Mercer grapplers geared up for district tourneys
For the first time in at least 40 years when all the Mercer County teams competed in no more than three districts, it’s a whole new look this year as the wrestlers get ready to compete in the individual portion of the season.
Following the realignment during the off-season, the Colonial Valley Conference teams are now spread out over six districts.
The CVC teams in District 17, 18 and 19 will compete next week in Region V at Hunterdon Central. The CVC teams in districts 21, 22, 23 and 24 are now part of Region VI at Brick Memorial.
The top three wrestlers in each weight at districts advance to regions, For the first time, the top four wrestlers in each weight at regions will advance to states in Atlantic City.
The realignment of the districts has also resulted in two CVC teams possibly having a shot at a team title. They are Hopewell Valley at District 18 and Nottingham at District 24.
All of the districts involving Mercer, Burlington and Hunterdon county teams start Saturday morning, with the exception of District 25 that gets underway Friday night at Holy Cross. DISTRICT 17 (AT HILLSBOROUGH)
West Windsor South is the lone Mercer entry here. It has two No. 2 seeds in Brandon Murray (106) and Sean Thompson (28-2 at 138). Joe Salerno (25-5) got the third seed at 132.
Hunterdon Central is a huge favorite to win the team title before heading back to its home mats for Region V in the fieldhouse. DISTRICT 18 (AT RED BANK REGIONAL) After decades of banging its head against the wall against the Hunterdon County teams, Mercer County kingpin Hopewell Valley has a real opportunity here. Bound Brook has five No.1 seeds who are among the best in the state, but Hopewell has more weights covered.
Hopewell also has four No. 1 seeds itself in Chris Lanciano (24-3 at 106), who flipflopped weights with Hunter Martel (113), Spencer Brost (15-13 at 132), Ben Markulec (23-6 at 195) and Will Ortman (30-2 at 220). Of all the CVC wrestlers, Ortman is one of the most likely to go far and possibly place at states. DISTRICT 19 (AT OLD BRIDGE)
The CVC representatives at this district are Princeton and West Windsor North. Princeton’s first wrestler to crack the century mark in career wins, James Verbeyst (30-0) is the top seed at 160 pounds. Princeton is upset fellow-Mercer County Tourney champion Alec Bobchin somehow ended up as the No. 5 seed at 126 pounds despite an undefeated record and a second at districts last year.
In terms of the battle for the team title, you can hand the trophy to recently crowned Group II Group state champion Delaware Valley before the action even gets started. DISTRICT 21 (AT MANALAPAN) Trenton is the local team here and is led by top-seeded Herbert Edwards (29-3) at 126 pounds.
Several Shore teams will battle it out for the team title, but look for a possible high finish from Burlington Township with its four No. 1 seeds. Another Burlington County wrestler with a top seed is Billy Moore of Bordentown/Florence at 120.
DISTRICT 22 (AT HOWELL) Although Group V Group state champion Howell is a huge favorite and will have at least nine in the finals if the seeding holds up, there are some opportunities for CVC wrestlers.
Allentown freshman Joey Lamparelli (30-1) is the top seed in a 106 weight class that could have a great semi between Northern Burlington’s Travis Kotelnicki and Howell’s Jesse Liptzin. Kotelnicki pinned Liptzin a dual, but the score was close at the time and Liptzin now will be on his home mat.
Look for another good final at 120 between Howell’s topseeded Darby Diedrich (30-3 at 120) and Robbinsville’s Long Fox (29-2). Robbinsville’s lone top seed is Garrett Bilgrav (283) at 145.
Ewing and Lawrence are also in this district with Ewing’s undefeated Lavinsky Collins getting the top seed at 152. Allentown’s No. 2 seed Liam McDermott at 170 has just one loss, but it came when he was pinned by Howell’s top-seeded freshman Shane Reitsma (32-0) in a dual.
DISTRICT 23 (AT WALL) Hightstown and Steinert are in a district dominated by Shore Conference teams headed up host Wall, Long Branch and Pt. Pleasant Beach.
Hightstown has two No. 2 seeds with Christian Charache (26-8 at 113) and Kether Thornton (120). Mercer County Tourney champion John Andre (322) is the No. 4 seed in a tough weight led by top-seeded Pete Welsinger of Long Branch.
Steinert’s highest seed is Keon Cooper in the second spot at 170 pounds. Sitting atop that weight is Delran destroyer Phil Rogers (35-0).
DISTRICT 24 (AT FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP) Nottingham has a real shot at a team title in a district that is not exactly stacked. Ocean Township is in the field, but it has already lost to the Swamprats in a recent dual.
Nottingham’s has five No. 1 seeds, one second and one third. Its top seeds are Tariq Morton (25-8 at 120), Jon Jacobs (25-10 at 170), Gabriel Williams (26-9 at 182, Devion Stokes (30-6 at 220) and heavyweight Sylvester Freeman (22-11).
Notre Dame and Hamilton are also in this district. Notre Dame’s Joe Schneider (28-6) is the top seed at 126 and teammate Omar Santos is seeded second behind Freeman.
Nottingham’s Devion Stokes is the top seed at 220-pounds in District 24. The Swamprats could also capture a district title with several solid performances.