Jaguars’ success has even coach impressed

Jackson repeats as top team in the state

BY MIKE WHITE Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Above, Brick Memorial's Steve Santos tries to put Jackson's Joe Feaster on his back during a 135-pound match at the CJGroup IVfinals in Jackson on Feb. 8. Below, Jackson's Kyle Kinchen has control of Brick Memorial's Mike Morales during a 112-pound bout.  Above, Brick Memorial’s Steve Santos tries to put Jackson’s Joe Feaster on his back during a 135-pound match at the CJGroup IVfinals in Jackson on Feb. 8. Below, Jackson’s Kyle Kinchen has control of Brick Memorial’s Mike Morales during a 112-pound bout. TOMS RIVER – The Jackson High School wrestling team found out this season that it is much harder to remain as the state’s top-ranked team than it is to get there.

For the second straight year, the Jaguars finish as New Jersey’s No. 1 team, following a resounding 38-22 victory over Southern last Sunday in the NJSIAA Group IV championship in front of a wild crowd of more than 5,000 fans at the Ritacco Center.

“It’s been a great two years,” Jackson High School coach Scott Goodale said. “It’s very hard to put into words. It’s been like a magical ride. It was a real hard process to get to be the state’s No. 1 team, but it’s been even more difficult staying as the top-ranked squad.”

Sunday’s match marked the third time Jackson and Southern have squared off. This time, however, the Jaguars rolled to an easy win. The first two meetings between the schools were close and decided in the final couple of bouts, but not this one. Jackson won nine of the first 10 bouts, and Southern never recovered.

PHOTOS BY JEFFGRANIT staff PHOTOS BY JEFFGRANIT staff Scott Winston got the spectators into it by opening the match with a pin at 160 pounds, and by the time Dan Hopkins shouldered his opponent at 275 pounds, the fans in the Ritacco Center were whipped into a frenzy.

“The atmosphere was great,” Goodale said. “This is just a great place to hold this kind of event. We were in a zone as a team. We could not have wrestled a better match. Winston started us off in the right direction, and by the time Hopkins was pinned, the roof was ready to come off.”

Goodale said his championship romp over Southern may have been ignited by Jackson squeaking by Brick Memorial in an earlier round.

“We talked to the kids following that match with Brick,” Goodale said. “We made the decision as a team that we wanted to wrestle the best possible match that we could if we got to the championship. Against Southern we were almost perfect. We were one point away from wrestling a perfect match. I don’t think we could have handled them any better.”

Of course, Goodale is more about how his team performs on the mats than he is about getting caught up in the glitz and glory of being the top-ranked team in the state for two consecutive years. But even Goodale marvels at what this group has accomplished over the past four years.

“The seniors on this team are a special group,” he said. “We’ve done some things that have never been done in the state before. That speaks volumes about their work ethic and our program here at Jackson. I’m not into ranking teams but it’s hard to argue with what they have accomplished.”

Indeed, the Jags have won four straight Shore Conference championships, captured four straight sectional titles and have posted a record of 98-6 in the past four years. This year alone, Jackson beat seven New Jersey teams ranked in the Top 10, in addition to competing against squads from other states, which were nationally ranked.

“There was a lot of pressure on us this year,” Goodale admitted.

“We didn’t lighten the load at all. In fact, we made it harder. We want to compete against the best teams out there.”