UNION, NJ - New Providence senior Owen Smith, the No. 1 seed, saved his winning move to the last eight seconds of the match to defeat No. 2 seed Rob Saum of Watchung Hills in a 2-1 decision to take the Region 4 title in the 152 lb. weight class on Saturday at Union High School.
In this low scoring bout, Saum was first to score an escape point 20 seconds into the second period.
The match was delayed several times due to Smith's nose bleed. -- For Smith, the breaks didn't crack his concentration. "I got used to the plug in my nose, it was forgotten about, and it was all wrestling," he said.
Both wrestlers worked hard to not give up points. With the score remaining 1-0, with 30 seconds remaining, Smith rolled out a reversal to gain two points with 8 seconds left on the clock -- which was enough for the 2-1 victory.
"I just knew I had to keep moving, eventually a scramble would happen where I could capitalize and get my points -- and it came and I got it," said Smith. "I timed it perfectly, just how it was planned [with 8 seconds left in the match]," he said in jest.
Smith, 33-1 on the season [according to stats reported by NJ.com], has successfully swept the 2018 Championship titles capturing the Union County Championship (160 lb weight class) defeating Isaiah Reese of Westfield, District 12 Championship (152 lb weight class) defeating Raum, and now the Region 4 Championship (152 lb weight class) defeating Raum, for the second time.
Next up, the NJSIAA State Championship in Atlantic City, a destination that has been the focus of high caliber wrestlers like Smith since their youth. The only thing on Smith's mind going forward is getting up on the podium in AC.
It's a long journey to get to AC, and only an elite group of wrestlers get there. Smith knows too well how difficult the journey is, missing out last year. Only the top four wrestlers per weight class in each of the 8 New Jersey regions make the trip.
Smith hopes to join the Pioneer wrestling elite including John Ferrara (1969), Rich Billitz (1976), Donnie Defillippis (1999), and Shane Mallory (2005), who each won State Championship titles in their era.
Like many wrestlers, Smith has his superstitions and wears the same socks for luck and he started wearing his green singlet when he started the Districts. "So, I'm wearing the green one until I lose," he said.
Put aside superstitions, Smith brings his hard work, dedication and winning determination to AC this coming weekend to wrestle the best he can to join that "exclusive crowd" of Pioneer wrestling State Champions.
Also competing in the Regions was junior Joe Delia, the No. 7 seed, placed fifth, just missing the trip to AC. Delia defeated No. 10 seed Brett MacMath of Bridgewater-Raritan by pin in OT in the first round and lost to James Cruz of St. Peter's Prep in a 5-0 decision in the quarterfinals; Jack Wichtendahl lost in the first round to Larry Meichionda of Seton Hall Prep.