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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Hammonton falls in South Jersey final


Dan Russoman/THG. Hammonton’s Gavin Morris, top, controls Northern Burlington’s Michael McGarigle during their match last week.

COLUMBUS—Wrestling in a sectional final for the first time in seven seasons, Hammonton High School’s grapplers fell short of a South Jersey Group 4 title on February 7, falling to top-seeded Northern Burlington County (NBC) 43-20.


The championship meet was close early, but the host Greyhounds closed with wins in seven of the final nine matches to win their first sectional title.


“They were a little better than us in the upper weights,” Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello said. “And they took advantage of it. A couple of pins kind of changed the momentum a little bit but, hey, that’s the way it goes. We got the matchups we wanted, we just didn’t wrestle well enough to win,” Mauriello said.


The teams traded wins early, with Hammonton holding a 13-9 lead after five matches.


Northern’s Landen Knox opened the night by pinning Tyler Police at 106 pounds, but at 113, Shane Way scored a first-period pin for Hammonton, taking down Rocco Giangeruso in 1:44.

Gavin Morris followed with a hard-fought 5-0 win against Michael McGarigle at 120, but NBC was back on the board at 126, using five takedowns to defeat Logan Walters 10-3.


At 132, Hammonton went back in front when Luca Giagunto methodically worked a 13-2 major decision against Hunter Novoa.


That was the last time Hammonton would hold the lead, however, as Gal Zeppardo’s pin of Matthew Gehres at 138 gave Northern a 15-13 lead.


The Greyhounds followed with wins at 144 and 150, increasing their lead to 22-13 before Vincent Palermo stopped the run for Hammonton when he topped Joseph Jervasi 17-7.


That was as close as Hammonton would come for the rest of the night, as NBC sealed the win with three-straight victories.


At 165, Brendan Goldmacher pinned Julius Witcher in 2:44 to start the stretch for the Greyhounds.


The match at 175 was closer, as Griffin Goldmacher and Michael Ryan traded takedowns and near falls until Goldmacher scored a pin in 3:16.


Northern Burlington then clinched the championship at 190 pounds when Michael Milewski escaped a pin and went on to take down John Kane in 3:04.


With the outcome decided, Hammonton’s Mark Hartley defeated Sean Falcey 8-4 at 215 before the meet ended with NBC’s Manny Saenz defeating Camryn Broadnax 8-4 at 285.


Hammonton reached the finals after sweeping Toms River East and Shawnee on February 5.


Opening with a quarterfinal match against Toms River East, Hammonton cruised to a 48-18 win.


Police (106), Way (113) and Morris (120) all won to open the meet for the Blue Devils.


Giagunto had a pin at 132, and at 144, Niedoba won a major decision. Frank Italiano won at 150 before Palermo had a pin at 157. Witcher (165) and Ryan (175) won before Hartley won a decision at 215.


Taking on two-time defending sectional champion Shawnee in the semifinals, Hammonton won a close matchup 39-32.


Mauriello bumped several wrestlers up a weight class during the meet, and the moves paid off as the Blue Devils were able to win a few close matches.


“I’m really proud of these kids, we ended up bumping eight kids up a weight class, and in losses only gave away a few points,” Mauriello said.


Key victories for Hammonton came at 144, 165 and 215 pounds.


At 144, Niedoba took the mat to take on Shawnee’s Max Spitznas. The match was close for two periods and with just 17 seconds remaining, Niedoba put Spitznas on his back for an important pin.


“At 44, Eddie’s win there was critical for us. I wasn’t sure he could beat their kid there but he did a great job,” Mauriello said.


Leading 21-17 heading into the match at 165, Mauriello sent Witcher out to face Lucas Estevez. The two went back and forth at a frenetic pace with Witcher holding a slim 16-15 lead before catching Estevez for a pin in 5:19.


Witcher has worked all season to cut weight, moving down from 190 to 165.


“We call him Juice, he brings it. He’s been wrestling up at 75 and 90, and now he’s down at 65. He’s super athletic and tough and gives us a little firepower there,” Mauriello said.


Witcher, who has seen limited varsity action this season, was thrilled to help his team win.


“It was outrageous, I was just happy I could battle to the end. I caught him [Estevez] in a little double, a little pancake. I’m just glad because we needed the energy to get it going. I knew the score, I just needed to finish. That was a dogfight, that was one of my biggest matches,” Witcher said.


The win put Hammonton up 27-17 and Ryan’s pin at 190 gave the Devils a 33-23 advantage with three matches remaining.


The clinching win came two matches later, as Harley bumped up to 285 and took down Joe Leto in 3:10.


“I used a Peterson (roll) to get the pin. A lot of people over-extend their arm across the body, and it’s the perfect place for a Peterson. It’s quite easy to hit. You go for a stand-up, they try to hold you down and you go ‘boom’, pull him through. I felt good, I knew I could outlast him,” Hartley said.


Way (113), Morris (120) and Giagunto (132) also had wins for Hammonton.

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