Category Archives: Wrestling

South Plainfield’s Stasenko leads advance to Region 3 semis

UNION – With just three victories standing between wrestlers and a trip to Atlantic City and the state finals, the pace picked up significantly at the Region 3 Quarterfinals inside Union High School’s gymnasium Friday evening.

Top-seeded Corey Stasenko of South Plainfield High School dominated his match at 126 pounds, but was bloody afterwards, thanks to a (inadvertent) kick to the face from his opponent, Nick Polimeni.

“It really (stinks) to wrestle on Friday night; you can’t really eat or drink and you have to go out there and wrestle a little weak,” Stasenko said. “I didn’t wrestle all that well here tonight. He was a tough kid and he definitely got on my nerves a little bit, but I just turned up the pressure in the third period.”

Stasenko disposed of Polimeni by virtue of a 17-4 major decision, but knew that he was just getting warmed up for Saturday’s semifinals. Stasenko and second-seeded Mike Magaldo of Watchung Hills, who met in the finals of last weekend’s district tournament, appear headed for a rematch Saturday afternoon.

“Anything can happen between now and then, and I’m sure Mike thinks he’s going to come in here and win the region,” Stasenko said. “I have that same mentality and if we meet, it’s going to be a great bout.”

Magaldo pinned Isaac Valentin of Rahway in 1:20 to advance to the semifinals.

South Plainfield’s Daniel Hedden punched his ticket to the semifinals by winning a 7-0 decision against John Serruto of Millburn at 113 pounds. But Hedden, like his teammate Stasenko, knows that his work is far from over.

“In the first period, I was looking for a takedown, but I was just trying to get the tempo on my side and get the momentum of the match,” Hedden said. “I was getting hit for stalling, but I am just looking forward to pushing the pace tomorrow and building off of this win tonight.”

Governor Livingston brought two top-seeds into the quarterfinals, with Jon Mele (120 pounds) and Shane Haddad (195) both meeting little resistance through their matchups Friday night. Mele won by technical fall against Tom Cunningham of Scotch Plains-Fanwood. The fall occurred at the 4:08 mark with Mele winning 17-2.

“I was just trying to get my footing out here and get a nice wrestle in. I was trying to warm myself up for tomorrow,” Mele said. “I had wrestled Tom earlier in the year, so I just wanted to wrestle a smart match and put myself in good position for tomorrow. I didn’t want to make any mistakes and leave anything up to chance. The one who makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win, so I always try and limit the mistakes I make in a bout.”

Haddad ran into a difficult challenge from James Valley of North Plainfield, but eventually prevailed by a 7-1 decision.

“I knew it would be tough out here,” Haddad said. “It’s just odd with the seeding process, for me to have to wrestle a sophomore that’s only lost twice this year. He’s one of the better kids in this bracket for sure, so it was a nice change of pace.”

In one of the better matches of the evening Anthony DiRosa of Watchung Hills knocked off Niko Capello of Cranford at 145 pounds. The match was tied at 1-1 heading into the third and final period and DiRosa earned the decisive point with a takedown inside of the final 30 seconds of the bout.

“I knew once I took him down, I just had to ride him out and not stall,” DiRosa said. “I was exhausted at the end of the bout but it was great to get that victory.”

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Colonia’s Melendez wins Region 3 quarterfinal bout

UNION — In what was easily the most hotly contested bout of the evening, Colonia High School senior Pete Melendez narrowly edged Justin Contreras of Morristown 9-8 at 152 pounds in the 1st round of the Region 3 Tournament at Union High School.

Melendez and Contreras, the six and 11 seeds respectively, energized the crowd that was mostly quiet throughout the first seven weight classes, going toe-to-toe for the full three rounds. Their bout came down to the final seconds, and when he had been declared the winner, Melendez fell flat on his back and sprawled out like a star, one he definitely is.

“I knew in the first 30 seconds of the first period that I was getting myself into a dog fight,” Melendez said. “I really just had to keep my head in it and that’s what got me through the match. I had a drive to win and I just wanted it so much more than he did.”

But he knows that he still has work to do in Friday’s Quarterfinals, where Melendez will meet 3rd-seeded Anthony Bassolino of Highland Park.

“I need to train hard to come out as the Regional Champion,” Melendez said.

