Raider wrestlers rock Bridgewater

Campbell, McLaughlin avenge county losses

By: Rudy Brandl
   BRIDGEWATER – Despite winning the Somerset County team title over the holidays, the Hillsborough High wrestlers still competed like they had something to prove in last Saturday’s match at Bridgewater-Raritan.
   The match featured four rematches of county bouts, two of which were won by the Panthers back in December. The Raiders prevailed in all four this time, setting the stage for a 55-10 rout.
   "The hard work is paying off for the kids," Hillsborough head coach Steve Molinaro said after his team’s record improved to 4-0. "They’ve been pulling together and getting it done. I’m proud of them."
   Senior Griff Campbell started the match with a vindication victory over Jeff Ruggini at 125 pounds. Ruggini had posted a 6-5 decision in the county semifinals, forcing Campbell to settle for third place. Campbell had other ideas this time.
   Saturday’s bout was similar to the county battle, with Campbell nursing a slim lead late in the third period. Ruggini scored a late reversal to steal the county match, but Campbell wasn’t letting this one slip away.
   "I had that match in my mind the whole time," said Campbell, who held on for a 3-1 decision to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead. "After I lost that match in the counties, I was devastated. I had to get him back."
   Campbell scored the first takedown with 40 seconds gone in the bout and rode Ruggini for the final 1:20 to take a 2-0 lead into the second period. The wrestlers traded escapes in the final two frames and locked up without another takedown the rest of the way.
   "I had my hips where they were supposed to be and I circled around and took him down," Campbell said. "I tried to wrestle smart. I didn’t want to do anything stupid. I stayed nice and sound."
   HHS freshman Frankie McLaughlin also exacted a little revenge on a B-R wrestler in his 130-pound bout. McLaughlin, who dropped a 4-2 decision to Ben Conkin in the SCT quarterfinals, defeated his rival by the same score in Saturday’s rematch.
   McLaughlin had to battle for more than six minutes to gain his vengeance. After taking a 2-1 lead with a reversal in the second period, McLaughlin tried to ride out the match in the third period. The referee called a second stalling violation against McLaughlin and awarded a penalty point to Conkin with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. That sent the match to overtime, but McLaughlin needed only 15 seconds to gain the takedown and 4-2 victory.
   "The guys are finishing, that’s the key," Molinaro said. "Each bout is so important. Our goal is to mentally and physically finish. The guys are doing a great job."
   Hillsborough won the next five bouts to open a 28-0 lead. Kevin Lynch (135) pinned Eric Radwanski in 5:33, Mike Detsis (140) took a forfeit, Joe Ambrose (145) posted a 7-3 decision over Drew Ives, John Newman (152) held on for a 3-2 win over Matt Flood and Pat Jastrzebski (160) notched a 10-2 major against Tom Orrico.
   Newman scored the decisive takedown after gaining a neutral early in the second period. Flood could manage only two escapes and Newman wouldn’t allow any more points in another solid display of six full minutes of wrestling.
   "Wrestling is a lot about conditioning and we worked out hard in the off-season," Newman said. "You can’t wait until the season starts to work hard. We’re also really working hard in practice and that preparation is helping us do so well in these matches. The team hasn’t been gassed late in matches and that’s helping us pull out these close ones."
   B-R finally got on the board at 171 pounds, where county champion Jon Rothman posted a 14-6 major over Chris Monticchio. The veteran Rothman was running out of gas and Monticchio took him down with one minute to go but couldn’t rally to victory.
   Hillsborough put the match away with consecutive falls at 189 and 215 pounds. Seniors Phil Lavoie and Mark Amerman increased the Raider lead to 40-4.
   Lavoie decked Tony D’Ovidio in 5:19 after building a 9-0 lead. Lavoie had D’Ovidio in trouble twice in the first period, couldn’t score in the second but finished the job midway through the third.
   Amerman couldn’t wait to get another shot at Roy Dragon III in his 215-pound showdown. Amerman had pinned Dragon in the county semifinals, but Dragon held a 9-3 lead at the time of the fall. Some folks in the area thought Amerman’s county triumph was a fluke. That was more than enough motivation for Amerman.
   "I took it personal," said Amerman, who also recalled being hard on himself after that match. "I took offense to some of the things I said about myself. I know I’m better than that kid. I’ll wrestle him anytime. He’s a freshman and I’ve been wrestling varsity for four years."
   Amerman scored the first takedown with a bull rush midway through the first period but couldn’t hold Dragon, who tied the score with a reversal. Amerman regained the lead with an escape and another takedown with seven seconds left in the opening period.
   Wrestling from the bottom to start the second period, Amerman couldn’t get loose for a while. Dragon tried to get physical and turn Amerman, who caught his opponent off balance and reversed him for a quick pin at 3:02.
   "I wrestled really sloppy in that first match against him, but my moves were crisp and solid today," Amerman said. "He went all-out in the counties. I didn’t sit back this time. I went out on the attack. I know he’s a good wrestler, but I knew what I had to do."
   Bridgewater scored its only other points of the day on a forfeit at heavyweight before the Raiders closed out the romp with three straight wins, including another repeat of a county victory. HHS sophomore 103-pounder Adam Kull majored Andrew Conkin by an 11-2 score, freshman standout John Mangini decked Dan Boemio in 3:32 in a repeat of his victory in the county 112-pound final and senior 119-pounder Tye Wagner flattened Dan Liss in 4:52.
   The Raiders were almost perfect in this match, winning 11 of the 12 contested bouts, including all the close ones.
   "I credit the coaching staff, I give them the highest respect because they get us ready for these matches," Amerman said. "We know this is the year for Hillsborough wrestling. We’re here to prove something."