Stafford Leader Winter Sports Previews

Deep, Experienced and Balanced Southern Regional Wrestling Squad Sets the Bar High Again

Dec 08, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds After going 34-9 and placing eighth in New Jersey last season, Southern Regional junior wrestler Nick O’Connell is back to lead a deep, experienced and balanced crew of Rams this winter.

With a schedule that includes perennial powerhouses Phillipsburg, South Plainfield and High Point, nobody can accuse the Southern Regional wrestling program of not being prepared enough once February’s NJSIAA team and individual tournaments roll around. This season, the Rams again will be ready for the big stuff, and many of them may have a shot at the Atlantic City winners’ podium as well.

“I definitely think we can get five or six down to Atlantic City this season,” said interim head coach Dan Roy, filling in during the first month of the season for John Stout, who is serving a suspension handed down by the NJSIAA after a weight-certification mishap last season. “Region VIII was tough last year and very senior-heavy with a lot of experienced wrestlers, so this year we have the potential to do really well in the region tournament.”

Of course, the Rams have to get through December and January before the “third season” begins, but this year’s crew has a lot of similarity to the balanced squad that snagged the NJSIAA Group V title two years ago. The Rams have depth, experience, solid young wrestlers and a good mixture of newcomers to the lineup.

“We have 10 guys coming back who went to the region tournament, and we’ve never had that many coming back,” Roy said. “And because it was a tough region, that definitely helped us. But we have a lot of good wrestlers in the middle, from 132 through 152, so that’s going to make us better. We’re confident in our guys down low and up top. We need to work out who our depth guys are going to be at specific weight classes, especially up top, but we’re in good shape otherwise. We have a lot of flexibility.”

Leading the charge for the Rams this winter will be junior Nick O’Connell, who last year finished 34-9 and placed eighth in the state at 145 pounds. O’Connell will be back at 145 this season as he goes after a higher spot on the podium. Meanwhile, senior 132-pounder Matt Barnett, who went 24-10 a year ago en route to a spot in Atlantic City, will be among a solid senior group leading the way. Alongside Barnett will be 120-pounder Owen Kretschmer (25-11 last season), 152-pounder Dan Gorman (21-12), 220-pounder Matt Mackanic (8-6) and 182-pounder Vin Miele (19-13).

Besides O’Connell, the junior crew returns 170-pounder John Stout (23-14), 138-/145-pounder Nick Pepe (17-13) and 126-pounder Sebastian Delligatti (17-11). The only sophomore returning from last year’s 13-3 team is 113-pounder Jayson Scerbo, who won 13 bouts at 106 last winter.

Newcomers to the varsity lineup include juniors Haven Tatarek (160) and Luke Galan (152), as well as sophomores Jason Sari (132), Sebastian Cervetto (220) and Jared Cornelius (195), along with Ben LoParo (195 pounds) and Robert Woodcock (132/138) – a pair of young wrestlers who went through the middle school program, spent their freshman year at St. Augustine before returning to the Southern district, and are expected to be solid contributors this season. Also new to the team is freshman 106-pounder Matt Brielmier.

“Our guys are extremely fired up this year, especially because of what happened in the state tournament last season,” Roy said, alluding to the NJSIAA tournament disqualification following the weight-certification snafu. “I definitely think they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder and they have high expectations for themselves. Their goals are to win the division, win the sectional final and then win a Group V title. We keep the bar high here.”

David Biggy

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