SOUTH PLAINFIELD- The South Plainfield High School wrestling team came into their home gym tonight looking to get a dominant win in their Central Jersey Group 3 sectional semi-final match against Wall, and almost everything went either according to plan or even better.
Although #4 seed Wall (10-7) had a few standout athletes on their team, the top-seeded Tigers ( 27-1) took full advantage of their opponent’s weak spots early in the dual and walked away with a 50-23 victory and a spot in the sectional finals on Friday
Tigers coach Bill Pavlak says that if his team keeps on performing like they did tonight, they’ll almost certainly be bringing home some more tournament trophies this post-season.
“When we’re wrestling like that, no one’s beating these guys,” the coach said. “They just battle every match. Every kids knows their job, whether it’s staying off your back and giving up minimal points, or if they need to pin the guy and win the match. It would take a really dominant performance from another team to beat us. I’m feeling good right now.”
Coming into the match, Pavlak and his coaches knew they had a good a chance at taking control of the match early based on how the two team’s lighter weight classes matched up. Even they didn’t expect just how dominant they’d be.
A forfeit and four straight pins in the opening matches put the Tigers up 30-0 just five matches in. After a forfeit was given to Tommy Fierro at 106 pounds, Alex Amato and Joe Heilmann both scored cradle pins in under 90 seconds. At 126 pounds, senior Jake Giordano scored a pin over Shane Golomb with 38 seconds left in the first period, and Jacob Painton followed that up with a pin over Augustus Setteducato in the first period.
“We knew they had some studs but also that their weakest part of their lineup is those first five or six guys, so we knew that could happen, but what we didn’t know was it was going to happen that quick,” Pavlak said. “Normally we’re not starting at 106 pounds and we’re battling back the first matches or we’re even, so it’s nice to have a nice lead and be able to relax a little bit.”
Zach DelVecchio picked up a 21-5 tech fall over Shane Davis, who came in with just two losses on the season. Kyle Bythell also notched up a quick pin at 152 pounds over Josiah Schucht, while Joe Sacco earned a decision win over Nick Wagner. Ryan Marston was awarded a forfeit win at 182 pounds.
Standout sophomore Luke Niemeyer undoubtedly had the toughest outing of the night, as he took on the #2 wrestler in the state at 195 pounds, Matt McKenzie. The undefeated state medalist handed Niemeyer his first pin loss, and second overall loss.
The stage is now set for Friday’s final, and the Tigers will be vying for their 14th sectional title when they match up at home against #3 seed Hopewell Valley on their home mat at 7 p.m. The Tigers have some familiarity with the Bulldogs, as they defeated Hopewell Valley in last year’s sectional final with a dominant 48-3 scoreline.
“ I don’t think it really matters who we wrestle, but scouting-wise I think (Hopewell Valley) will be a little bit better of a fit for us,” Pavlak said. “We’re happy we’re at home… and we’re looking to take the sectional title on Friday.”