Raider wrestlers win county title

Kull, Mangini, Detsis, Amerman take first place

By: John E. Powers
   Steve Molinaro, the longtime head coach of the Hillsborough High School wrestling team, expected a tight race for the 2003 Somerset County Tournament title. Molinaro figured defending champ Watchung Hills and perennial contender Somerville would be the teams most likely standing in the Raiders’ way.
   Molinaro was right – the tournament was a dogfight. But it was defending Central Jersey Group 1 champion Bound Brook that turned out to be the biggest obstacle.
   The Raiders, behind four individual champions, three runners-up and two third-places, won their second title in three years by outlasting the Crusaders 191-174½ in Hillsborough. Somerville, with three champions, was third with 142 and Watchung Hills, with one titlist, was fourth at 114.
   Hillsborough, third a year ago, clinched the title when Bridgewater-Raritan junior Jon Rothman beat top-seeded John Jannuzzi of Bound Brook in the 171-pound title.
   Bound Brook, led by three-time county champ and the event’s outstanding wrestler Andrew Flanagan, held a 157½-157 lead over Hillsborough after the quarterfinal round, but Hillsborough forged the lead at 184-183½ after the semifinals and consolation finals.
   "You always have to worry about a team like Bound Brook – it was nip and tuck the whole way," Molinaro said. "I think because it was close the whole way it is a little more satisfying. I know it was a big goal for the kids since the beginning of the year since we lost to Watchung Hills last year. We used it as a motivator to get that banner back on Hillsborough’s gym wall. The kids are really working hard. I know it was a big goal for them."
   Between rounds, Molinaro said that the key for the Raiders would be to get championships from sophomore Adam Kull at 103 and freshman John Mangini at 112.
   "The pressure was off a little bit after they won, but Bound Brook could still make an impact – we knew they had guys like (Nick) Murray and Flanagan and (Jesse) Harrington," Molinaro said. "It was nip and tuck."
   Senior 140-pounder Mike Detsis beat Bound Brook senior Steven Bradley 6-3 and senior 215-pounder Mark Amerman, who made a thrilling comeback against Bridgewater-Raritan freshman Roy Dragon in the semifinal round, followed that with another comeback pin over Somerville junior Marion Easley at 215. The championships for Detsis and Amerman were their first.
   Detsis, now 58-15 for his career and 6-1 on the season, has been behind stars like Flanagan, Somerville’s graduated star Mark Moyer, Watchung Hills’ Alex Caruso and Franklin’s Rusty Hunt – the 135-pound champ this year – the last few years. Detsis’ was third at the counties last year and the year before and was second at last year’s District 18 tournament.
   "Coach told me to go out in the final and win, don’t do anything fancy, just go out and win," Detsis said. "I got a little luck with the seedings this time around. Steve (Bradley) was a little better this year. I know I beat him bad last year. Maybe I can get the district next."
   Kull, who didn’t place at the Mount Olive Tournament, majored Evan Kahn of Ridge 15-2, then held on to beat Bernards’ freshman Rich Rucconiell 2-1 in the final. Mangini improved to 7-0 by pinning Bridgewater-Raritan junior Dan Boemio at 3:29. Boemio has now finished second three straight years – twice against the Raiders’ graduated star Andrew Gewain at 103. Mangini hooked Boemio’s elbow, then rolled the Panther to his back, following up with a crossbar, then a headlock.
   "I work hard here and at home and I just hope for the best," said Mangini, also a winner at Mount Olive to start his varsity career.
   Amerman, second at 215 at last year’s counties and third as a sophomore, and a runner-up and third-place finisher at the districts the last two years, finally got his title. But it wasn’t easy.
   He was cradled by Dragon in the semifinals and trailed 9-3 at one point. But Amerman battled back to pin Dragon at 3:53.
   "Before I went out there for the match I basically killed myself, I had a full blown sweat going," Amerman said. "Basically he had good strength and speed and I wrestled sloppy the first and second period. He got me in a cradle. I had bad form in my standup and my head was right near my knee and he slapped me into a cradle. In the back of mind, I knew I couldn’t lose to a freshman. I wouldn’t hear the end of it. I knew he had nothing to lose."
   Molinaro thought Amerman’s composure was critical.
   "He has been maturing a little bit and he’s not panicking like he used to and it’s showing," Molinaro said.
   Amerman just took the comebacks as part of being in a rigorous sport.
   "I had to get it done somehow," Amerman said. "I had double under hooks and he bulled into me and I threw him over my head and with my positioning I just laid on top of him. He was done."
   Hillsborough got a huge performance from 152-pounder John Newman, who pinned top-seeded Cary Aldrich of Watchung in the semifinal round before losing to Rutgers Prep’s Brett Epps. Newman is 6-1.
   Pat Jastrzebski, 5-2, was pinned by two-time winner and top seed Mike Gatti in the 160-pound final and Phil Lavoie, the No. 2 seed, was pinned by Franklin’s Edwin Rios in the 189-pound final.
   Two big wins came in the consolation finals. Tye Wagner nipped Bound Brook’s David Shubick 1-0 for third at 119 and Griff Campbell pinned Somerville’s Chris Ferranti for third at 125. Both lost in heartbreaking fashion in the semifinals – Wagner lost to Bernards’ Greg Hart 9-6 and Campbell was nipped by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Jeff Ruggini 6-5. Hart pinned Wagner in the Mount Olive Tournament the week before.
   Wagner scored a second-period escape against Shubick and it stood up.
   "We were battling on our feet the rest of the match and I rode him out in the third period," said Wagner, the winner of last year’s county and District 18 titles at 112.