Five takeaways as the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex wrestling championships return to Phillipsburg

·7 min read
Collin Neal of Pope John in the closing seconds as he defeated Bryce Coesfield of Kittatinny in the 150 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Collin Neal of Pope John in the closing seconds as he defeated Bryce Coesfield of Kittatinny in the 150 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

PHILLIPSBURG — After a year away, the Hunterdon Warren Sussex wrestling tournament returned to Phillipsburg on Saturday.

While some brackets were sparse due to injuries, match limits and COVID, it was not lost on the coaches and wrestlers how important it was to have the tri-county tournament back.

Collin Neal of Pope John defeated Bryce Coesfield of Kittatinny in the 150 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Collin Neal of Pope John defeated Bryce Coesfield of Kittatinny in the 150 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

Results: Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex wrestling championships at Phillipsburg High School

With plenty of strong teams, state champions and medalists competing, the H/W/S tournament continued to provide exciting matchups and big results.

Here are some of the bigger storylines from Saturday's event:

Home cooking good for Stateliners

It was a momentous 48 hours for the Phillipsburg wrestling team.

Two days after becoming the fourth program in New Jersey history to win 1,000 matches with a 70-10 defeat of Watchung Hills, the Stateliners returned to the top of the tri-county tournament.

Phillipsburg claimed the H/W/S team title with Gavin Hawk (120 pounds), James Day (126), Joe Innamorato (138), Caleb Rivera (175) and David Pierson (215) all securing individual titles.

James Day of Phillipsburg goes on to Daniel Hawes of Lenape Valley in the 126 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
James Day of Phillipsburg goes on to Daniel Hawes of Lenape Valley in the 126 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

"Gavin Hawk having three falls in his first Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex tournament is pretty impressive," Phillipsburg first-year coach Brad Gentzle said. "James Day beat a kid in the finals who he had never beaten in in-season competition.

"Joe Innamorato had a near-perfect day today as far as being in control all day long. Caleb finally opened up a little bit today and David wrestled with a purpose."

Add in a runner-up finish from Nate Zastowny to Warren Hills' Stephen Malia at 165 pounds, and the Stateliners were the most well-represented in the tournament's most critical matches.

It all added up to Phillipsburg grabbing a record seventh team title in the 13-year history of the event after a two-season hiatus without the hardware.

Lions showcase hidden gems

With a huge performance on Saturday, Pope John freshman Carson Walsh and sophomore Justin Holly each made a statement by winning the 113- and 132-pound titles, respectively.

Both were the No. 9 seeds in their respective weight classes. Both proved they'll be contenders in any tournament throughout the rest of their high school careers.

Carson Walsh goes on to defeat Patrick Horvath of Belvidere 7-2 in the 113 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Carson Walsh goes on to defeat Patrick Horvath of Belvidere 7-2 in the 113 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

Walsh grabbed one of the best wins of the day, 4-1 over state runner-up Logan Wadle of North Hunterdon, before rolling to a 11-0 major decision over Phillipsburg's Miguel Lopez, and taking down Belvidere's Patrick Horvath 7-2 in the final.

With state championship aspirations, Walsh was frustrated that he gave up a third-period reverse to Horvath in the final despite an otherwise strong showing.

"We're going to back in the room and we're going to fix those mistakes," Walsh said. "I got a little sloppy, it happens. We'll fix it and it's not going to happen again."

Meanwhile, Holly notched three decision wins by five points or fewer. He took out top seed Chris Casale, 5-3, before going on to defeat Warren Hills' Shawn Redfield, 7-2, in the final with a takedown and three back points with less than 30 seconds left in the match.

Shawn Redfield of Warren Hills and Justin Holly of Pope John in the 132 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Shawn Redfield of Warren Hills and Justin Holly of Pope John in the 132 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

Despite being hampered by an ankle injury in the final, Holly persevered.

"In the heat of the moment, it hurts that second, but when you're wrestling, you've got your adrenaline going in the finals," Holly said. "You just know you've got to keep going. I had to pull that win out and that's what I did."

Senior Collin Neal rolled to the 150-pound crown to complete a strong showing from the Lions. He pinned Kittatinny's Bryce Coesfeld late in the third period of their final after earning a 7-1 win over Newton's Takeo Sibblies in the semis.

