Rebels relish their first win over Mustangs

Howell High School’s wrestling team may have lost its A North championship this year, but the Rebels did not surrender their status as one of the elite teams in the Shore Conference.

With the Shore Conference Tournament starting up tonight, John Gagliano’s Rebels are one of the hottest teams in the area and enter the SCT having beaten Brick Memorial, ranked fifth in the Shore, for the first time in school history, 34-26, in Brick on Saturday.

Regardless of the year or the record, Brick Memorial is, well, Brick Memorial, the benchmark for wrestling in the Shore over the last 20 years.

"The kids were aware of the history," said Gagliano. "It was very exciting. They wrestled tough."

It was a big win for Howell in another sense — the Rebels are fighting to get to the Central Jersey Group IV tournament. Only the top six teams in power points will go and Howell stood at No. 8, going into last weekend’s action. The win over Brick Memorial helped them pick up badly needed quality points. A couple of wins in the SCT would be huge for the Rebels. The state deadline is Saturday.

Howell has now become one of the teams that the top four seeds in the SCT would like to avoid.

While Jackson was deservedly given the top seed, Manalapan was named the No. 2 seed. The Braves (9-1), recently crowned A North Division champions, are ranked No. 2 in the Shore, and John Verderosa’s Braves have as good a chance as any team has had since the ’82 Braves of returning the title to Monmouth County.

Since the 1982 team beat Toms River East, no Monmouth County team has won the SCT.

Manalapan’s only loss this year was to the No. 1 team in the state, Absegami.

Howell was given the No. 5 seed and faced No. 12 CBA in the opening round last night at Southern Regional (seeded fourth). Southern faced No. 13 Rumson.

Jackson was set to take on No. 16 Long Branch, and would then face the winner of the Toms River South-St. John Vianney match-up. The four teams still standing after last night’s double-headers will go to Southern on Saturday for the semi-finals (3 p.m.) and final (5:30 p.m.).