MONTVILLE, NJ - Much like its last sectional title a year ago, the Montville wrestling team left nothing to chance in Friday night's sectional final against River Dell.
Thanks to a dominant start to the match by Montville's middle and upper weights, the top seed Mustangs cruised to a dominant 49-18 win over second seed River Dell in the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 final at Montville Township High School.
The win marked Montville's second straight sectional title, marking the first time in program history that it went back-to-back. It was the third title for the program, with its first coming back in 2009.
“This is an amazing feeling," senior Michael Conrad said. "I know the captains, Brandon (Teresa), Noah (Fox), and I all talked about it in the beginning of the season. It’s such a special feeling. I know the captains before us really put it into our head how important this is, and to bring the community together…it really showed today. It’s just an amazing moment.”
The match started at 145, where Daniel Salzano opened up with a 13-6 decision over River Dell's Gabe Case, giving the team the early lead. It began a string of victories to start the match, as Montville won its first five bouts, while picking up key bonus points in the four that followed Salzano's win.
Brandon Teresa (152) won via tech fall, Thomas LaScala (160) got an 8-0 major decision, before Fox (170) and Conrad (182) picked up back-to-back pins to give Montville a commanding 24-0 lead.
From that point on, Montville was able to maintain the lead the rest of the way. Michael Marucci (220), Aaron Kurzer (120) and Derek Giordano (138) picked up pins, while Karl Monaco (126) won a 10-0 major decision, and Justin Ciliotta (132) got a 6-1 decision.
Just as important as the wins were the bouts where Montville didn't emerge victorious. With such a big lead, River Dell's only hope to get back into it was by getting bonus points. But of the four bouts Montville lost, only one came by pin, with two others being just three-point decisions. It forfeited the 113 bout.
"When we talk about bonus points, it goes both ways," Conrad said. "They’re trying to get bonus points and just keeping it to a decision or keeping it to a major and not getting pinned is huge for us. It really helped us pull away. All the kids did their job today, and we’re just really proud of everyone.”
Now, the Mustangs will turn their attention to a bit of unfinished business in the Group tournament, which will be held on Sunday at RWJ Barnabas Arena in Toms River. Montville has never won a Group championship in wrestling, and fell short in last year's semifinals.
It lost by just three points to Delsea, and the squad remembers how important the lost bonus points were, making it a point of emphasis this season.
But a big reason for optimism going into Sunday, is that of the three teams Montville could potentially face in the semifinals and finals, it already has a win over West Essex, who is expected to be the top seed in Group 3. Montville topped West Essex, 36-31, last Saturday.
"It shows us that we know we can win," Fox said. "We just have to go down there, and know that it’s about bonus points. If everyone does their job on the team, it’s going to be good.”
Fox added, “I don’t know if we’ve been to the Group finals before. But we obviously haven’t had a group championship, and that would be awesome to be the first team in Montville to have one, and to go down in Montville history.”
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