|Heading to Atlantic City: region wrestling roundup|
Eleven wrestlers from Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference schools came up as region champions and a total of 35 NJAC wrestlers qualified for Atlantic City in action this weekend.
At the Region 1 tournament at Wallkill Valley, Pequannock had a huge day while a Kittatinny senior pulled off the surprise of the finals. Nine of the 14 champs from that region hail from NJAC schools.
In a year of unusual parity at Region 1, Pequannock was the only school to win more than one title. And in a first for the Panthers, three of its wrestlers were crowned champions.
Heavyweight Mike Spencer was the top seed, but still pulled off a surprise by recording a pin against Jermaine Eleumunor of Morris Knolls. When the two met in the Morris County tournament last month, Spencer had to go to double overtime to defeat Eleumunor.
Another top-seeded Panther, Keith Lemongello, had a far more difficult time but squeezed past Mendham's Kevin Button 3-2 to win the 160-pound weight class. And second-seeded R.J. DeGeorge pulled off an upset, winning in overtime 2-1 over Dylan Thorsen of Belvidere at 132 pounds.
The biggest upset at the Region 1 finals came at 152 pounds, where second seed Clarke Moynihan of Kittatinny stunned undefeated Dillon Artigliere of Roxbury, 5-1. Moynihan won his first region title, and stopped Artigliere from winning his second straight. The Roxbury wrestler was also ranked as one of the top contenders in New Jersey at 152 pounds coming into the regions.
Two other Sussex County wrestlers earned region crowns: Jake Connelly of Newton at 195 pounds maintained his unbeaten record, while Joe Cruz of Hopatcong won by fall to take the title at 120 pounds.
Two state title favorites rolled on to Atlantic City with impressive performances. Jan Rosenberg, the 106-pounder from Morris Knolls, scored a technical fall over Max Nauta of Warren Hills in his final match. Rosenberg, a senior, placed third last year but is ranked #1 in the state this time.
Defending state champion Ryan Harrington of Mendham scored a 15-5 decision over Steve Secor of Lakeland to win the title at 170 pounds. Harrington has now won 80 consecutive matches since falling in the consolation rounds of the regions two years ago; even more impressively, he hasn't even allowed a takedown since then.
In the craziest weight class at Region 1, Tyler Kozimor of Hackettstown captured the 138-pound title. Kozimor was the 4th seed, and his opponent in the final was a Phillipsburg wrestler who was not even seeded under the new system in place this year.
While Sussex County has been dominant in recent years at Region 1, this year Morris County sent 16 wrestlers to Atlantic City compared to nine from Sussex.
The remainder of the NJAC teams compete at the Region 3 tournament, held at Union High School.
Two Morris County wrestlers came away as champs as 10 total NJAC wrestlers kept their seasons alive.
Delbarton's Christian Innarella confirmed his status as a major threat for the 113-pound state title by defeating Brenden Calas of Seton Hall Prep for the second time this month. Innarella won 3-2 this time, knocking off a wrestler who had been ranked #1 in the state at the weight class.
The other NJAC winner was 106-pounder Anthony Cefolo of Hanover Park. The freshman scored a dominant 15-4 win over Nick DeMarco of David Brearley High School, and may get another shot at Jan Rosenberg in Atlantic City.
Overall, Region 3 was dominated by South Plainfield, the state's #1 team, and Brearley, which won four titles each.
Delbarton did manage to send four wrestlers to Atlantic City, with two runner-up finishes and a third place along with Innarella's title. That may be less than the Green Wave expected, but all four qualifiers are real threats to end up on the podium.
The state finals begin Friday evening, March 2, at Boardwalk Hall. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds are held on Saturday, with the finals set for Sunday.