Jaguars, Lions ready for battle on mat


 Jackson Memorial High School’s Dallas Winston (top) controls Toms River South’s Anthony Ravallo during their 195-pound bout in Jackson on Jan. 9. Winston pinned Ravallo in 1:26 and the Jaguars defeated the Indians, 40-19.  FRANK GALIPO Jackson Memorial High School’s Dallas Winston (top) controls Toms River South’s Anthony Ravallo during their 195-pound bout in Jackson on Jan. 9. Winston pinned Ravallo in 1:26 and the Jaguars defeated the Indians, 40-19. FRANK GALIPO When Jackson Memorial High School wrestles at Jackson Liberty High School tonight, Jan. 12, the young rivalry between the two schools in Jackson Township will have some added luster.

Both squads are off to great starts, coming into the week unbeaten, and both are ranked among the top 10 teams in the Shore Conference.

Jackson Memorial is 10-0 in dual meets following a 40-19 victory over Toms River South on Jan. 9. The Jaguars are ranked No. 1 in the Shore Conference, No. 3 in New Jersey and No. 39 in the nationwide online poll Internet Fab 50.

Jackson Liberty (5-0) cracked the top 10 in the Shore Conference for the first time at No. 9 in the latest poll.

“We’ve had some surprises with a couple of kids, but we expected to start off well,” Jackson Memorial coach Aaron Gottesman said. “It’s the expectations they put on themselves and I put on them, meeting the goals they have set for themselves. And I know Liberty will come to wrestle and give it their all. This match shows the great feeder youth program here.”

Jackson Liberty coach Mike Eddy said he is taking the schedule one match at a time in pursuit of the Shore Conference C Central Division title, focusing first on the Lions’ Jan. 11 division match against Point Pleasant Borough that could decide the league championship.

Nick Zak is a key figure for Jackson Liberty after reaching the state tournament as a region runner-up last season with a 34-6 record. The junior is 10-1 at 170 pounds thus far in 2011-12.

“The Jackson Memorial match is good for power points [state team tournament consideration], but I’m more concerned about Point Borough,” Eddy said early in the week. “Obviously, we want to do well against Jackson Memorial, but it is only a measuring stick. What’s important is winning the division [C Central] and making the Shore Conference and state [team] tournaments.”

Eddy has never won a division title in 22 seasons as a head coach, the first four at defunct Admiral Farragut and the next 12 at Monsignor Donovan in Toms River before spending the last six seasons at Jackson Liberty .“ Our Point Borough match is for division supremacy,” Eddy said. “Last year, Point Borough was one of the best matches we had when we lost, 37-35, in the last bout. We’ve got good balance throughout the lineup this year with some young guys who have come in. I thought we would have a good team. In the summer they worked hard and got better.”

Jackson Liberty already avenged another close loss it sustained last season when the Lions beat Wall High School, 41-18, in December. Jackson Memorial has won most of its dual meets handily behind senior Dallas Winston, a state runner-up with a 40-3 record last year, aside from a 36-30 victory over Don Bosco and victories over Brick Memorial, 35-24, and Bound Brook, 33-22.

The Jaguars had their second-best finish ever in the season-opening Beast of the East showcase in Delaware, finishing ninth.

Winston finished in fourth place, suffering his only losses there in a 14-2 start at 182 pounds coming into this week. Brad Royle, a senior with a 14-3 record at 132 pounds, finished fifth in that showcase. His brother, Randy Royle, a senior, is 10-3 at 152 pounds.

Winston is the only Jackson Memorial wrestler selected to participate in the New Jersey All-Star matches to be held on Jan. 15 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick Township.

“He’s wrestling great and has come up huge in clutch matches and is getting better every day,” Gottesman said of Winston. As for Brad Royle, Gottesman said he “came in with high expectations and dominated some very good kids.”

Brian Hamann, a junior, has won 13 of his first 15 matches at 126 pounds. Hamann scored a 14-3 major decision with three bouts left that put the Toms River South dual meet in the win column for the Jaguars.

JuniorAlec Huxford is off to an 8-4 start at 106 pounds. He is one of 12 Jackson Memorial wrestlers who has a winning record against a challenging slate of opponents. Six wrestlers have 10 or more victories.

Also figuring prominently in the lineup is Spencer Young, a junior who is 14-2 at 138 pounds, and sophomore Ken Bradley (11-2), who has dropped down to 195 and earned praise from Gottesman. “He started slow getting his weight down, but he has been getting big wins and has stepped it up,” the coach said of Bradley. “He is coming along well after going through injuries last season.”

Along with Zak, Jackson Liberty is bolstered by freshman twins Mike Russo, who is 12-0 at 106 pounds, and his brother, Matt Russo, who is 8-2 at 113.

Other grapplers playing prominent roles for the Lions are sophomore T.J. Liquori (11-2) at 145 pounds and senior Brandon Kosheff, 10-2 at 138 pounds.

Kosheff may have a tough matchup with Jackson Memorial’s Young in what could be a pivotal bout in tonight’s dual meet.

Jackson Liberty sophomore heavyweight Mike McKenzie is 6-4. Fourteen Jackson Liberty wrestlers have winning records, 10 of them with four or more wins.