PISCATAWAY, NJ - The South Plainfield High School wrestling team has been dominating the Greater Middlesex Conference wrestling tournament for a long time, but even with high expectations, the Tigers still managed to do something truly special at the 2017 tournament that was held in Piscataway High School earlier Saturday.
The Tigers sent six wrestlers into the individual championship rounds today, and all six of them came back with first-place finishes. That feat helped South Plainfield pick up 246 team points, and a ninth straight GMC title.
“It was a great tournament,” said Tigers coach Bill Pavlak. “I’ve been coaching in this tournament and been involved in it for 25 years, and I have to say this probably the best in that everything went the way we expected and we came out of here healthy.”
Luke Niemeyer has performed some impressive feats in his first year of varsity high school wrestling, and after today, he can add 195 pound GMC Champion to his list of accolades.
The sophomore standout had a tall test in the finals, as he was matched up against returning champion Andrew Brazicki of Bishop Ahr. Although Niemeyer looked undersized next to the 6-foot Bishop Ahr senior, the two proved to be equal enough in strength that the match went to overtime.
Early in the overtime period, Niemeyer used underhooks to drag Brazicki to the mat and secure a match-winning takedown.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Niemeyer said of winning his first conference title. “I thought I could do it when I came in, and it feels real to actually have it now.
South Plainfield’s other standout sophomore, Zach DelVecchio, was looking to notch his second GMC title when he locked horns with Carteret’s Farhan Khan at 220 pounds.
A scoreless first period made it seem like the match was going to be a close,drawn out affair, but DelVecchio had other plans. Khan initiated a takedown early in the second round, but DelVecchio thwarted it and turned it into a bodylock throw for two points. The two went out of bounds soon after, and as Khan was attempting to stand up from referee’s position, DelVecchio simply powered him back down and muscled out a pin.
“I knew he was going to try to reverse, because I took him down and he was pretty frustrated,” DelVecchio explained after the match. “I felt him kind of go for the switch, and I just let him go and then pancaked him and held it.”
Joe Heilmann notched a come from behind win in his finals match against Mark Schleifer (East Brunswick). After conceding an escape and a takedown in the first two rounds, Heilmann used an escape and a takedown off a scramble to get a 4-3 decision win and another GMC title, his first at 120 pounds. The junior standout was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler for the lower weight classes.
Tommy Fierro and senior Jake Giordano both looked dominant in their finals wins. Fierro rode out Joe Pacheco of Perth Amboy for two rounds, while Giordano hit two takedowns and scored backpoints in his 7-2 win over East Brunswick’s Alec Gleason.
Fierro’s win comes just two weeks after he first took the mat for South Plainfield. Transfer rules sidelined Fierro-- a South Plainfield resident who spent his freshman year at St. Benedicts High School-- for the opening weeks of the wrestling season, but today’s win certainly proved the sophomore is a force to be reckoned with going forward.
In the last championship match of the evening, Joe Sacco gutted out a 3-2 overtime decision over Bob Dinger of Middlesex.
Ryan Marston and Ben Lundy finished in third place in their respective weight classes, while Kyle Bythell and Jacob Painton finished in fourth, Alex Amato in fifth, and Jake Hoffman in 7th.
South Plainfield’s athletes and coaches both agree that a win this dominant should serve as a spark plug for their upcoming post season run. The Tigers finished 79 points ahead of second place Piscataway.
“I feel like we have a pretty good chance going in,” DelVecchio said. “ The team is working hard now. There’s a few ways we can get better, (but) if we just work hard in the room, that’s all we need.”
TEAM SCORES: 1. South Plainfield 246; 2. Piscataway 167; 3. Monroe 164.5; 4. Woodbridge 147.5; 5. Perth Amboy 89.5; 6. East Brunswick & Edison 80; 8. Middlesex-Dunellen 70; 9. J.F. Kennedy 67.5; 10. Bishop Ahr 65; 11. Sayreville 63; 12. Carteret 57; 13. New Brunswick 55; 14. Old Bridge 52; 15. Colonia 50; 16. South Brunswick 41.5; 17. Spotswood 27; 18. North Brunswick 26.5; 19. South River 20; 20. J.P. Stevens 17; 21. Metuchen 5; 22. Highland Park 0.