ROSELLE PARK – A season in which it has just gone out, taken it one match at a time, and performed as consistently as it could continued for the Roselle Park wrestling team Friday night.
The host Panthers immediately took the lead for good against visiting WhippanyPark when senior Pete Hilburn got things started at 152 by quickly flipping Mike DeCandia and winning by fall in just 35 seconds.
Top-seededRosellePark would go on to win the first three bouts and eight of the first nine to dominate second-seeded WhippanyPark 44-9 in Friday night’s North 2, Group 1 championship match at RoselleParkHigh School’s gymnasium.
The Panthers improved to 23-0 – the 23 wins are a program best – and will next wrestle in the Group 1 semifinals Sunday at 10 a.m. at Pine Belt Arena in TomsRiver. The other Group 1 sectional champions crowned Friday night were Bound Brook in Central Jersey and Paulsboro for the 34th time in 35 years in South Jersey.
The North 1, Group 1 final that has Emerson Boro at Kittatinny was moved to Saturday because of Thursday’s heavy snowfall.
RosellePark captured North 2, Group 1 for a record 18th time and first time since 2010. This was also Roselle Park’s 22nd sectional championship and first since 2011 when it won Central Jersey, Group 1 for the fourth time.
RosellePark has now won sectional championships in 22 of the 35 seasons – they began in 1980 – that they have been contested. Present head coach John Ranieri, in his 12th season at the helm of the Panthers, has guided RosellePark to its last seven.
UnionCounty’s No. 1 team will next attempt to bring home the program’s third state championship and first since sharing the 1997 Group 1 crown with Paulsboro. RosellePark won the first Group 1 state championship in 1982.
“This was a great win tonight,” Ranieri said. “The determination of our wrestlers is second to none.
“Sunday will be no different than any other matches. You can’t make it any more than what it is. We’ll prepare like we do and let the fur fly.”
RosellePark previously defeated WhippanyPark 40-15 back on Jan. 11 at the Paul Finn duals in Millburn. The Panthers wrestled with a lot of confidence that Saturday and with even more on Friday night.
RosellePark increased its lead to 10-0 when senior Brian Matthews – in control the entire match – defeated Nick Serafini by major decision, winning 13-3 at 160.
“If we continue to work hard and keep wrestling the same way we’ve been doing so far, nobody can stop us,” said Matthews, who last month became a repeat Union County Tournament champion.
Steve Loevsky, another member of RosellePark’s fine senior class, also won by major decision at 170 when he downed Kevin Coiley 16-5 to put RosellePark up 14-0.
After WhippanyPark’s Vin Mattia won an 18-11 decision over Will Ferdinando at 182, RosellePark won the next five bouts, starting with senior Phil Woods moving up a weight class to 195 to face one of WhippanyPark’s best grapplers in Steve Webb.
Woods led 4-0 after the first two minutes and then increased his lead to 10-2 heading into the final two minutes. The score remained the same, with Woods picking up RosellePark’s third of five major decisions.
“We’ve been working real hard, so we’re ready to get the job done,” said Woods, who in the nj.com state rankings is rated fourth at 182.
Woods is one of only three UnionCounty wrestlers state-ranked. The other two are Brearley senior Joey Balboni, who is second at 182, and Cranford junior Gavin Murray, who is seventh at 138.
Murray, for the lower weights, and Balboni, for the upper, were named the two Outstanding Wrestlers in last month’s UCT. Balboni won his third UCT crown and Murray his first. Woods missed the event with an injury.
“We seem to have pretty good team chemistry,” Woods said. “Sunday is, obviously, a big deal, but we’re not going to change anything. We’re just going to go out and wrestle the same way we’ve been doing.”
The most dramatic match of the evening followed at 220 when RosellePark senior Alan Nunez tangled with WhippanyPark’s Liam McLaughlin. Nunez led 3-2 after the first six minutes, but gave up a point to McLaughlin before the final two minutes began.
After a scoreless third period – one that ended with RosellePark fans wanting Nunez to get credit for what they thought was a takedown right before the buzzer – the match went to overtime.
Both wrestlers tried to gain an advantage before Nunez was able to get McLaughlin on his back and earn a fall with just 18 seconds left.
