By Matthew Rocco
The Middletown High School North and Raritan High School wrestling teams made appearances in the NJSIAA sectional championships, as area grapplers prepare for the individual tournament.
Middletown North breezed through the first two rounds of the North Jersey, Section II, Group IV playoffs. The Lions defeated Colonia High School, 67-3, in the quarterfinals, and they proceeded to knock out North Hunterdon High School with a 53-17 victory in the semifinals. Freddy Luchs, Andrew Lacey, Sean Deering, Brian Winz, Thomas Anderson and Ray Nelson all had pins to propel the Lions to the finals.
The team’s run ended there, as Phillipsburg High School took the sectional title. Winz and Nicko Confone had early pins for Middletown North, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Phillipsburg in the finals, 36-27, Feb. 10.
The Lions (26-4) quickly bounced back from the loss, defeating Marlboro High School, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and Shore Regional High School in a quad meet hosted by the Blue Devils.
Raritan suffered just its third loss of the season in the Central Jersey, Group II finals. Like Middletown North, the Rockets had no trouble advancing to the last meet. Raritan toppled Robbinsville High School, 58-14, and Voorhees High School, 42-27. In the championship, Raritan faced a perennial contender in the state tournament.
The Rockets fell behind early, and wins from Robert Taddeo and Charles Barrale weren’t enough to swing the momentum to Raritan’s favor against Delaware Valley Regional High School. The 36-23 loss prevented the Rockets from claiming their third sectional crown.
Seedings for district tournament were scheduled to be released Feb. 15. The start of the individual tournament is set for Feb. 17, and final matches will occur Feb. 18.
Raritan will compete in the District 20 tournament hosted by South Brunswick High School. Barrale is coming off a second-place showing at the District 22 tournament a year ago. Russell Benson earned a gold medal at districts and a silver medal in the Region 6 competition. Ryan Dickens is another defending medal winner. The senior took third place in his weight class at districts.
Matawan Regional High School (13-13) and Holmdel High School (19-14) also will participate in the District 20 tournament this week.
Middletown North and Middletown High School South (19-11) will be at the District 17 tournament at Hillsborough High School. Middletown North has five defending medal winners going into the district tournament: Cofone, Deering, Anderson, Stanley Wojdylak and Austin Dewise.
Saint John Vianney High School (14-9) wrestlers will be at Old Bridge High School for the District 19 tournament.
The top three finishers in each weight class will advance to the regionals — the last stop before Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.