ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Before Nicholas O’Connell stepped foot on the blue and yellow NJSIAA championship mat in Boardwalk Hall at the 2019 NJSIAA Individual Boys Wrestling State Championships, he was a winner.
Even after dropping the 152-pound state championship in devastating fashion, which was his first loss of the season, O’Connell’s coach said there was nothing more he could possibly ask his star wrestler to do, because he’d done everything and more.
“We’re proud of him,” Southern Regional head coach John Stout said. “He’s represented us the best way anybody has ever, in the history of southern regional. Its our loss to have him graduating. We’re going to miss him. He’s an excellent representation of exactly what we’re trying to do here at Southern Regional.”
Regardless of the outcome of the match, Stout knew he had a winner on his hands.
Despite being down 13-2 in the match, O’Connell nearly turned his opponent into a pin. Though the end result wasn’t what was expected, Stout said there are better days ahead for his senior state finalist.
“I’m disappointed for him that he didn’t achieve his ultimate goal in high school,” Stout said. “There’s way more things to come in life. He’s going to have way better days than what he had today.”
O’Connell wasn’t Stout’s only focus of the weekend.
All-in-all, Southern Regional sent seven wrestlers to Atlantic City for the state championships, including Stout’s son, also John Stout:
- Jason Scerbo, junior, 113 pounds
- Sebastian Delligatti, senior, 126 pounds
- Robert Woodcock, junior, 138 pounds
- Nicholas Pepe, senior, 145 pounds
- John Stout, senior, 170 pounds
- JT Cornelius, junior, 220 pounds
Pepe and Stout were each one win away from a medal on Friday, before losing in the fourth round of wrestlebacks.
At the end of the day, while O’Connell lost in the state final, the future of Southern Regional wrestling is bright. The Rams will return three state championship participants, with more potential working their way through the ranks.
“We’re very proud,” Stout said. “We’ve done well with it. We’ve had a very good history. We’re very proud of what we've done and we’ll continue to do the same thing. The younger kids we have coming through now are even better than these guys were when they were the same age. We’re looking forward to a bright future.”
Barnegat’s Griffin Jackstadt was two wins shy of a medal in the heavyweight class. After losing to Long Branch’s Kevin Cerruti by a 3-2 decision, Jackstadt won consecutive wrestleback matches to work his way into metal contention.
However, in the third wrestleback round, Overbrook’s Deshon Alexander ended Jackstadt’s season.