SOMERSET, N.J. -- Franklin High School wrestler Marcus Estevez won the Region 5 285-pound championship inside his home gym on Saturday.

Estevez will join 220-pound teammate, Nnamdi James, who took fourth at his weight, in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall from March 5-7 at the NJSIAA Individual Championships. The top four placewinners at each weight from all eight regions qualify for a chance to win a state title. In total, 448 grapplers have punched their ticket.

The top-seeded Estevez, the No. 3-ranked heavyweight in the Garden State according to, recorded a first period pin in 1:11 over second-seeded Keshon Davila of New Brunswick in the final. Davila is ranked No. 5 at 285.

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The win marked the second time Estevez did so against Davila this season.

In the semifinal, Estevez defeated 12th-seeded Austin Scott of South Plainfield by a slight 2-0 margin. In the quarterfinals, he topped Piscataway’s eighth-seeded Abrahim Mohamed by way of a pin in 1:16 after a bye in the first round.

Last week, in the District 17 final, Estevez pinned Scott in 1:01. The senior is an astounding 41-1 on the season and his only defeat is to the hands of the No. 1-ranked 285-pounder Bardhyl Gashi of West Essex.

James, who also won a District 17 final by topping Sayreville’s Joseph Porcaro, 9-3, was awarded the No. 2 seed at 220 and had a bye in the first round as well. Then, luck of the draw saw him advance by way of an injury default to 10th-seeded Brandon Donoghue of Hunterdon Central 3:29 into their match in the quarterfinals.

James, however, was pinned in 3:06 by sixth-seeded Christian Cacciabaudo of Hopewell Valley in the semifinals and he fell into the wrestlebacks. James, though, bounced back in the wrestleback semifinals, also known as the “blood round”, as he topped New Brunswick’s fourth-seeded Bryand Garcia, 8-7. The blood round refers to the last chance wrestlers have to advance in the tournament and earn the right to go to the state tournament. Had James lost to Garcia, only Estevez would have made the trip down south to Atlantic City.

Next up was the third-place match for James and with revenge on his mind, Porcaro edged James, 8-6, in a rematch of the District 17 final. Nonetheless, James still has a shot to possibly win gold, as does Estevez, later this week.

Jaden Williams (120), Mohamed Mahmoud (138), and Isaiah Ayala (182) all reached an opportunity to lock horns on their home floor at Regions, but they all fell in the opening round at their respective weights this past Wednesday. The trio each took third place at Districts.

Action at Boardwalk Hall begins on Thursday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. for the preliminary round. The tournament will be seeded on Tuesday at NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville.

Last year, Estevez was seeded sixth and took fifth place to earn a spot on the podium.

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.

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