ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - Steadily improving and getting the results has South Plainfield’s Joe Heilmann already looking to next year.
Coming off a fifth-place finish as a sophomore, after missing the NJSIAA Individual Championships as a freshman, Heilmann took the next step with a 120 pound third-place finish Sunday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“I know I’ve improved and all the hard work has paid off,” Heilmann said. “My freshman year I didn’t even make it to states, last year I finished fifth, this year I took third. Now next year a state championship is what I want.”
Heilmann reached the semifinals with two major decisions and an ultimate tie-breaker win before falling to the No. 1 seed and champion Patrick Glory.
In the third-place match against Edison Echevarria, Heilmann had to work for every point. Though the first two periods Heilmann led 1-0 on an escape.
Echevarria quickly escaped to start the third. Heilmann responded with a take down with 1:20 remaining and went for a ride out.
“When I took him down with a minute left, I tried to ride him out but when he made a move I let him up because I didn’t want to give up two,” Heilmann said. “I just played defense the rest of the way.”
The strategy worked as he was able to hold onto the win.
Sophomore Zach DelVecchio also made the third-place match but lost in overtime by being taken down with 17 seconds remaining in overtime to finish fourth at 220 pounds.
DelVecchio just missed out on reaching the finals, reaching the semifinals before losing to the No. 3 seed Eric Keosseian of Howell in the first tie-breaker 4-2.
Five other South Plainfield wrestlers were in Atlantic City.
Sophomore Joe Sacco came one match shy of the medal round going 3-2 in the tournament with all three wins coming in the wrestle backs.
Senior Kyle Bythell (145 pounds) went 2-2, senior Jake Giordano (126 pounds) and sophomore Luke Neiemeyer (195 pounds) went 1-2 and sophomore Alex Amato went 0-2.