New faces, similar results for Howell

Wrestling team keeps winning

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

The faces may have changed, but the results haven’t. Despite losing a state champion, state runner-up and state place-winner from their lineup, John Gagliano’s Howell Rebels remain a wrestling powerhouse.

“We don’t have the big guns but we have a balanced group,” he pointed out. “The kids are hard workers.”

With their 52-15 win over Christian Brothers Academy and 58-15 over Colts Neck, the undefeated Rebels, are in a familiar position, atop the Shore Conference A North Division. They are aiming at a fourth straight division crown in ’09.

Not content to display their wares in the division, the Rebels stepped out of A North on Thursday and won on the road against their rival and equally undefeated Ocean Township and won 37-20.

Gagliano credits returnees like Joe Espositon, Matt Reed, Brian Wilson, Joe Melon, Jesse Holzhauer and Mike Shaughnessy with “really stepping up as leaders of the team.” Practices are intense as ever.

This group has been tested under fire. It hasn’t been a cakewalk. They beat South Jersey power Absegami, 27-26, in a match that could have gone either way. Dominick Carnevale’s decision at 215 pounds extended a one-point lead to four, 27-23, with only the heavyweight match remaining. Chris Puglisi did what he had to do, avoid giving up bonus points. His 1-0 loss sealed the 27-26 triumph that confirmed that it’s the same old Howell.

“It [Absegami’s win] set nice momentum for the team, it gives them confidence,” said Gagliano. “The kids have really grown up a lot. I’m seeing a lot of improvement.”

Saturday, the Rebels participated in a trimeet at Wall Township, where, in addition to beating the Cougars, they topped a strong Wall team, 36-30, and toppled South Jersey power Delsea, 37-30.

Against Wall, the Rebels answered all doubts about their ability to comeback. They were trailing 30-18 before sweeping the final four matches to snatch the victory.

Dru Thomas started it off with a decision at 112. Esposito (119) and Wilson (125) followed with pins, and Kevin Pantaleono finished it off with a decision at 130.

With the trio of wins, the Rebels improved to 10-0.

Howell will close out its A North schedule with meets at Middletown North on Saturday (10 a.m.) and at Marlboro on Jan. 21 (6:30 p.m.).