By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
For the second year in a row, the Pope John XXIII Regional High School wrestling team put on a clinic at the Region 1 Tournament.
The Lions crowned a tournament-high four champions in the event at West Milford High School in West Milford and they pushed a tournament-best seven wrestlers into next week’s 85th annual NJSIAA Wrestling Championships for the second consecutive season.
Junior JoJo Aragaona captured his third straight Region 1 title by winning the 138-pound crown after claiming championships at 106 in 2016 and 120 in 2017, respectively. By doing so, he became only the second three-time region champ in program history along with the legendary Mike Frick, who won four region titles from 1969-72.
In addition, senior Jake Rotunda became a two-time Region 1 champ after winning at 132, and senior Jake Brown (195) and sophomore Kaya Sement (120) each won a title for the first time. These four winners gave Pope John four region champs in one year for the third time in school history after having five region champs last year and five in 1975.
Pope John’s four champs also marked only the eighth time since 1961 that a Sussex County school had four region champs in one year, joining Newton’s 1961 and 1964 teams, PJ’s 1975 and 2017 teams, and High Point’s 2009, 2010 and 2011 squads.
More importantly, these four champs, along with second-place finisher and junior Robbie Garcia (145), third-place finisher and sophomore Eddie Ventresca (113) and fourth-place finisher and senior Reece Muldoon (182), gave the Lions seven state qualifiers for the second straight year after having five region champs, one runner-up and one fourth-place finisher last season.
These seven will all look to place in the top eight in their respective weight classes at states, which takes place next Friday through Sunday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The Lions came into the tournament wanting to prove that last year’s performance at Region 1 wasn’t a one-time deal.
The Lions did just that, as they had nine of their 12 wrestlers who qualified for the tournament make the quarterfinals and seven of them reach the semifinals.
Then, Aragona, Rotunda, Garcia, Brown and Sement punched their tickets to Atlantic City by reaching the finals. Even though they lost in the semifinals, Ventresca and Muldoon bounced back by winning in the second round of wrestlebacks to reach the third-place consolation and guarantee themselves spots at states.
Once in the medal rounds, the Lions kicked it into high gear, winning five of the seven matches they contested.
Brown kicked off the Lions in the finals by beating a tough kid in Sparta’s Robert Gennat, 5-3, in one of two All-Sussex County finals in the event. Brown and Gennat were tied at 2 heading into the third period, but Brown escaped and notched a takedown to seal the victory, which allowed him to become only the sixth PJ wrestler to qualify for states three times.
After Brown, Sement secured his first region crown by earning a 5-4 win over Don Bosco Prep’s Will Crater. In doing so, he became only the fourth sophomore in program history to win a region title along with Frick, Hugh Albora (1973) and Aragona.
Rotunda continued the Lions’ championship run by beating Emerson-Park Ridge’s Luke Mazzeo, 5-2, in a rematch of last year’s 126-pound final, which he won, 6-0. In the process, Rotunda not only became Pope John’s sixth two-time region champ, but also only the school’s second four-time state qualifier along with Frick after also placing second at 113 in 2015 and second at 120 in 2016.
Aragona capped the Lions’ run of winners with the most dominating win out of the four champs, as he cruised to an 11-2 victory over Pascack Valley’s Matt Beyer. In doing so, Aragona became the Lions’ seventh three-time state qualifier.
As for Garcia, he became Pope John’s eighth three-time state qualifier after finishing second at 145 to Newton’s Wyatt McCarthy, who beat Garcia for the title via a 15-7 major decision. In addition, he became the Lions’ eighth wrestler to surpass the 100-win mark for his career during the tournament, as he earned the milestone victory via a 6-2 win over River Dell’s Paul Kallensee in the quarterfinals on Friday.
As for Ventresca, he placed third at 113 by earning a 12-0 major decision over High Point’s Brandon LaRue. In the process, Ventresca became the Lions’ 17th two-time state qualifier after winning the Region 1 title last year.
Muldoon rounded out the Lions’ state qualifiers by finishing fourth at 182 following a 10-7 loss to Emerson-Park Ridge’s Zach Lewis. Despite the defeat, Muldoon became the Lions’ 18th two-time state qualifier after winning the Region 1 title last year at 160.
The Lions also saw freshman Shane Percelay (106), Matt Garcia (126), Joe Arbolino (152), James Swentzel (160) and Jack Morelli (285) compete in the tournament. Percelay came the closest to placing, as he finished fifth in his weight class.
