Manville wrestlers post first victory

Team rocks Oratory, drops tight one to GL

By: Rudy Brandl
   The young Manville High wrestling team learned three different things from its matches last week. All the lessons will help the Mustangs grow and become more confident and competitive for the rest of the season.
   Manville learned how to win in last Tuesday’s match at Oratory Prep in Summit, posting a 54-12 triumph. The MHS wrestlers experienced their first close match of the season the following night in a tough 48-33 home setback to Governor Livingston. Then, Saturday night, they saw what it takes to be a powerhouse when perennial Valley Division titan Roselle Park rolled to a 78-6 victory.
   MHS head coach Brett Stibitz was really hoping to win two of the three matches. In fact, he saw the GL contest as a chance for his young charges to take another step toward a higher level. Always upbeat and positive, Stibitz merely chalked up the loss as another learning experience for his team.
   "The bottom line is that we had to stay off our backs and it’s tough to do that with a young team," Stibitz said afterward. "We didn’t do it tonight, but it was another step toward the next level. Now, they know what it’s like to be in a close match."
   The Mustangs only gained extra mat time and experience in their losses to Bound Brook, Bernards, Ridge and Franklin. Last week’s match against the Highlanders gave Stibitz a chance to juggle his lineup for strategic purposes and added a little extra pressure to the individual wrestlers.
   Manville was sparked by the return of senior 160-pounder Jason Lebedz, who had contemplated giving up the sport. Lebedz decided to come back and produced victories in his first two bouts in addition to receiving a forfeit at Oratory.
   "I’m going out to help the team," Lebedz said. "I’m happy to see a full team. We haven’t had that before. I’ve never been on a team with 20 guys since I’ve been here."
   Although the Mustangs matched the Highlanders in numbers, with each school filling 12 of the 14 weight classes, they couldn’t dig out from an early deficit.
   GL produced pins in the first five weight classes, from 125 to 145 pounds, to build an insurmountable 30-0 lead. The Mustangs got on the board when junior 152-pounder Mike Zala flattened Joe Kline in 28 seconds, but a strategic move backfired at 160 and the Highlanders basically clinched the match.
   Stibitz waited for GL to show Jon Avecillas and gambled by sending out backup Mike Noble, electing to bump standout Jason Lebedz up to 171. Noble fought hard and trailed just 2-1 at the start of the third period but Avecillas caught him with four seconds remaining in the second period and gave the visitors a 36-6 advantage.
   Manville stormed back with four straight bout victories to cut the deficit to 36-27 but forfeited at 103 and 112 for the decisive points. The home crowd got especially fired-up when Lebedz notched a 13-7 decision over Matt Sharkey at 171 and when junior Ed Ferraro decked Manny Couto in 1:11 at 215 pounds.
   Lebedz nearly pinned Sharkey twice in the opening period but settled for a 7-0 lead. He reversed to make it 9-0 but then got sloppy and nearly got decked himself late in the second period. Lebedz managed another reversal and takedown in the final two minutes to survive the bout.
   "I knew he wasn’t better than me technique-wise and I was definitely stronger, but not being here for a few weeks hurt me," Lebedz admitted. "I was tired, but a match like this is better for me than a 30-second pin. He was tough and scrappy. I couldn’t pin him easily."
   The Highlanders forfeited to Irek Kolodziej at 189 and heavyweight Greg Babich. Stibitz bumped Ferraro to 215 against a much heavier foe, but that didn’t stop the Manville junior from adding six points to the team score.
   After trying for a single-leg takedown, Ferraro decided to go for the double and used it to throw Couto to his back. Once Ferraro had the momentum and position, it was only a matter of seconds before official Ken Bernabe slapped the mat.
   "I usually wrestle 171, but we had to bump me up to go for the team victory," Ferraro said. "He was really heavy. Once you get a heavy guy in that position, you can’t give up the pin."
   Manville’s final points of the night came in the last bout, where freshman 119-pounder Jamie Makowski flattened Kevin Moore early in the second period at 2:35. It was Makowski’s second pin in as many days.
   The return of Makowski gives the Mustangs a presence in the lower weights. The former middle school standout started his varsity career with back-to-back falls and Stibitz is counting on Makowski to come through with more pins.
   Makowski opened the match at Oratory by decking Frank Magnotti at 3:51. The Mustangs won the first three and seven of the first eight bouts to take command. Nghi Nguyen (130) posted an 8-5 decision and R.J. Chevere (135) won by forfeit.
   After the Rams got on the scoreboard at 140, Manville won the next four weight classes, compiling 23 points in the process. Greg Fabian won by forfeit at 145, Mike Zala won by technical fall at 152, Lebedz accepted a forfeit at 160 and Ferraro needed only 24 seconds to pack his opponent at 171.
   "That was my first pin," Ferraro said. "It was big for everyone. We all had to do something to help the team win. We’ve got a lot of new kids and everybody’s trying."
   Kolodziej and Babich later produced falls at 215 and heavyweight, respectively. Kolodziej finished his man in 23 seconds, while Babich got the job done in 1:15. Neither team produced a wrestler at 103 or 112 and Manville’s Roland Yakobchuk finished the match with a 14-4 major decision at 119 pounds.
   "It was a good feeling," Stibitz said. "We added them to the schedule to get a win and that’s what we did."
   "It was huge because everybody gave 100 percent," Lebedz added. "Everybody contributed to the win."
   The Mustangs (1-6) were scheduled to host New Providence last night and will host a tri-meet with Newark Central and Rutgers Prep this Saturday. MHS will face Central at 10 a.m. and Prep at 1 p.m.