Southern Regional Wrestlers Fall Short in Bid for Podium Spots at State Championships

By DAVID BIGGY | Mar 07, 2018

After capturing NJSIAA Region VIII championships, Southern Regional wrestlers Matt Barnett, Nick O’Connell and John Stout were among some of the higher seeds for the state championships, annually held inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, this past weekend. But as most wrestling fans know, the road to an individual title is a tough one. In fact, all eight Rams competing March 2-3 quickly found out just how difficult it is just to make it onto the medals podium. Unfortunately, none of them got that far this time around.

Going into the tournament, the most likely candidate to get to the podium was O’Connell, the junior 152-pounder who last season placed eighth. Unlike last year, though, O’Connell wasn’t a secret. Still, despite being a region champ, he was given the 11th seed among a deep field of talented wrestlers, and that depth was apparent once O’Connell reached the pre-quarterfinals.

After knocking off Kittatinny senior Calvin Brook, 7-2, in the first round, O’Connell went up against sixth-seeded senior Scott Dupont of Holmdel, a second-place finisher from Region V. Dupont ended up winning a tight bout, 6-4, sending O’Connell into the wrestlebacks.

In his first wrestleback contest, O’Connell ousted Watchung Hills’ Rob Saum, 5-2, then bounced New Providence’s Owen Smith, 4-3, in the next round. One victory away from a guaranteed podium spot, O’Connell squared off against top-seeded Gerard Angelo of Bergen Catholic, who had been dumped into the wrestlebacks following a quarterfinals loss to Ewing’s Lavinsky Collins, the ninth seed.

It took Angelo almost three minutes to end O’Connell’s season at 28-5 with a 15-0, technical-fall victory. Angelo lost in the next round of wrestlebacks and eventually placed seventh. Toms River South’s Cole Corrigan, the fourth seed, completed a 40-0 senior season to win the 152-pound championship.

For the 13th-seeded Barnett, his tourney road ended one wrestleback round sooner at 132 pounds. After cruising to a 12-3 major decision over High Point’s Billy Talmadge in the first round, the senior Ram went up against fourth-seeded Lucas Revano of Camden Catholic and ended up on the losing end of a 10-2 major. Revano ultimately went on to win the state title.

After Barnett won a 5-4 decision in his first wrestleback contest against Kyle Tino, the 19th seed from Phillipsburg, he met up with 21st-seeded Rick Eli from the wrestling powerhouse that is Paulsboro. Eli won a wild, 14-9 contest after scoring a late takedown and near-fall. Barnett finished 21-5 for the season and 88-36 for his career.

The other region champ from Southern, Stout, managed a victory in the 170-pound wrestlebacks before being knocked off. As the 17th seed, the junior dropped an 11-4 decision against 16th-seeded A.J. Lonski of Delbarton in the first round, then bounced back with a 9-3 victory over 32nd-seeded Juam Nakano of Toms River North. Stout faced Region VIII runner-up Mason Maxwell of Delsea, whom Stout had defeated to win the region title a week before, in the second round of wrestlebacks and fell short, 6-4, in overtime, his season ending at 14-6.

Unfortunately, the other five Rams were each bounced from the tournament in two matches.

Senior 220-pounder Matt Mackanic (28-7), the 30th seed, saw his career come to end following an 8-4, first-round loss to third-seeded Devon Starks of Highland Regional, and a 7-4 decision to Overbrook’s Pasquale Locantore, who had beaten Mackanic in the Region VIII third-place bout.

Senior Dan Gorman (25-13), the 31st seed at 160 pounds, was dropped into the wrestlebacks with a 16-4 loss to second-seeded Robert Kanniard of Wall, who ended up the state runner-up, then had his career concluded with a 7-3 loss to 18th-seeded Danny Young of Seton Hall Prep.

At 120 pounds, senior Owen Kretschmer (20-18) drew the 26th seed and was sent to the wrestlebacks following a first-round, technical-fall loss to seventh-seeded Travis Jones of Phillipsburg, then lost a 5-2 decision at the hands of 23rd-seeded Robbie Natelli of Pascack Valley.

Junior 126-pounder Sebastian Delligatti sustained a 13-2 loss to fifth-seeded Colin Wickramaratna of Cherokee, who went on to place third in the state, in the first round, then had his season ended at 27-12 with a technical-fall loss to 21st-seeded Anthony Donnadio of Hillsborough.

Sophomore Robert Woodcock (24-8), the 30th seed at 138 pounds, was dealt to the wrestlebacks following a 16-4 major against third-seeded Joseph Aragona of Pope John, who also ended up placing third in the state, then had his season ended with a 4-2, overtime loss to 19th-seeded Alex Baran of Manalapan.

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