VIRGINIA - The South Plainfield High School wrestling team matched up with some of the best programs in the nation when they went down south this weekend for the Virginia Duals. Even though the Tigers (17-1) didn’t walk away from the tournament with their formerly perfect record intact, they still impressed.

The Tigers suffered their first loss of the year in the semi-finals of the tournament’s National bracket, but preserved in the consolation rounds to end their run with a third place spot, while going 4-1 in the tournament. The third place finish is the Tigers best performance in the Duals since they won the tournament in 2013.

There are rarely any easy matches in a tournament as prestigious as the Virginia Duals, but the Tigers still  looked solid in the their road to the semi-finals.

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Pins from Zach DelVecchio, Joe Sacco, and 106-pounder Thomas Fierro, helped South Plainfield take a 36-29 win in their first round match against Cathedral Prep (Pa).  Sacco, senior co-captain Kyle Bythell, and Luke Niemeyer scored pins in the Tigers’ 36-25 quarterfinal win over Eastern View (Va).

In the semifinals, the Tigers found themselves pitted against a formidable South Dade (FL) squad. South Plainfield put up a strong effort against the Florida powerhouse, as wins from Sacco, Niemeyer, Joe Heilmann, Jake Giordano, Ryan Marston, and Ben Lundy kept the dual close but South Dade’s talent up ended the Tigers perfect record with a 37-23 loss.

South Dade’s 220-pounder, Chei Hill handed DelVecchio his first loss of the 2016-2017 season, courtesy a 6-2 decision. The reigning Florida state champs also came up big at 106, 113, and 145, as Bretli Reyna recorded an 11-0 decision over Fierro, Elijah Varona pinned standout sophomore Alex Amato, and Brevin Balmaceda notched a tech fall over Bythell.

The Tigers didn’t have to dwell on the loss too long though. South Plainfield bounced back emphatically in the first round of consolations, as they recorded a 33-25 win over McDonogh School (Md).  Fierro and Amato scored pins in the first two matches, and Heilmann and Giordano followed that up with two big decision wins. An 8-2 decision win from DelVecchio put a cap on the match, and a chance at the podium.

The third place final ended up being a rematch between South Plainfield and Cathedral Prep, and the results weren’t too much different from their earlier meeting. Cathedral Prep made it a bit closer the second time around, but four straight wins in the lighter weight classes, and three straight wins in the heavy weight classes, led the Tigers to a 36-24 win, and a third place finish.

Heilmann, Giordano, Niemeyer, went a perfect 5-0 in the tournament while Sacco, Bythell, DelVecchio, and Fierro 4-1. The tournament also marked Fierro’s second outing for the Tigers. The sophomore and former St. Benedict’s wrestler made his debut last week against Perth Amboy, as he had to sit out the first 30 days of competition per NJSIAA’s transfer rules.

The Tigers will return to their home mat on Wednesday, against Piscataway.

About the Virginia Duals:

South Plainfield competed in a field of 16 teams, in the National Division, spanning from New Jersey to Florida. The Virginia Duals is known as the "Granddaddy of them all"

This is the 7th year the Tigers have traveled to Virginia for this tournament. In 2010 & 2012 South Plainfield finished 3rd, in 2011 4th, in 2013 1st, and 2017 3rd place.