Starter Charlie Mitchell was also out with an injury.
“I can't take anything away from South Plainfield, they wrestled a great match and they're really tough,” Bell said. “You wrestle with the guys you have and you never know what's going to happen.”
No. 1 South Plainfield 34, No. 3 Bergen Catholic 24
160: Johnny Sebastian (BC) md. Inan Sikel 18-5
170: Michael Kruklinski (BC) md. Alex Lundy (14-5)
182: Lukas Iorio (BC) d. Mike Molinaro 7-1
195: Christian Jenco (BC) d. Sam Bermudez 6-3
220: Hunter Kiselick (BC) d. Tory Russell 3-2
Hwt: Carmine Goldsack (BC) d. Tyler Calderone 5-1
106: Tyler Casamenti (BC) md. Ryan Walsh 17-7
113: Raymond Jazikoff (SP) md. Matt Rose 14-4
120: Troy Heilmann (SP) p. J.P. Ascolese 1:29
126: Anthony Ashnault (SP) tf. Harrison Utter 17-2, 5:18
132: Scott DelVecchio (SP) d. Connor Melde by injury default, 2:25
138: Tyler Hunt (SP) p. Michael Moore 0:44
145: Corey Stasenko (SP) d. Michael Maye 7-2
152: Dylan Painton (SP) md. Matthew Mangini 13-0.
Records: at Bergen Catholic (0-1); South Plainfield (2-0).
Bob Badders covers wrestling for MSG Varsity. Follow him n Twitter: @Bob_Badders