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.”