UNION, N.J- Bill Pavlak, the head coach of South Plainfield High School’s wrestling team, thought his team’s groove was a little off during the Wednesday night opening round of the Region 4 wrestling tournament. Tonight, though almost everything seemed to go just smoothly for the Tigers. South Plainfield’s wrestlers showed up ready to compete during tonight’s quarterfinal action, and thanks to a number of strong performances, seven of them are heading into tomorrow morning’s semi-finals.
“We told them coming in that it’s going to be a lot easier for you to place in the top four if you win this round here,” said Pavlak. “This was a big round for us heading into the semifinals.”
It isn’t easy to get dominant wins at this stage of the postseason, but a few of South Plainfield’s standouts made it look easy tonight.
Returning region champion and tournament top seed Joe Heilmann booked his ticket to the 120 pound semi-finals in quick fashion as he recorded a first period pin over Voorhees’ Hunter Rinehart. Sophomore standout Luke Niemeyer wrapped up Cranford’s Dylan Budnik in a second round cradle to earn a pin and a spot in 195 pound’s semifinal round.
At 220 pounds, returning champ Zach DelVecchio bullied Jacob Estevez of Bayonne en-route to a 14-2 major decision win. Senior Jake Giordano got a rematch of his district matchup with Cranford’s Conor Halpin and walked away with another win, this time an 18-6 major.
Joe Sacco, Kyle Bythell, and Ben Lundy all came through in toss-up matches to notch hard-fought decision wins. Lundy defeated St. Peter’s Prep’s James Cruz 3-1, while Bythell edged Summit’s Michael Acitelli 10-4, and Sacco earned a 5-2 win over New Providence’s Owen Smith.
Alex Amato suffered the Tigers’ lone defeat tonight, but he can still place in the top four if he wins through tomorrow’s wrestlebacks.
“Obviously we would have rather gone eight for eight, but we handedly won some matches that we thought were going to be close,” said Pavlak. “I think we wrestled better tonight than we did on Wednesday night, and I would say we’re satisfied (with tonight’s performances).
The tournament will continue at Union High School 9 a.m. tomorrow, and the finals are tabbed to go down at approximately 4 p.m.