Spartans continue impressive early showing


Staff Writer

JEFFGRANIT staff Ocean Township’s Kyle Piper controls Southern’s Josh Law during their 125-pound bout at the Mustang Classic in Brick Dec. 30.JEFFGRANIT staff Ocean Township’s Kyle Piper controls Southern’s Josh Law during their 125-pound bout at the Mustang Classic in Brick Dec. 30. Coming into the season being called the “team to beat” in a loaded Class A North Division gave the Ocean Township wrestling team all the pressure you could ask for.

Thus far, the Spartans have responded well, notching a season-opening dual meet win over division rival Howell (44-22), and putting together an impressive showing last Thursday at one of the state’s most prestigious early season tournaments — the Mustang Classic at Brick Memorial.

They competed against wrestlers from seven of the top 12 teams in the state in the tournament, which did not tabulate team scoring, and managed to send five grapplers into the finals, emerging with three individual champions.

Only Phillipsburg, ranked sixth in the state, could boast of a better showing, after sending six wrestlers to the finals and crowning three individual champs.

Ocean freshman Nick Menditto was the first to capture individual gold for the Spartans, winning the 112-pound title by knocking off the top seed, Eastern’s Andrew Sharp, a Region VII runner-up last season, 8-4 in the semifinal, before beating North Hunterdon’s Brian Lewendowski with a pin in 1:20 in the final.

With the win, Menditto improved to 8-0 on the young season, and continued to make a name for himself as one of the Shore’s up-and-coming stars.

Dan Lopes overcame a mental mistake in the 130-pound final to earn his individual title. Leading Phillipsburg’s Brandon Stillo 6-2, Lopes was hit with a one-point penalty after he hit Stillo in the face with a cross-face on the edge of the mat after the whistle blew.

Stillo then came back to tie the bout at 8-8 before Lopes managed an escape with two seconds left to get the win. In what appeared to be a dominant effort from Lopes, the junior likely learned an important lesson about maintaining his composure against top opponents.

Fellow junior Maverick Nunes-Vais was the third Spartan wrestler to earn a title, beating Avon Grove’s (Pa.) Jose Lara, 4-2, in their 135-pound final. It marked the first individual tournament title for Nunes-Vais, who is a vastly improved wrestler this season.

Both senior Bob Willard (152) and sophomore Kyle Kiss (160) lost their respective finals, with Willard losing a 4-0 match, and Kiss dropping an 18-3 technical fall to the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler, Eastern sophomore Scott Giffen, who was fifth in the state last year at 152.

The Spartans also got a third-place finish from sophomore Jeff Siciliano, who beat Point Beach senior Jeff Baker with a pin in 1:21 in their consolation match, and fourth-place finishes from freshman Zach Coulas (103), junior Kyle Piper (125) and sophomore Joe Falco (140).

Ocean can now turn its attention to the A North race, where it has a leg up on the competition, having already defeated Howell. The only teams seemingly standing in their way as they look to repeat as division champs are Middletown North and Manalapan.

The Spartans will host the Braves on Jan. 12 but must first get by the Lions on Saturday.

The Lions captured the team title at the Walter Woods Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29, easily outscoring second-place Long Branch, 157.5-128.

Host Middletown South was third with 98 team points.

The Lions were impressive throughout the day-long event — they entered 14 wrestlers, sent six to the finals, and came away with four champions, two runners-up and three third-place finishers. It marked the Lions’ third straight team title at the prestigious tourney.

The Green Wave was led by senior Nick Groeger’s win at 119 pounds, where he beat Colts Neck’s Jeremy Gaines, 5-4, in the final. Senior Anthony Loring advanced to the 145-pound final, but lost to St. John Vianney’s Kyle Pardun via a pinfall in 1:43, while junior Sergio Chapparo lost in the 153-pound final to Middletown North’s Ben Hockin by a technical fall (16-0).

Monmouth Regional finished in eighth place (67.5 points), led by junior Kyle Christiansen’s win at 125 pounds, where he beat Freehold Township’s John Post in the final, and Paul Schweghardt’s second-place finish at heavyweight.

Rumson-Fair Haven competed in the Holmdel Christmas Tournament, where junior J.C. Clark won the 135-pound title with a tech fall (17-1) win over Manasquan’s Ryan Flores, while seniors Nick Bufano (140) and Steve Murphy (152) earned second-place honors.