By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The wrestling districts, regions and state championships are individual tournaments, but St. Augustine Prep and Southern Regional are treating the postseason more like a team tournament. The Hermits and Rams dominated the Region 8 Championships at Egg Harbor Township on Saturday, as St. Augustine crowned a pair of champions and will be sending eight wrestlers on to Atlantic City, while Southern had three champions and will be sending seven on to states.
St. Augustine Prep’s championships came from a pair of sophomores, who both won in dominating fashion. Mike Misita, who wasn’t even challenged during his run to a District 31 title, ripped through the 182-pound bracket at regions, scoring a 7-0 win in the quarterfinals before pinning Pinelands’ Evan Burton and Delsea’s Curtis Thomas in the semis and finals, respectively. Ryan Defoney decisioned his way into the championship bout against top-seeded Ty Whalen of Clearview, and that match was no contest as Defoney rolled to a 10-0 major decision, scoring his first Region 8 title.
“It was a good day. We had our ups and downs, but for the most part it was a good day. (Defoney) wrestled a great match (in the finals). He got sick at districts last year, so it’s been a nice comeback. He’s had a good year, and that’s a nice way to top it off and hopefully he can continue,” said St. Augustine Prep coach Billy Ward. “We need to keep it going, but yeah, Mike has been pretty dominant.”

St. Augustine Prep senior 152-pounder Connor Kraus, right, battles Southern Regional senior Nick O’Connell for the Region 8 championship. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“That was huge, he was going out with the mentality that he could dominate that match because he knew he could,” Connor Kraus, a finalist at 152, said of Defoney. “And Mike, he knows the mindset. He wants to go out and pin everyone he can and just dominate. The whole team expected him to do well, and coming up in states as well.
“We’re all motivated, trying to get as far as we can in the state tournament,” he added. “We all want to place, that’s the mentality we have right now that we don’t want to lose at all.”
Saturday morning’s semifinal round was full of exciting matches, and some surprising upsets. Kraus took down Delsea Regional’s Nick Bennett — who finished second in the state last year — scoring a 5-3 decision to punch his ticket to the finals, where he lost 7-4 to Southern’s Nick O’Connell. O’Connell was one of three Rams champions, along with Robert Woodcock at 138 and John Stout at 170. But Kraus’ semifinal win assured him a second straight trip to the state championships at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
“He wrestled him earlier in the year and wrestled him well. He was in that match until the end, and this time he pulled it out. That was a great match,” Ward said of Kraus’ win over Bennett.
“I felt like I should have won that match (against him) earlier in the year, and it definitely felt good to win that match. It definitely built up my confidence. This was only the second time I’ve ever wrestled him,” Kraus said. “I’ll definitely be more relaxed in that setting this year, so we’ll see how I can perform there.”

Oakcrest’s Keevon Berry, top, and Pitman’s Zane Coles battled to a tiebreaker overtime period in the 195-pound final before Coles pulled out a 10-9 victory to win the region title. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


Other big upsets in the semifinals featured Holy Spirit 138-pound freshman K.J. Sherman taking down Hammonton’s Ryan Figueroa, 7-1, and Absegami freshman Ray Weed scoring a huge win over Prep’s Sal Manera at 160. Weed nearly won a region title, but Clayton-Glassboro’s Jacob Rodrguez was able to score a takedown in overtime to win 4-2. Sherman lost 10-4 to Woodcock in his title bout, but he said he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to make the trip to Boardwalk Hall.
“I knew it was going to be tough, this is one of the toughest regions, I expected to be pushed to my limit and that’s exactly what I got. When I won that semifinal I was so happy. It’s a dream come true to go to states. I’ve always wanted to go there, it’s been one of my lifetime goals, and to make it there is amazing,” he said. “I knew I had a pretty good chance but there’s always hiccups and you can get caught (and lose a bout). I wrestled the best I could. I’ve learned that I need to work a little bit more with my shots and work in some more cardio, and I just have to really work on my first period. In the first period I have to be on top of my game so that I can go all three periods.”
Three of his Spirit teammates had their A.C. dreams dashed but still finished in the top six, as Connor Boal finished fifth at 170, Sal Palmeri took fifth at 106 and Kurt Driscoll sixth at 220. Oakcrest will be sending a pair to Atlantic City, as Keevon Berry took second at 195, falling to Pitman’s Zane Coles in an epic overtime tiebreaker match, and Kal-El Corbitt third at 182. Ocean City and Mainland will each have one representative, as Nick Sannino took second at 285 and Mustangs senior Jesse Bishop wrestled back to take third at 170 after falling to Stout in the semifinals. Senior Nick Leone was the highest finisher for host Egg Harbor Township, as he finished fifth at 182 pounds, beating Ocean City’s Billy Kroeger in the 5th/6th bout. Oakcrest junior Hayden Horsey took sixth at 113 and Frank Gabriel, also a junior, placed fifth at 126. Only the top four in each weight class advance to the state championships.
“Our team might be small, but we’re mighty. All the kids on our team work hard and give it all they’ve got — all of them give their best no matter what, and I couldn’t be happier to be on this team,” Sherman said. “It’s going to be weird (at Boardwalk Hall). I can’t believe I’m doing this right now. I’m going to be looking around, and it will be a whole new experience for me.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullsays