Episov, Frantzen win Mercer wrestling crowns

WW-P South junior of MCT’s most outstanding

By: Bob Nuse
   Neither Misha Episov nor Tom Frantzen came into the Mercer County wrestling tournament as the favorite to win their weight class.
   But that didn’t mean either wrestler was ready to concede the tournament to a wrestler seeded higher. Both Episov, a junior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High South, and Frantzen, a junior at Princeton, put together impressive weekends on their way to weight class titles at the MCT, which concluded on Saturday at Trenton.
   The championships for Episov and Frantzen were the highlights in what was a pretty successful weekend for all three Packet-area teams in the tournament.
   Led by Frantzen’s title at 160, Princeton’s contingent of eight wrestlers finished sixth overall with 121 points. WW-P South, led by Episov’s title at 152, finished ninth overall with 90 points. And while WW-P North did not have an individual champion in the event, the Knights had the best team finish of the group, winding up in fifth place with 140 points.
   Episov gained an added bonus to his weekend, which included his birthday and getting his driver’s license, when he was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
   "He’s been wrestling the best I’ve seen anybody wrestle in the practice room since the beginning of the season," WW-P South coach Craig Wilson said of Episov, who pinned WW-P North’s George Goldsmith at the 5:12 mark to win the 152-weight class. "He was confident going into the tournament. I think his fifth seed was a little deceptive because he had a tough loss to (Anthony) Foster from Nottingham when he was not feeling well. But he went into the tournament feeling like he could win.
   "We felt like it was wide open. Misha has a lot of confidence and he’s been wrestling real well all season. It was probably the toughest weight class with (Dan) Indellicati and Goldsmith at the top. There were a lot of tough wrestlers in his weight class."
   As the No. 5 seed, Episov needed to post three upsets to win the tournament. He knocked off the fourth-seeded Foster to reach the semis, then posted a double-overtime win over Indellicati to reach the final. In that last match, he led Goldsmith just 3-2 entering the final period, where he managed to make a move and get a pin.
   "Every match was close," Episov said of the field at 152. "It was a real tough weight class. I was looking at some of the scores from other matches and the one thing that gave me confidence was that I had pinned the kid from Allentown and Indellicati had majored him by nine points. So I felt like I had a chance to beat him in the match even though I was the fifth seed.
   "I had a pretty easy first match, then I beat Foster, 6-1, and that was a big win for me because I had lost to him earlier. It felt good to get that win after the way the first match had gone."
   The MOW award capped off quite a weekend for the Pirate junior, who figured he had a shot at the honor based on his three upset wins.
   "I know that all the other winners were either seeded first or second, so to be No. 5 and come up big and win was a great feeling," Episov said. "It wasn’t unexpected, but to be the only one seeded that low and win made it nice.
   "Friday was my birthday and that was also the first day of counties. I got my license that day and two wins. Then the next day I got two more wins and the MOW, so it was great weekend. That semifinal had to be the toughest match of my life."
   Frantzen also put together an impressive weekend to capture his title at 160. He rallied to pin Notre Dame’s Chase Badger in the final period of his semifinal, then knocked off Jordan Wolff of Ewing, 7-4, in the final.
   "I’ve wrestled some real tough kids at 160 all season, so I felt pretty prepared for the tournament," Frantzen said. "I had wrestled Badger and Wolff already this season. I just tried to stick to the game plan. If I didn’t do that, I don’t think I would have won. We go over all of the situations and what I would need to do depending on if there is a take down or whatever other situation might come up.
   "It also helps me stay focused that I have a plan going into the match. It keeps me thinking and focused the entire match."
   Frantzen was trailing, 6-5, in his match with Badger. But he stuck to his game plan and was able to make a move and get a pin. He then came back and was able to beat Wolff, who had upset top-seeded Alex Ragucci of WW-P North in the semis.
   "It’s tough, but that’s why we condition," Frantzen said. "Anything can happen in 10 seconds in a match. (Badger) was up, 6-5, and he took a shot and I caught him and pinned him from there. Things can change fast in a match."
   "Tom did his thing," Princeton coach Rashone Johnson said. "He did a good job of following the instructions we laid out for him. We had a game plan and he followed it to a tee. He has been doing well all season. He’s faced tough competition all year long and he’s been able to beat those guys. He had a great match in the semis against Badger from Notre Dame. In my eyes, that was the final. I think those were the two best wrestlers in the weight class."
   Fratzen’s win led a solid day for Princeton, which had Will Borchert finish second at 189, while Mark Jeevaratman was third at 145 and Dale Owswemi was third at 215. Peter Asmuth also added a fourth-place finish for the Little Tigers.
   "This was probably the best performance we’ve had at the tournament since I’ve been the coach," Johnson said. "Tom is the first winner we’ve had in a real long time. We had a first-year wrestler take third at 215, which was just crazy. He’s a senior and this is his first year. He comes out and takes a third. That was great. And Borchert got a second, Jeevs was third and Asmuth got a fourth. It was a good day for us. I always feel like we could have done better, but it was still a real good day for us."
   South also had a nice day as a team. In addition to the win from Episov, Joe Everingham was third and Adrien Schriefer was fourth.
   "Joe Everingham came in third and he’s come along real well," Wilson said. "This is only his second season wrestling and he’s come a long way. He’s got 14 wins for us and he’s having a real nice season. He had a pin to win our match against Hamilton and he had a big win for us against Nottingham."
   WW-P North had the best team finish with its fifth place.
   "I thought we had a great tournament," said North coach Bill Mealy, whose team has wrapped up a CVC Patriot Division championship. "We were ninth last year and this year we finished fifth and scored 140 points, which is the most we’ve ever had. We didn’t have an individual winner, but overall it was the best we’ve done.
   "We ended up with nine of our 14 guys placing in the top five. That’s the best overall for us as a team. And we had five different guys beat kids that they had lost to earlier in the season. We like to call them the comeback kids. They either beat someone they had lost to or they’re down in the match and they come back and win."
   Corey Simmons-Edler finished second at 135 and Goldsmith was second at 152. Jeff Rotella came out of the wrestlebacks to finish third at 130 and Ragucci was third at 160. Fady Abdelhady was fourth at 275 and Joel Kaye was fourth at 112.