“Alan is a competitor and he held it together and did real well,” Ranieri said.
RosellePark junior George Perez blanked Matt Karovic 5-0 at 113 for the only Panther win by shutout. The victory also clinched the match for RosellePark.
“We knew some things from wrestling them before and were able to turn two losses (from the first match) around,” Ranieri said.
Whippany Park finished a fine season at 17-4, with two of its losses coming to Roselle Park.
NOTES:RosellePark’s previous best win total was 21 for the 2008-2009 season. The Panthers also won a sectional title that year, capturing Central Jersey, Group 1 for the third time and second time in a row.
GROUP 1 SECTIONAL CHAMPIONS:
North 2 – RosellePark
North 1 – Emerson Boro at Kittatinny, Saturday
Central Jersey – Bound Brook
South Jersey – Paulsboro
NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 2, GROUP 1
SEEDS: 1-Roselle Park. 2-WhippanyPark. 3-Caldwell.
4-Belvidere. 5-Cedar Grove. 6-Rutherford.
Monday, Feb. 10
Cedar Grove 35, Belvidere 30 – at Belvidere
Caldwell 51, Rutherford 7 – at Caldwell
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Roselle Park 47, Cedar Grove 10 – at Roselle Park
WhippanyPark 30, Caldwell 29 – at WhippanyPark
Friday, Feb. 14
Roselle Park 44, Whippany Park 9 – at Roselle Park
ROSELLE PARK SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (22):
The Panthers have won the fourth most in the state and
the most in UnionCounty.
NORTH 2, GROUP 1 (18): 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2010, 2014.
CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 1 (4): 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011.
NORTH 2, GROUP 1 CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH AT RP
152: Pete Hilburn, RP, pin Mike DeCandia, WP, :35.
RosellePark leads 6-0.
160: Brian Matthews, RP, maj. dec. Nick Serafini, WP, 13-3.
RosellePark leads 10-0.
170: Steven Loevsky, RP, maj. dec. Kevin Coiley, WP, 16-5.
RosellePark leads 14-0.
182: Vin Mattia, WP, dec. Will Ferdinando, RP, 18-11.
RosellePark leads 14-3.
195: Phil Woods, RP, maj. dec. Steve Webb, WP, 10-2.
RosellePark leads 18-3.
220: Alan Nunez, RP, pin Liam McLaughlin, WP, 6:42 (OT).
RosellePark leads 24-3.
HWT: Marc Signorello, RP, dec. Justin Lam, WP, 5-2.
RosellePark leads 27-3.
106: Chris Gural, RP, maj. dec. Nick Wilson, WP, 10-2.
RosellePark leads 31-3.
113: George Perez, RP, dec. Matt Karovic, WP, 5-0.
RosellePark leads 34-3.
Match’s first of two shutouts clinches victory for RP.
120: Matt Mastrobuono, WP, dec. Andy Santamaria, RP, 3-2.
RosellePark leads 34-6.
126: Mitch Grassle, WP, dec. Josh Gergich, RP, 4-0.
RosellePark leads 34-9.
132: Mike Figuerdo, RP, dec. Mike Kaspar, WP, 6-3.
RosellePark leads 37-9.
138: Joe Fulinello, RP, maj. dec. Carmen DelloRusso, WP, 11-3.
RosellePark leads 41-9.
145: Bobby Vail, RP, dec. Marc Muzeni, WP, 11-5.
RosellePark wins 44-9.
RosellePark won 11 of the 14 bouts, including two by fall
with the second one coming in overtime.
The Panthers won one match by shutout.
WhippanyPark won three bouts, all by decision.
The Wildcats won one match by shutout.
Records:WhippanyPark 17-4. RosellePark 23-0.
GROUP SEMIFINALS, FINALS
Sunday, Feb. 16
At Pine Belt Arena, Toms River
(Toms River North High School)
Session 1 at 10 a.m. – Group 1 and Group 4 semifinals
Session 2 at 12:30 p.m. – Group 2 and Group 3 semifinals
Session 3 at 3:30 p.m. – Group 1, Group 4 and Non-Public B finals
Session 4 at 6 p.m. – Group 2, Group 3 and Non-Public A finals