"We started the season off with some really tough tournaments, but I think that gets our kids in shape and in the mindset to go out and wrestle hard every match," Lions coach Todd Piotrowsky said. "It's not just one match."

A first for Soldano?

High Point's two-time state champion Brian Soldano headed into the H/W/S Tournament having never won it.

How is that possible?

With other big tournaments on the Wildcats' schedule in 2019 and 2020 and COVID canceling 2021, he had never competed there.

That changed on Saturday afternoon, as Soldano won his first tri-county crown at 190 pounds. His first two wins came in 22 seconds or less, before he sparred with North Hunterdon's Alex Uryniak for six minutes in the final and pulled off a 19-3 technical fall.

Brian Soldano of High Point defeated Matt Schneider of Delaware Valley in the 190 lb. semi finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Brian Soldano of High Point defeated Matt Schneider of Delaware Valley in the 190 lb. semi finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

"Not being to be able to be here for the last couple of years was a little bit of bummer. Certain things popped up," Soldano said. "Seeing all the kids I train with, big guys that came here and eventually went on to place and win states, being friends with them, it helped me motivate myself."

Early in the tournament, Soldano likes to get on and off the mat to conserve energy. He said Urnyiak came in with a good game plan and he was a little sloppy himself in the third period. Overall, he was happy to get in the work and secure his first tri-county win.

It was also a monumental victory for Soldano, who joined the ranks of Wildcats wrestlers with 100 wins, even if the pandemic hampered his goal of doing it before his senior season.

"It's a big thing for me being able to part of that core group up there," Soldano said. "It's going to be something special for me with my family when I get to come back when I'm 30 years old and have kids. There's something special about having your name up on the banners."

Good to be back

Three weeks into the high school season, the Newton wrestling team has only competed in one dual match.

With only a handful of Braves wrestlers able to compete at Bayonne's Battle of the Bay and Warren Hills' John Goles Tournament, Saturday provided a great opportunity for Newton coach Brian Bollette to see where some of his top wrestlers stand at the site of last season's NJSIAA championships.

Jared Lee of Warren Hills defeated Taylor Sibblies of Newton in the 144 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Jared Lee of Warren Hills defeated Taylor Sibblies of Newton in the 144 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

"It's just good to have them on the mat — as much of a season as we can get in is great," Bollette said. "Yeah, it's been a struggle. We didn't have much in December and the two Sibblies and Melkart (Abou-Jaoude), three of our more accomplished kids, have barely wrestled. Even (Michael) Melillo barely wrestled. We haven't really had our full team yet and hopefully we get them soon."

After teams were limited in which opponents they could wrestle during the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic, the tri-county tournament also gave the coaches and opportunity to get a glimpse of their future opponents during the dual-meet season.

"It feels like it's very early in the year," Gentzle said. "We've got a lot in and a lot to go and we had some goals and we're right where we wanted to be at this point of the season."

Close calls

Hackettstown's Aiden Scheeringa simply ran out of time.

After trailing 5-0 after two periods to Hunterdon Central's Anthony Rossi, the top seed at 106 pounds, Scheeringa notched three takedowns in the third period to get within 7-6 with 25 seconds left. But one last-ditch effort let Rossi score two back points and escape with a 10-6 win.

Anthony Rossi Hunterdon Central defeated Aidaan Scheeringa of Hacketstown 10-6 in the 106 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.
Anthony Rossi Hunterdon Central defeated Aidaan Scheeringa of Hacketstown 10-6 in the 106 lb. finals at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Wrestling Tournament in Phillipsburg, NJ on January 8, 2022.

Lenape Valley senior Daniel Haws use his unique style to take a 3-1 lead over Phillipsburg's James Day into the final period at 126. But after an escape from Day, Haws gave up a takedown with 11 seconds left to fall behind 4-3 and had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Newton junior Thaylor Sibblies was rolling all over the mat in the first period, but landed oddly onto his shoulder and was hampered for the rest of the match.

Sibblies was able to score a reversal to take a 2-0 lead early in the second, but a takedown with 12 seconds in the frame proved to be the difference as Warren Hills' Jared Lee remained undefeated and grabbed the 144-pound title with a 4-2 win.

This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: NJ wrestling: Takeaways from the 2022 H/W/S wrestling tournament

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