• Dan Russoman

Wrestling, volleyball teams open ‘Season 3’ this week


Brock Beebe, right, is one of Hammonton’s returning varsity wrestlers. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—The newly-formed “Season 3” is set to begin for high school wrestling, girls volleyball and gymnastics teams around the state this week, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) moves forward with its 2020-21 athletic calendar.


Locally, four teams began preparing for the new season on March 1, and games and matches were set to begin on March 16. The season will end on April 24.


On March 1, the NJSIAA announced that there will not be a team wrestling tournament this season, however, the organization put a plan in place to host individual championship tournaments.


Both the boys and girls tournaments will begin at the regional level, meaning no district tournament this season. A selection committee will determine the wrestlers allowed to participate, with eight girls being seeded per weight class for each of two regions, while 16 boys will be seeded for each weight class in four newly created combined regions. The top four finishers in each regional weight class will advance to the state championships.


For girls volleyball, this week marks a return to the court after more than a year with no play. The sport is normally held in the fall season, but restrictions on indoor events last fall forced the NJSIAA to move the start of the season to later in the academic year.


Here’s a look at the local teams set to begin play this week.


Wrestling


Hammonton High School’s wrestling team lost several of its key members to graduation, and the Blue Devils enter the new season with a young roster.


Head coach Dave Mauriello is eager to see how some of his athletes respond to competing at the varsity level, and said the Blue Devils may need some time to adjust.


“We’re very young, but that’s not an excuse. I’m sure some of our kids will struggle at times because moving up to varsity can be tough. But I’m confident that we’ll put a competitive team on the mat every night,” Mauriello said.


Among the top returning wrestlers for Hammonton are seniors Brock Beebe, Griffin Fiorentino and Julian Vegas. Mauriello is also encouraged by the development of sophomore Anthony Evangelista, who won 15 matches last season.


The Blue Devils also have some strong newcomers who should impact the lineup this season. Hammonton opens the season on March 17 at Middle Twp. at 6 p.m.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats are continuing to rebuild under the direction of veteran coach Joe Melchiorre.


St. Joe had a short-handed roster a year ago, and that should continue to be an issue for the Wildcats, who will likely not put a full lineup on the mat this season.


Leading the team this season will be returning letter-winners, Gahad Hughes, Kevin Mayfield and Bryan Butkus. The Wildcats open the season at home against Schalick on March 18 at 6 p.m.


Girls Volleyball


More than a year after making its debut as a varsity team, Hammonton High School’s girls volleyball squad will return to the court this season.


The Blue Devils posted a 3-14 record in their inaugural 2019 campaign, and bring back a handful of players from that roster.


Gina McBrearty, Emya Mays, Tiffany Paretti and Arwyn Russell all earned letters last season and return to lead a young Blue Devils squad for coaches Heather Flaim and Nick DiMatteo.


Hammonton opened the season on March 16 at Oakcrest, and return to the court on March 19, when the Devils visit Atlantic County Institute of Technology at 5:15 p.m.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats bring back a few letter winners from last season’s team that limped through an 0-13 season. With more experience and some solid newcomers, the Wildcats are hoping to improve against a tough Cape Atlantic League schedule.


Earlier this week, St. Joe played both Lower Cape May and Cedar Creek. The Wildcats visit Our Lady of Mercy Academy on March 19 at 4 p.m.