Mercer grap­plers geared up for district tour­neys

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Rick Forten­baugh rforten­baugh@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Rick­Fort7 on Twit­ter

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.

GREGG SLABODA — TREN­TO­NIAN PHOTO

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.

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