ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - One second. Zach DelVecchio had just one second to score off an escape, or his dreams of making it to the NJSIAA state tournament championship final would be coming to a definitive end. Most wrestlers wouldn’t be able to rise to the challenge in that situation, but DelVecchio isn’t like most wrestlers. The South Plainfield 220-pound willed his way to a buzzer-beating escape in the ultimate tie-breaker to book his spot in the state tournament’s 220-pound championship match.
The semifinal action between DelVecchio, a top-seed, and Niccolo Colucci (St. Peter's Prep) was as close and hard-fought as any match you’d see in the state tournament. Colucci, an 12th-seed, had to upset fifth-seeded Benny Dahdah (Westwood) and fourth-seeded Luke Fischer (Newton) to earn his spot in the semifinals, and his performance against DelVecchio proved that those wins were no fluke.
After a scoreless first period, the two exchanged escape points in the second and third periods, which sent the match to overtime. The two wrestlers kept it standing for the first overtime, and both managed to escape in the 30-second rideouts, which meant that match had to decided by the ultimate tie-breaker. DelVecchio had bottom position for the UTB, which meant that an escape would mean victory, while a :30 second rideout by Colucci would mean defeat and wrestlebacks.
Colucci held onto DelVecchio for the early parts of the period, and with about 10 seconds left, Delvecchio and Colucci went out of bounds to retake referee’s position in the center of the mat. Colucci nearly broke DelVecchio’s base off the whistle, but DelVecchio managed to rise to his feet. DelVecchio broke Colucci’s grip right on the edge of the mat and escaped right before the whistle to earn the 3-2 victory.
The South Plainfield standout will face sixth-seeded Michael Filieri (Garfield) in the 220-pound championship match. If DelVecchio prevails in that match, he’ll be the first Tiger to take home state tournament gold since 2013, where his brother Jacob DelVecchio took first-place alongside Anthony Ashnault.
Joe Sacco and Luke Niemeyer will also be looking to bring home some hardware for South Plainfield come Saturday as well. Sacco was knocked out of the 145 pound championship bracket after a 3-2 decision loss to Wyatt McCarthy (Newton) in the quarterfinals, but the South Plainfield senior rallied back in the wrestlebacks, defeating Alex Winant (West Morris) by pin in the third round and Nick Boggiano by a 3-0 decision in the fourth round. The win against Boggiano guaranteed Sacco at least a sixth-place finish, and a win against Wade Unger (Bergen Catholic) in the fifth round of consolations would put Sacco in the third-place match.
Niemeyer started off the second day off the tournament with a 5-3 sudden victory win over fifth-seeded Luke Chakonis (Delbarton), but the 195-pound semifinals put the fourth-seeded Niemeyer up against top-seeded Jacob Cardenas (Bergen Catholic). Cardenas, the No. 1 195-pounder in the country according to InterMat, sent Niemeyer to the consolation rounds with a 16-0 tech fall loss. Niemeyer will start his wrestleback run in the fifth round, against Drew Bowker (Rancocas Valley).
The finals are set to kick off no later than 3:30 pm on Saturday. The wrestlebacks will begin at 10 am , with the third, fifth and seventh place matches tabbed to start at 11:15 am.