It’s a long way to the podium at the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, but everybody takes the first step at districts, which took place on Saturday in 32 locations across New Jersey.
The Cape-Atlantic League had plenty to be proud of during the first step in the postseason journey, especially St. Augustine Prep, which dominated the District 32 tournament while rolling to the team title. The Hermits crowned five champions and advanced 11 wrestlers to next weekend’s Region 8 Championships at Egg Harbor Township High.
Kaden Naame (113 pounds), D’Amani Almodovar (126), Richie Grungo (144), Jake Slotnick (150) and Alex Marshalll (190) all won titles for the Hermits, while host Absegami produced the Most Outstanding Wrestler in 157-pounder Sean Cowan. Cowan breezed through the district tournament, receiving a first-round bye, pinning in 12 seconds in the quarterfinals, scoring a major decision in the semis before getting a second-period pin over No. 2 seed Charley Cossaboone of Ocean City. Slotnick had similar success, following up a quarterfinal pin with a pair of technical falls to win his title at 150.
Brock Zurawski, a former Prep wrestler who is now at Lower Cape May, pinned his way into the finals at 165 then took care of St. Augustine’s Dennis Virelli with an 8-2 victory. Absegami had a second champion in 175-pounder George Rhodes, who got past Prep’s Trey McLeer, 4-1, in the championship bout.
One of the most exciting bouts of the day came in the semifinals at 190, when Lower Cape May’s Brody Saltzman scored a miraculous 7-6 win over Ocean City’s Sam Williams. The bout went back-and-forth the entire time, and Saltzman had to use some injury time in the final 20 seconds. At the restart, there were just 13 seconds left and he needed a takedown to erase a 6-5 deficit. He got it just as the buzzer sounded. However, in the finals he ran into Marshall, who scored a tech fall victory. Saltzman’s teammate, Marcus Hebron, dominated at 215 pounds, scoring a pair of pins to take first place.
A couple of wrestlers won the first district title in outstanding careers, including Almodovar and Oakcrest’s Hunter Horsey, who scored a pair of pins to win the 132-pound title. It was a big day for Horsey, who turned 18 and also won his 100th match. The district title was the first of his career after having lost in the finals as a freshman and sophomore. Mainland got a title from freshman Andrew Siteman at 106 pounds, who scored a pair of wins to boost his season record to 28-4. EHT’s Sean Dever took home the title at 120 pounds, the second district crown of his career, and upped his season record to 31-1.
Holy Spirit had some great results at District 31 at Delsea Regional, as three Spartans won titles and a school-record seven have advanced to the Region 8 tournament. Carter Pack won the title at 106 pounds, Max Elton at 113 and former state qualifier K.J. Sherman took home the crown at 144 pounds. Holy Spirit, despite not having a full lineup, took home second place as a team behind champion Delsea.