SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Anthony Cotoia gymnasium was packed Wednesday night, as the South Plainfield High School wrestling team held its Senior Night. The Tigers’ upperclassmen got a chance to put on a show for their parents, and the many in attendance, as they matched up against a tough Piscataway squad.
Although it was a celebratory night for South Plainfield (9-1), the visiting Chiefs (9-2) didn’t show up to lie down. The Chiefs' fans came out in full force as well, and Piscataway was able to produce some close, physical matches against the third-ranked Tigers. Eventually the talent of South Plainfield caught up to the visitors, and the Tigers were able to notch a 41-26 home victory.
If anyone knew that the Chiefs could show up strong in some weight classes, it was South Plainfield’s coach Bill Pavlak. Not only did Pavlak previously head Piscataway's wrestling program before returning to South Plainfield this year, he was also very instrumental in putting the Chiefs on the winning track, and even won GMC Coach of the Year honors in the process of doing so. Both teams left the coach impressed tonight..
“I think it was a physical match,” Pavlak said. “They forfeited two, and we forfeited two, so to come out 15 points ahead, that’s an even match. Something goes the other way...and it can be their match.
“They were a little banged up too,” Pavlak added. “I was impressed with how they came after us. They didn’t fear us at all, and that’s what our guys need to understand. People are trying to knock us off, and they’re going to come after us and let if fly, and that’s what Piscataway did. We’re proud of our guys, but Piscataway should be proud too.”
Piscataway came out of the gate strong and came out in front after the night’s opening match, at 160 pounds. The Chiefs’ star wrestler, state place winner Mike Petite, used multiple explosive double leg takedowns to notch a 19-8 major decision over South Plainfield senior Ben Lundy.
Nick Recine scored a decision over Brenden Hedden in the next match at 170, but one of South Plainfield’s seniors roared back in the next matchup at 195.
South Plainfield senior Ryan Marston found an even matchup against Piscataway’s Elijah Pitt-Goodson. The two fought through a scoreless first period, and early in the second period, Pitt-Goodson powered his way to a one-point escape.
The South Plainfield senior rallied back though, and eventually he got an escape of his own in the third period. Marston countered Pitt-Goodson’s strength with a hard-nosed in-your-face attack, and two stall warnings on Pitt-Goodson, gave the senior a 2-1 win, and South Plainfield their first points of the evening, much to the delight of the packed crowd.
Pins from Luke Niemeyer, senior co-captain Kyle Bythell, and junior standout Joe Heilmann helped give the Tigers the lead, and the win. Joe Sacco, and Zach DelVecchio also notched big major decision wins.
The Tigers ended up conceding two forfeits tonight, as 106 pounder Tommy Fierro and heavyweight Julio Gonzalez were unable to compete. Gonzalez has been hindered recently by a leg injury, while Fierro --who has only been eligible to compete since last week due to transfer rules-- was absent with an illness. The team has been forfeiting those weight-classes often this season, but Pavlak admits that it’ll be a problem if it continues into their difficult schedule.
“We hope to get Tommy back at 106 for tomorrow,” the coach said. “He’s a little under the weather right now. We definitely need him in the lineup, because it puts a lot of stress on everyone when we’re forfeiting 12 (points). Obviously Julio’s struggling a little bit right now, but we need 13 weight classes to deal with the schedule we have coming up.”
Pavlak noted that his team didn’t never quite managed to down the cheering visiting section tonight. The coach said he’ll be looking to keep the gyms quiet during their next two road matches.
The Tigers will travel to take on Roxbury tomorrow, and will follow that up with an away Friday tilt against #20 Southern Regional.