CLEVELAND, NJ - Five years ago, South Plainfield High School’s “Murderer’s Row” etched its name in wrestling history by putting forth one of the most decorated seasons the state of New Jersey has ever seen. This week, two key contributors to that historic South Plainfield team, Scott DelVecchio and Troy Heilmann, entered the 2018 NCAA tournament looking to end their scholastic wrestling careers with a bang.
If anyone didn’t know the kind of wrestlers that South Plainfield produces, this NCAA tournament certainly showed them. Both of the former Tigers ended their college wrestling careers in style, Heilmann finishing fourth at 149 pounds, while DelVecchio took sixth at 133 pounds. Both earned All-American honors.
Perseverance can often be the difference maker for a wrestler, and Heilmann’s NCAA tournament run epitomized that. The University of North Carolina redshirt senior finished last season with a .500 record, but went on a tear this year, compiling a 32-6 record and picking up his first ACC title to earn the fourth-seed in the NCAA tournament’s 149-pound bracket.
The Tar Heel kicked off the tournament with a first round 9-0 major win over TyShawn Williams (Southern Illinois University) and followed up with victories over Jarret Degen (Iowa State) and fifth-seeded Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State) to earn a spot in the semifinals.
The semifinals pitted Heilmann against top-seeded and two-time national champion Zain Retherford of Penn State. Retherford notched a methodical 10-4 decision victory over Heilmann to knock the former Tiger into the consolations. Heilmann started off in the consolation semifinals, taking on third-seeded Grant Leeth of Missouri. A takedown by Heilmann and two escapes by Leeth put the score at 2-2 heading into the third period. The former South Plainfield wrestler took bottom position to start off the third period, and earned an escape with a hip heist in about 30 seconds. Seconds after the escape, Leeth got in on a shallow shot, but Heilmann sprawled and circled the corner to earn the two points that would let the South Plainfield native win via a 5-3 decision.
The win against Leeth booked Heilmann a spot in the third place match against fellow New Jersey-product Matt Kolodzik (Princeton). Kolodzik, a former Blair wrestler, used a second period escape to take a 1-0 lead into the third period. Heilmann earned an escape point of his own with 1:30 left in regulation to tie it 1-1, and looked to be in scoring position when he snagged a leg towards the edge of the mat with thirty seconds left. The Princeton wrestler was able to pull ofF an ankle pick while his own leg was in the air, and used that to secure two points and earn a 3-2 win over Heilmann.
Heilmann finishes his collegiate career with a 90-52 record. His fourth place finish matches Evan Henderson for the best finish for a Tar Heel since 1996.
After suffering a loss in the first round of the 133 pound championship bracket, the unseeded DelVecchio bounced back in a major way by racking up wins over Mason Pengily (Stanford), 13th-seeded Bryan Lantry (Buffalo) and Rico Montoya (University of Northern Colorado).
The Rutgers redshirt senior worked his way to a blood-round matchup against seventh-seeded Austin DeSanto of Drexel. DeSanto led 6-2 heading into the third period, but DelVecchio used a crushing top control game to force three stalling on points on Desanto, and earn one riding point which sent the match to sudden victory. DelVecchio completed the comeback by scoring a quick overtime takedown. The South Plainfield product kept the ball rolling by earning a 5-2 decision over sixth-seeded Scott Parker (Lehigh) in the consolation quarterfinals. In the consolation semifinals, DelVecchio was matched up against another Cinderella story in unseeded Tariq Wilson of North Carolina State. Wilson earned a 13-3 major decision to knock DelVecchio into a fifth place match against fourth-seeded Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State. Brock earned a 10-1 major which gave DelVecchio the sixth place spot at 133-pounds.
DelVecchio finishes his career with an 88 wins and is the fourth Scarlet Knight to go from unseeded to an All-American since 1979.