MHS wrestlers drop heart-breaker

Newark Central wins in final bout

By: Rudy Brandl
   Some losses are more difficult to swallow than others.
   For the Manville High wrestling team, last week’s dual meet setback against Newark Central was the most painful of the 2003-04 campaign. The Mustangs had lost seven in a row entering the match — including a series of blowouts and one shutout — but none of those lopsided defeats were as heart-breaking as the 39-36 home loss to Central.
   The match didn’t exactly provide the excitement of a Manville-Bound Brook battle in the mid-1990s, but the small crowd was treated to this season’s most entertaining contest. Central bolted to a 27-6 lead, but the Mustangs battled back with five straight wins to take a 36-27 advantage with three bouts remaining.
   MHS needed only one more victory, but Central prevailed in the final three bouts to secure the win.
   Manville junior Nathan Bott had a chance to be a hero for his team in the meet-ending bout at 160 pounds. With his team leading 36-33, Bott came out aggressively looking to deliver the clinching blow. A Bott loss by decision and 36-36 tie would have resulted in a Manville loss by tie-breaking criterion, since Newark had already won seven of 13 bouts. All six of Manville’s wins were six-pointers, including four pins and two forfeits.
   This left the pressure on Bott, who has spent most of the season wrestling heavier opponents at 189 pounds. He slimmed down a bit to make 160 but couldn’t come up with the victory. Bott was pinned by Newark Central’s Damien Robinson at 2:27, allowing the visitors to leave town with a dramatic triumph.
   "You can’t put it all on Nate," MHS head coach Brett Stibitz said afterward. "He wrestled that kid tough. He just made a silly mistake."
   Bott trailed 2-0 entering the second period, but took the lead with a quick escape and takedown within the first 15 seconds of action. Robinson caught Bott out of position and converted a reversal into a fall just 12 seconds later. It was a crazy stretch of action that could have yielded a pin either way, but Robinson clamped down and won it for the visitors.
   "Without a doubt, this is the toughest loss of the year," said Stibitz, whose team was coming off an embarrassing 75-0 loss at David Brearley. "We lost a lot of toss-ups tonight. A lot of those matches could’ve gone either way."
   It’s always easy and convenient to point at the final wrestler on the mat. Stibitz wouldn’t do that after this match. The Mustangs lost three bouts decided by a margin of three points or less. A victory in any one of those would have turned the score around in Manville’s favor.
   The one-point loss came in the opening bout of the night at 171 pounds. Manville’s Ed Ferraro kept fighting back against David Holder but never managed to take the lead in an 8-7 setback.
   It was an entertaining bout, with Holder scoring the first takedown and Ferraro countering with a reversal. Holder escaped to end the period and opened the second with another takedown. Ferraro rallied with a reversal 10 seconds into the third period but Holder escaped and scored a takedown on a nice defensive counter move. Ferraro had shot in for the go-ahead takedown but Holder used his quickness to scoot around the back for the points and held on for the slim victory.
   Central opened a 15-0 lead with pins at 189 and 215 pounds by Brian Peterson and Danny Wright over Armand Fodorean and Irek Kolodziej, respectively. Manville got on the board when heavyweight Greg Babich accepted a forfeit, but the visitors received 12 free points when MHS couldn’t show a wrestler at 103 and 112. Roland Yakobchuk just missed making 112, which left the Mustangs a bit short-handed.
   Manville freshman Jamie Makowski ignited the team’s rally back into the match. Makowski took down Dave Ellison for a 2-0 lead, allowed a reversal but then countered with a reversal and a nice cradle that produced a fall at 1:50. Makowski struggled with an awkward grip and finally secured the fall with 10 seconds showing on the clock.
   "I just couldn’t get my head down," Makowski said. "It just took me a while. I had to concentrate. I locked the wrist tighter and put him to his back."
   After Yakobchuk accepted a forfeit at 125, the Mustangs continued their pin parade in the next three bouts. Senior Nghi Nguyen flattened Abdullah Abdul-Hakim at 1:37 to cut the Central lead to 27-24 and junior135-pounder Rocky Chevere followed with an electrifying pin of Eric Rhenraj at 5:05 to put the Mustangs in the lead.
   Chevere produced the first fall of his wrestling career after taking an 11-3 lead. He had Rhenraj in trouble in the first period but couldn’t finish for the fall. He continued dominating and eventually got the big six points for the Mustangs.
   "It’s pretty sweet," Chevere said. "I was getting pumped up in the back with the guys. I came out saying I was going to win. I went out there thinking I needed a personal victory and knowing the team needed a victory."
   Bobby Ortiz gave the home team a little breathing room with another fall at 140. Ortiz took a 5-0 lead on his second takedown of the match early in the second period. The upper body throw put Tyler Grannus on his back and Ortiz finished the job at 2:31 to give Manville a 36-27 lead.
   The final three bouts were considered toss-ups, but Manville fell short in each one. Greg Fabian battled Aaron Smith in a thrilling 145-pound bout but dropped a 9-7 overtime decision. Fabian nearly ended this one with a three-point near-fall with a hard cradle in the second period but Smith survived. Fabian forced the extra session with a takedown with 17 seconds left in regulation, but Smith scored early in overtime to pull his team to within 36-30.
   MHS junior 152-pounder Mike Zala was in trouble early against Robert Clayton but fought back and ran out of time in a 12-9 loss. Clayton bolted to a 5-0 lead but ran out of gas in the final period, when Zala cut into the deficit but never came all the way back.
   "If Fabian gets the takedown, we win," Stibitz said. "I thought we had to win everything from 119 to 145 to win the match. We came close."
   As always, Stibitz left the match looking on the bright side.
   "Bobby came back and Rocky got his first win," he said. "We stuck everyone we thought we would. The guys did a good job. We just came up a little short."