COLTS NECK, N.J. - In a crucial Shore Conference B-North Division wrestling showdown between Middleton North and Colts Neck on Thursday night, sophomore Nico Cerbo kept Middletown North’s hopes of a third division title in four years alive and well.
After Colts Neck rallied from a 35-11 deficit to cut Middletown North lead to 35-33 lead with one match to go at 195, Cerbo stopped the bleeding in a winner take-all bout against the Cougars’ Jovani Velazquez-Ruiz in dominating fashion, controlling the match all the way through to a 13-2 major decision win to give the Lions a 39-33 victory.
“It feels amazing to win the match for my team,” Cerbo said. “I just told myself that it was just like any other match. Just go out there and wrestle.”
Middletown North and Colts Neck traded pins to start the match. Jacob Anderson earned a 1:02 pin at 220 pounds, while Colts Neck’s Bryce Blaikie won the heavyweight bout with a pin in 49 seconds.
The Lions took control of the match as they switched over to light weight bouts.
At 106, Tyler Klinsky finished his onslaught on Colts Neck’s Michael Lyristis in the second period with pin at 3:52.
Thomas O’Keefe took 113 for the Lions’ third pin of the night at 4:33 to extend the Middletown North lead to 18-6.
Logan Waller improved to 20-1 on the year for Colts Neck with a tech fall victory of 17-2 at 120 to cut the Middletown North lead to 18-11, but the Freddy Luchs got the Lions back rolling at 126.
In pure dominating fashion, Luchs improved to 15-5 on the year, countering a strike from Colts Neck’s Nicholas Moldaver into a take out and rolling him over to the mat for a pin to earn a 15-0 tech fall win at the 5:42 mark to make it 23-11, Middletown North.
Nate Pujols earned a pin at 2:33 in the 132 match to extend the Middletown North lead to 29-11. Chris McCarthy followed win a pin at 1:53 in the 138 pound bout to give the Lions a 35-11 lead.
“Bonus points are huge, especially in big matches like these,” said Middletown North coach Matt Sirchio. “We just needed our guys to do their job where they were placed. They did what they were supposed to do. It couldn’t have worked out any better for us.”
Colts Neck didn’t quit and made a great comeback to try to clinch its first division title in program history, starting with Joe LaPorta winning the best match of the night at 145 against Middletown North’s Kyle Puzo.
Gaining the early advantage helped LaPorta best Puzo with a 7-5 decision, making a huge stand at the end to defend off a takedown attempt by Puzo to hang on for the win.
“Just had to grind it out and never give up,” LaPorta said. “It was a hard match. Took heart and not giving up to pull it out.”
Luke Rada took the next bout at 152 for Colts Neck via a pin, executing the half nelson perfectly at the 4:53 mark to cut the Middletown North lead to 35-20.
Joseph Barsky made it three wins in a row for the Cougars, scoring a major decision victory of 13-3 at 160 that he finished off with a thunderous take down to cut the deficit to 35-23.
Colts Neck won its fourth match in a row with Kenny Koenig earning a 6-2 decision win at 170, making the deficit only 35-27 with two matches remaining.
In dominating fashion, Matt Jannucci improved to 17-2 on the season with a pin in 35 seconds at 182 to make it five matches in a row won by Colts Neck, separating the two teams only by two points going into the final bout.
With everything on the line, Cerbo came up clutch for the Lions to improve to a mark of 13-6 on the season, gaining the upper hand early and not slowing down one bit to pick up a major decision victory to clinch the win for Middletown North.
“If there is anything I’ve learned from Middletown North, it’s the North way is all about endurance,” Cerbo said. “Keep on driving and outlasting your opponent.”
The win likely gives Middletown North a share of the B-North division title.
It’s now a three-way tie atop the B-North division with Middletown North, Colts Neck and Ocean.
Middletown North is now (9-5) on the season. The team will next compete in a quad meet being held at Raritan High School on Saturday.
Colts Neck drops to (11-2) on the season with the loss. The Cougars will look to get back on track in a Tri-Meet being held at Lacey Township High School on Saturday.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports.