McLaughlin, Kull settle for second on county mats

No HHS champs for first time since 1989

By: John E. Powers
   Something was missing from the 30th Somerset County Wrestling Tournament at Hillsborough High on Dec. 27. The host school didn’t have an individual champion.
   For the first time since 1989, the Raiders didn’t have at least one winner.
   Senior Adam Kull, who had won at 103 pounds as a sophomore and at 119 last year, was beaten by Bernards’ senior and top seed Greg Hart 6-4 in the county final. Junior Frankie McLaughlin, beaten in last year’s 145-pound final by Watchung Hills Shane Riccio, dropped a 4-2 overtime decision to Riccio in the 152-pound final this year. McLaughlin did win the Bob Dougherty Award, named after the late Rutgers Prep coach, for the wrestler who shows the most sportsmanship qualities during the tournament.
   Hillsborough, the county champion two years ago, was fifth in the team standings with 109.5 points. Watchung Hills won its second straight team title and third in four years. The Raiders were also fifth last year. They were first in 2003, third in 2002 and also won it in 2001.
   "We have a lot of youth in the lineup, we have a lot to learn and a lot to work on — this has to be a gauge for us," said Hillsborough head coach Steve Molinaro, whose team gets back into action Wednesday (Jan. 4) with a home meet against Union County Tournament champ Roselle Park. "The good thing is that our county (meet) is almost identical to the District 18 as far as who we wrestle. So we know who we have coming in. We have to get better along the way. We can only ask so much from our freshmen. We have a bunch of scrappy kids and we have a lot to work with."
   Two of Hillsborough’s veterans led the way. Kull, the No. 2 seed, fell behind Hart 2-0 and 4-1 after two periods, but fought back with a neutral and a reversal with 26 seconds left in the third period. Hart, a third-place Region 5 finisher the last two years, finished second in the county at 119 two years ago and at 125 last year — both times to Somerville’s graduated star Kyle Sutphen.
   "I can’t be satisfied with losing, but there was no shame in losing to him," said Kull, who’d never wrestled Hart before. "It gives me something to work on. I know he’s fast and really, really strong."
   "I thought Adam did a great job against a really tough kid. Again, maybe we’ll see him in the districts — he went after it the whole time and kept it close, and kept himself in the position to possibly win. He wrestled smart," Molinaro said of Kull.
   McLaughlin has had several tight matches against Riccio. Riccio pinned him in a dual meet two years ago and beat McLaughlin 7-3 in last year’s county final at 145. But McLaughlin avenged that loss with a 4-1 dual meet win. McLaughlin scored a buzzer-beating takedown to take a 2-0 lead in this year’s final.
   Riccio scored a neutral to make it 2-1 early in the second period. McLaughlin was warned for stalling later in the period. Riccio then got a stalling point late in regulation. The two had a couple of scrambles in overtime before Riccio scored a reversal late in the first overtime.
   "I thought I won it, but I don’t know, I have to beat him worse than that to show that I won," McLaughlin said. "I could have done a little more, been a little more aggressive. I don’t really care about the effort, I cared about the win. I wasn’t being aggressive enough. Every time I tried to get close to him he’d back away and put his arms out. I was just trying to move and create angles. The ref thought I was stalling. It’s always been close when I’ve wrestled him."
   The two will probably meet again Jan. 21 when the Raiders head to Watchung for a tri-meet with High Point.
   "The hardest thing is that Frankie didn’t realize that he got a hit with a stalling (warning)," Molinaro said. "It changed his whole approach at that moment. Both of those kids put in a heck of a battle and that’s what you come here to see. It’s a tough match to call and those are always tough matches to take when you lose them because it’s so darned close. But it’s a credit to both kids and we’ll see what happens when they wrestle again."
   McLaughlin has lost four of six bouts to Riccio in summer and high school bouts. They’re not done.
   "Next time I have to keep putting points on the board. I just can’t wrestle on a lead, I have to keep taking it to him," McLaughlin said. "I have to show the refs who’s winning."
   Senior Ernie Guaimano, the No. 2 seed at 189, recovered from a major decision loss to Bridgewater-Raritan’s Drew Ives in the semifinal to beat Watchung Hills’ John Recenello by a 10-0 major score for third. Joe Guido, an eighth seed, placed third by injury default over Bernards’ A.J. Schaufler at 135. Freshman fourth seed Jake Hartzog (103) and freshman ninth seed Will Goddiess (130) were both fourth.
   "It always says something about the individuals when they come through the wrestle-backs," Molinaro said of Guaimano. "Joey (Guido) has been laid up for two years with injuries and we have to credit him for getting back into the mix."