Just moments after Melendez’s epic bout, fourth-seeded Justin Becker of Rahway took care of his business, besting 13th-seeded Diego Rivera of Plainfield by a 13-6 decision.

“My technique was the difference; I’ve been wrestling a long time and I just know a lot of things that nobody else knows,” Becker said.

He’ll move on to battle fifth-seeded Inan Sikel of South Plainfield in Friday’s Quarterfinals, and Becker is going to draw on his experiences of being in the Regional Tournament all four years of his high school career.

“I have been here all four years and I’m used to it all,” he said. “I know how to perform on this stage. You can’t let it scare you being out here, so I just go out there and show him what I’m made of.”

Maybe the surprise of the night came at 170 pounds, where Jordan Handwerger of South Plainfield was pinned in 3:38 by Vincent Mattia of Whippany Park. South Plainfield, which advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to the Regional Tournament, is one of the top teams in the entire state.

But when the quarterfinals begin on Friday evening, they’ll only have 13 of their wrestlers still alive. Even though they’re now down a teammate, the Tigers will remain focused and determined, according to Tory Russell.

“Seeing a teammate lose picks us up even more and makes us stronger,” Russell said after winning his 220-pound bout against David Tobe of Elizabeth. “We have to fight hard and we just need to stay strong and focused.”

Russell dominated Tobe, winning 12-2, but said the final score wasn’t indicative of how tough of a bout it really was.

“It was a tough match, and I had to really fight through it,” Russell said.

He’ll take on 5th-seeded Steven Hill of Parsippany Hills on Friday, with just two more victories standing between he and a Regional title.

Area wrestlers hungry for more

UNION — For Watchung Hills High School junior wrestler Mike Magaldo, Wednesday’s Region 3 first-round matchup against Andrew Tompkins of Cranford was just a way to get himself loose for the quarterfinals on Friday.

“I didn’t want to come out and pin him, I wanted to come out and dominate the whole bout,” Magaldo said. “I got the tech, but I want to build up momentum going forward and get better every bout.”

Magaldo, who won the state tournament a year ago, but qualified second for the Region 3 Tournament after losing to Corey Stasenko of South Plainfield in last weekend’s sectional tournament, dominated Tompkins at 126 pounds and won by technical fall at the 3:45 mark.

He outgained Tompkins 21-4, but knows that a matchup with Stasenko potentially looms large in Saturday’s final.

“I just stopped wrestling in the third period against Corey last week; it’s not a technical thing against him, it’s a mental thing,” Magaldo said. “I just need to build the confidence. He’s the goal in the final, I won’t settle for anything less than that.”

Teammate Matt Coppola also took care of business as a two-seed, easily besting Kyle Bota of Parsippany Hills 20-8 at 138 pounds.

“I felt pretty good. I was really confident coming out here tonight,” Coppola said. “I was just trying to come out and get used to wrestling here and get as many takedowns as possible. I just need to stay focused, if I wrestle like I know I can, I know nobody can stop me.”

Seventh-seeded Derrick Washington of Plainfield, who dominated his bout against Jonniel Bazan at 152 pounds, pinning the 10th-seed in just 52 seconds, shares that mentality that he can’t be beaten. Washington said he came into Wednesday’s bout on a mission.

“I’m hungry,” he said. “I want to come out as a Regional Champion. I just need to knock people down that are in my way, regardless of who they are.”

One of the many upsets in the 1st round came when Tom Cunningham of Scotch Plains-Fanwood took down David Mupo with a pin at the 3:43 mark of their 120-pound bout. Cunningham, the 9th-seed, was emotionally drained following his bout, but knows how quickly he needs to turn around and get ready for top-seeded Jon Mele of Governor Livingston.

“I just need to go out and wrestle my best and if I can beat the 1-seed, that’d be amazing,” Cunningham said.

Maybe the surprise of the night came at 170 pounds, where Jordan Handwerger of South Plainfield was pinned in 3:38 by Vincent Mattia of Whippany Park. South Plainfield, which advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to the Region 3 Tournament, is one of the top teams in the entire state, but Handwerger’s loss only strengthens their team, according to one of his teammates.

“Seeing a teammate lose picks us up even more and makes us stronger,” South Plainfield’s Tory Russell said after winning his 220-pound bout against David Tobe of Elizabeth. “We have to fight hard and we just need to stay strong and focused.”