Young grapplers show improvement on mat


Team Jackson Recreation Youth Wrestling, which won its sixth straight Jersey Shore Junior League team championship and had a win streak in league matches that reached 100, got some fine performances in the state championships, led by Junior Division second-place finishers Sebastian Rivera at 75 pounds and Matt Mc- Gowan at 70 pounds on March 13 in Moorestown.

“I felt good because I’ve been working hard this season and trying my best,” said Rivera, who lost by decision in the finals. “It’s all the people around me, my mentors, my dad.”

Rivera is unbeaten in 91 Jersey Shore Junior League matches in his career. He is shooting for winning more than 100, like eighth-grade twin brothers Matt and Mike Russo. Matt concluded his career with the Jackson team at 121-4, and Mike finished up at 100-4.

“[Sebastian] did a great job, but he was hit by a four-point move early, and that made a difference,” said Rivera’s dad, Steve, the owner of Elite Wrestling, who finished second in the state in 1986 and first in the state in 1987 while at Manalapan High School. His brothers also were state place-winners. “It’s awesome watching the kids I worked with come back to make Sebastian great. And his growing up in Jackson, you couldn’t ask for a better wrestling town.”

Young Rivera said he likes working from on top.

“I can ride [an opponent] for a long time and work my moves while getting on top,” said Rivera, who also was unbeaten and a Tri-County champion for the second year in a row at McAulliffe Middle School. “The interesting thing is his focus. He’s driven to do this,” said dad Steve. “He has trained and done this on his own. I am so happy he got into the finals. He’s starting to reap the benefits of his hard work.”

Tim Hamann finished in fifth place at 95 pounds in the state tournament. Jeremy Bollard was one win away from placing at 90 pounds.

In the Intermediate Division, Mike Spino at 80 pounds and Fred Terranova at 85 pounds each finished in eighth place at Moorestown. Terranova won the 80-pound class in the Jersey Shore individuals and Spino was third at 76 pounds.

Also qualifying for the state Intermediate Division championship finals were Paul Piccione (85), Matt Russo (98), Jared Di- Giontomasso (120), Dom Regina (120) and Connor Bohringer (128).

Piccione and Regina were one victory away from placing.

“I am very pleased with everyone; they all did a great job,” said Jackson Recreation wrestling director John Reese.

Three more wrestlers will compete in state finals this weekend: Brett Blaeff at 45 pounds and Nick Ford at 85 pounds in the Bantam Division at Union on March 19, and Josh Bollard at 60 pounds in the Novice Division on March 20. Bollard was runner-up in his weight class at the Jersey Shore Junior League individuals.

A number of Jackson wrestlers performed well at the Jersey Shore individuals as the team finished in second place behind host Toms River. Eleven wrestlers placed, nine of them in the top three. Along with the previously mentioned wrestlers, Mike Russo pinned his opponent in the 95-pound finals, and Hunter Reese was second at 107.