By Andy Loigu
With an inspired performance, knocking off an undefeated wrestler in the championship final, senior Joe Renne of Hackettstown earned the Outstanding Wrestler trophy, voted on by the coaches, at this year’s District I Tournament on Saturday at Warren Hills.
His stunning triumph helped the Tigers finish third out of eight teams in the team standings with 127.5 points, behind Phillipsburg (232.5) and Warren Hills (149.5).
Phillipsburg sends 10 wrestlers to this weekend’s Region I competition. Like the Beatles, they will be traveling the long and winding road to Wallkill Valley in Sussex County. Wallkill Valley isn’t the end of the earth, but you can see it from there.
Warren Hills sends eight and Hackettstown has qualified six.
The top three finishers in each weight class advance and the champion of each division gets a first round bye at the regional competition. You always beat ‘bye.’
Renne (26-4) is a defending Region I champion and a two-time District I titlist. He also won a district crown as a sophomore, but was regarded an underdog against Matt Valli of Warren Hills, now 34-1, on Saturday.
“I expected he’d be there in the final, so I studied his style,” Renne said. Like the Eagles, he decided to take it to the limit. “I was going to push the limit and be on my feet as much as possible. This is my first OW (Outstanding Wrestler) trophy. I thank the coaches who voted for me.”
Renne and Valli were tied at 4-4 entering the third and final period. Renne was on fire in the final two minutes, scoring an escape and two takedowns, the second on a spin move which worked well for him as a running back in football.
“Renne is in great shape and he always keeps pushing himself to improve,” said Hackettstown’s head coach Frank Rodgers.
The Tigers’ second championship came at 182 pounds, where top seeded Kyle Connelly (29-5) scored the first takedown and never got into any trouble in a 3-1 win. “Getting the first takedown is the key for Kyle. He’ll capitalize on an opening and then control the match. He’s real hard to beat when he gets in front. He’s very smart, always in good position,” Rodgers said.
The Blue Streaks’ 106 pound freshman Cody Harrison (21-5) took injury time the last two weeks of the regular season, but bounced back strong. He scored an instant takedown to start the championship bout, right after the first whistle. Talk about breaking the ice. He was a buzz saw in defeating Dom DiGena (28-9) of Mendham by an 11-2 score, to win the district title. (more)
“Keeping in shape while out with an injury is a concern, you feel sluggish from inactivity, but Cody came back well,” said Warren Hills head coach Jarrett Hosbach. “You have to wrestle through that, it’s mental. You have to push yourself that much harder.”
Jarod Ostir was the second Warren Hills champion, winning the 170-pound championship with an impressive pin in a mere 37 seconds. His record stands at 15-8.
Also qualifying from Warren Hills as the 113 pound runnerup was Kyle Wulff, a sophomore with a 25-10 record.
Zach Nauta took third at 138, Cam Nauta was third at 145, Anthony Roessner was third at 160, and Nick Galka took third at 195 pounds with a 6-4 overtime decision. He scored a takedown in the final minute to tie the match.
Hackettstown sophomore Alex Carida, 28-6 at 132 pounds qualified with a second place finish, as did Anthony Carida (28-8 and 85-38 career) with a second place finish at 145.
Anthony Gonzalez of the Tigers took third at 170 in dramatic fashion, scoring a takedown in the final second of regulation time for a 4-3 win, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Joe Andes at 285 pounds, also had to struggle to finish third. He needed to go seven periods to outlast Taylan Zafis of Warren Hills in the ultimate marathon match.
1,000 career points for Johnny Bamford
Also on Saturday, in boys’ basketball, senior point guard Johnny Bamford scored the 1,000th point of his stellar career while leading the Blue Streaks (15-5) to a 63-56 win in Somerville against Immaculata. He went into the game with 981 points and now has a career total of 1,004. He is the eighth Warren Hills boy to reach the milestone and first in 20 years.
Warren Hills has been awarded the third seed in the upcoming Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex and North 2 Group 3 post-season tournaments.
WH Bowling Takes Sectionals
And, there is more good news coming from Warren Hills, as the boys and girls bowling teams won sectional championships on Feb. 11. It was the first ever for the boys and second straight for the girls.
Abby Laws and Eric Lawson won high game and high series honors for the girls and boys teams, respectively.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.