• Dan Russoman

Hammonton High School wrestlers take down Oakcrest


Hammonton’s Brock Weissman takes down Oakcrest’s Mason Horsey during their match last week.  Weissman went on to win with a third-period pin. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Three late victories helped Hammonton High School’s wrestling team overcome an early deficit to defeat Oakcrest 57-24 in a Cape Atlantic League West Division dual meet last week.


Seniors Brock Weissman and Brandon Velez, along with junior Juan Urbina won consecutive matches late in the meet to help the Blue Devils pull away for the win.


“This was nice. We have a few seniors who haven’t wrestled much at the varsity level and they contributed tonight,” Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello said.


Vincenzo Cirillo opened the meet with a pin in 54 seconds at 120 pounds, taking down Oakcrest’s Lucas Espen to give Hammonton a 6-0 lead.


The Falcons evened the score with a pin at 126, and Hammonton forfeited the next two matches to fall behind 18-6. Another pin at 145 put Oakcrest ahead 24-6, but Hammonton closed the meet with nine-straight wins.


The first came at 152 pounds, where Michael Benedetto wore down Oakcrest’s Xander Hutcherson, eventually winning with a pin in 4:49.


Kevin Watson, Matthew Grasso and Keaton Matta earned forfeit wins to put Hammonton ahead 30-24 before Weissman took on Mason Horsey at 195 pounds in one of the best bouts of the meet.


Weissman, who was wrestling just his second varsity match of the season, battled Horsey for much of the first two periods, falling behind 7-5 late in the match. With 1:20 remaining, Weissman scored a takedown and was quickly able to turn the tables on Horsey, pinning the Oakcrest wrestler in 4:50.


“That was tough. I just had to find a way to win. I know him [Horsey] and he’s tough. We were going at it. It was a long six minutes,” Weissman said.


“Brock is a football player and he was with us a few years ago and decided to come back for his senior season and we’re glad to have him. He’s a really good athlete. It was apparent that six minutes on the mat was something he wasn’t ready to do yet, but once you get that first six-minute match under your belt, you’re ready to go. It’s as much mental as it is physical,” Mauriello said.


For Weissman, wrestling this year is about more than the competition.


“It’s been fun and I get to end my high school career with something instead of nothing, which is good for anybody,” Weissman said.


After Weissman’s win, Urbina pinned Marcial Rosario at 220 pounds in another match that went back-and-forth. Urbina worked a takedown in the second period and was able to pin Rosario in 3:06.


The next match at 285 pounds, was the closest of the night, as Velez pulled out a 2-1 victory in overtime against Francisco Velazquez.


The match was scoreless until the second period, when Velez escaped to take a 1-0 lead. In the third, Velazquez scored an escape to tie the match, which moved into overtime. In the opening one-minute period, neither wrestler was able to pick up a point, sending the match into double overtime.


Velez chose to be down to start the first 30-second period, and escaped with four seconds remaining to take a 2-1 lead. In the second 30-second period, Velez was able to ride out Velazquez, who almost broke free as time expired, giving Velez the win.


“I just tried to push through, not get caught under him, stay on my feet and keep moving,” Velez said.


“I had a plan to not get under him and if I could keep pressure on his head and get an opportunity, take it. It was more mental at the end. I knew he was more tired than I was, so I just had to stay strong,” he said.


Like Weissman, Velez, also a senior, has had limited experience on the varsity level.


“He went out there with a plan tonight and executed it. Brandon came out as a sophomore and had never wrestled before and he took to it quickly. When you have a kid like that who took to it and works so hard, you love to see them be successful. He won a huge match for us last year at the end of the season against Eastern where he went into overtime and gave us a win. It’s great to see him be successful because I know he’s put in the time,” Mauriello said.


After Velez’s win, Justin Flood picked up a forfeit victory before Frank Italiano closed out the meet with a pin against Joseph Bugdon in 1:31.


Later in the week, Hammonton topped Schalick/Cumberland 45-27. Six Blue Devils won by forfeit, and two won matches on the mat.


Cirillo pinned Jacob Currey in 29 seconds at 120 pounds and at 126, Brett Stansbury defeated David Naylor 6-4.


The win was Hammonton’s third straight following a tough few opening matches.


“I’m happy. Our guys have been working hard for the last six weeks and the schedule was really difficult for us early in the season. To these kids credit, they stuck with and they’re showing up and they’ve made an effort to get better,” Mauriello said.


With just a few meets left in the season, Mauriello is eager to see how well his team can finish the season.


“Getting them through those first couple of weeks with what we endured against those tough teams, was really difficult. They believed in what we were trying to do. Now they have a chance to show what they’ve been working for,” he said.


Earlier this week, Hammonton wrestled at Buena, but that match ended too late for this edition. On April 14, the Blue Devils host Ocean City at 6 p.m. On April 16, Hammonton will host Buena at 5 p.m.