Heilmann and DelVecchio pull off big wins in state wrestling tournament quarterfinals before being knocked into consolations.


ATLANTIC CITY-- The second day of the 2017 NJSIAA wrestling tournament is in the bag. While none of South Plainfield’s wrestlers will be competing in the upcoming championship finals, two Tigers pulled off big wins today that ended up helping them earn a spot in tomorrow’s place-winning matches.

Zach DelVeccio and Joe Heilmann both earned impressive wins in the quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals, and both will be competing tomorrow to earn a high spot on the podium.

DelVecchio, a seventh-seed, entered his quarterfinal match as a considerable underdog against Robert Melise (Phillipsburg). The second-seeded Phillipsburg senior was the runner-up of last year’s tournament at 220 pounds, and seemed to be slated to take part in this year’s 220-pound final. DelVecchio had other plans though.

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The sophomore Tiger proved to be an even match for Melise, and through regulation and overtime periods, the only points either wrestler had scored were from escapes. The match eventually went to the ultimate tiebreaker, where DelVecchio was given bottom position. DelVecchio was looking to get the match-winning escape but before he could, Melise was called for illegally clasping his hands while on top, which gave DelVecchio the one point he needed to be declared the winner.

In the semi’s, DelVecchio was matched up against Eric Keosseian (Howell), in a rematch of last year’s tournament’s 220-pound 7th place bout, where DelVecchio earned a 5-2 win. This time around, things were much closer. The score was 1-1 after regulation, and in the very last second of the second overtime period Keosseian earned himself an escape. The match seemed destined for an ultimate tie breaker after DelVecchio got an escape early in the third overtime period, but Keosseian grabbed himself the win by scoring on DelVecchio with an edge-of-the-mat takedown with just two seconds left in the period.

Even with the loss, DelVecchio has already advanced far enough to guarantee at least a sixth-finish place, which is an improvement from his seventh place spot from last year.

Heilmann also saw a familiar face in his first match of the day. The 120-pound quarterfinal pitted the fourth-seeded Junior Tiger against Mark Schleifer (East Brunswick). Heilmann previously earned a close decision over the East Brunswick wrestler in the finals of this year’s GMC tournament, and their matchup proved to be just as competitive this time around.  After regulation and overtime periods, the match went to the ultimate tiebreaker. A 30 second rideout gave Heilmann a win, and a berth in the semifinals.

In the semis, Heilmann took on not just the top-seeded wrestler in his weight class, but the top-ranked 120-pounder in the country, in Patrick Glory (Delbarton). Heilmann fought, but the overwhelming skill of the Delbarton junior proved to be too much, and Heilmann was sent to consolation rounds off of a 15-0 tech fall loss.

Joe Sacco and Kyle Bythell both bounced back from their preliminary losses yesterday to go on strong  runs before being eliminated in the later consolation rounds today. At 138 pounds, Sacco started his consolation bracket off by defeating Steven Kramer (Colts Neck) with a 5-1 decision. In the next round, the sophomore Tiger pulled off an upset by beating seventh-seed Alex Carida (Hackettstown) with a 5-1 decision.

Sacco followed that win up by defeating Anthony Rua of Wayne Hills with a tiebreaker. Sacco was defeated in the next round by Trace Kinner (Kingsway) via a 5-2 decision. Sacco was just two rounds away from at least qualifying for a seventh place match.

Bythell rebounded from his preliminary loss by recording a 10-2 major decision win over Travis Arata (Mahwah).  In the second round of consolations, Bythell was paired up against Jeff Johnson (Middlesex). Two of Bythell’s losses this year came at the hands of Johnson; the first was a 6-2 loss in the GMC tournament semifinals, and the second was a 10-0 loss in the District 14 finals.  

The senior Tiger turned the tables the third time around, and gutted out an 8-6 decision win over Johnson. Bythell was defeated in the next round off an 8-6 decision loss to Evan Fisler (Washington Twp.)

Luke Niemeyer defeated Ivan Jones (Leonia) in the first round of consolations before he was pinned  by Andrew Brazicki (Bishop Ahr).

Jake Giordano lost a 6-3 decision in his first consolation match against Rhise Royster (Rahway).

Alex Amato was defeated by Joseph Kin (Colts Neck) via a 5-0 decision in his first consolation match.

Heilmann and DelVecchio will compete in the wrestlebacks at 10 a.m. tomorrow.  The 3rd, 5th, and 7th place matches will follow as soon as the earlier consolation bouts end.

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