Southern Wrestling Team Ready for District Tourney Following Setback
It certainly wasn’t part of the design for the season, but the Southern Regional wrestling team ended up not repeating as the NJSIAA Group V champions. In fact, the Rams didn’t get out of the South Jersey sectional tournament, but not because they lost to eventual Group V champion Howell, which was in their section this year.
Instead, the Rams were bounced because of an NJSIAA regulations violation two days into the sectional tourney, a day after they had knocked off Rancocas Valley, 48-9, in the first round.
“As a result of self-reported non-compliance with NJSIAA regulations, Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin (South Group V) has been withdrawn from the state championship team wrestling tournament,” NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko said in a statement on Feb. 7.
According to reports which quoted Southern Principal Eric Wilhelm, as well as confirmation by Southern Regional Superintendent Craig Henry following the district’s Board of Education meeting on Feb. 8, the violation was related to a procedural error regarding the documentation for preseason weight certifications.
“The issue was brought to Eric’s attention. It was looked into, and once it was discovered there was in fact an error, we immediately reported to the NJSIAA,” said Henry, declining to say who exactly alerted Wilhelm to the infraction.
As a result of the NJSIAA’s actions against Southern, the Rams had to forfeit their scheduled sectional semifinals contest against Egg Harbor Township on Feb. 8 and, of course, missed out on the opportunity to face Howell in the sectional final, which would have been a rematch of last year’s Group V championship.
However, the Rams were not penalized beyond the forfeit. The NJSIAA allowed Southern to retain all of its 13 team victories and allowed all the team’s wrestlers to retain their current records.
Southern’s wrestlers also were given the green light to compete in the upcoming individual state tournament, which begins Saturday, Feb. 18, with the District 29 tournament, provided the school recertified them and they followed Timko’s guidelines for hydration testing and other procedures.
Southern – moved to Region VIII’s District 29 in a sweeping change to the entire district and region structure by the NJSIAA prior to the season – is the host of this year’s district tourney.
Athletic Director Chuck Donohue Jr. said on Feb. 13 that everything was aligned for the school to host the district tournament and all of the team’s wrestlers were recertified and available to compete.
Along with Southern, District 29 includes Woodstown, Kingsway, Washington Township, Ocean City, Cedar Creek, Schalick, Holy Spirit and Atlantic City. Wrestlers who place among the top three in each of the 14 weight classes will advance to the Region VIII tournament, and the top three in each weight there advance to the individual championship tourney at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, March 3-5.
— David Biggy