Region 1 Tournament
106: No. 1 Nick Babin (37-0), Emerson-Park Ridge (So.) dec. No. 2 Justin Bierdumpfel (9-3), Don Bosco Prep (So.), 1-0
113: No. 1 Samuel Alvarez (31-1), St. Joseph-Montvale (Jr.) won by forfeit over No. 3 Logan Mazzeo (35-5), Emerson-Park Ridge (So.)
120: No. 1 Kaya Sement (34-5), Pope John (So.) dec. No. 2 Will Grater (22-8), Don Bosco Prep (So.), 5-4
126: No. 1 Trent Furman (38-0), Westwood (Jr.) dec. No. 3 Trevor Fleet (35-4), West Milford (Jr.), 6-4
132: No. 1 Jake Rotunda (35-4), Pope John (Sr.) dec. No. 2 Luke Mazzeo (39-1), Emerson-Park Ridge (Jr.), 5-2
138: No. 1 JoJo Aragona (37-1), Pope John (Jr.) maj. dec. No. 3 Matt Beyer (24-6), Pascack Valley (Jr.), 11-2
145: No. 2 Wyatt McCarthy (35-2), Newton (Jr.) maj. dec. No. 1 Robert Garcia (34-5), Pope John (Jr.), 15-7
152: No. 1 Jonah Schechtman (38-1), Emerson-Park Ridge (Jr.) dec. No. 2 Calvin Brook (30-9), Kittatinny (Sr.), 6-5
160: No. 2 Tommy Chiellini (37-3), Pascack Valley (Jr.) pin. No. 1 Anthony Sciuto (24-8), Northern Highlands (Jr.), 1:07
170: No. 3 Travis Arata (37-3), Mahwah (Sr.) dec. No. 1 Gabriel Robles (29-3), Northern Highlands (Sr.), 10-5
182: No. 1 Garrett Beam (32-3), St. Joseph-Montvale (Sr.) dec. No. 2 Zach Mafaro (32-5), Kittatinny (Jr.), 8-1
195: No. 1 Jake Brown (23-2), Pope John (Sr.) dec. No. 2 Robert Gennat (36-3), Sparta (Sr.), 5-3
220: No. 1 Peter Acciardi (32-2), Don Bosco Prep (Sr.) maj. dec. No. 6 Luke Fischer (33-5), Newton (Jr.), 14-4
285: No. 1 Drew Flynn (39-0), Pompton Lakes (Sr.) dec. No. 2 Bailey Paster (33-2), Demarest (Sr.), 6-3
106: Ethan Fernandez (35-6), Westwood (Fr.) dec. Matt DiGennaro (35-7), River Dell (Fr.), 4-1
113: Eddie Ventresca (35-3), Pope John (So.) maj. dec. Brandon LaRue (36-4), High Point (Jr.), 12-0
120: Robbie Natelli (30-11), Pascack Valley (Sr.) dec. Jordan Iannone (15-6), St. Joseph-Montvale (So.), 4-2
126: Gianni Manginelli (38-5), Dumont (Jr.) dec. Garrett Stewart (33-8), Sparta (So.), 5-3
132: Billy Talmadge (36-6), High Point (So.) dec. Stefano Sgambellone (24-7), St. Joseph-Montvale (So.), 4-3
138: Shane Kobis (34-6), High Point (Sr.) dec. Craig Manno (25-12), St. Joseph-Montvale (Jr.), 6-4
145: Matt Surich (34-3), Mahwah (Sr.) pin. Michael Chambers (36-2), Cresskill (Sr.), 2:29
152: Jonathon Borgognoni (34-4), Newton (Sr.) dec. Trey Osborn (32-8), High Point (Sr.), 2-1
160: Bryan Calton (27-6), Ridgewood (Sr.) maj. dec. Adham Shawkat (33-8), Pascack Hills (Sr.), 15-5
170: John Garda (29-2), Emerson-Park Ridge (Sr.) dec. Shane Connolly (35-6), Jefferson (Sr.), 5-1
182: Zach Lewis (38-2), Emerson-Park Ridge (Sr.) dec. Reece Muldoon (27-5), Pope John (Sr.), 10-7
195: Luke Chakonis (29-8), Don Bosco Prep (So.) pin. Frank Negrini (34-6), Pompton Lakes (Jr.), 0:41
220: Benny Dahdah (37-3), Westwood (Jr.) dec. Michael Toranzo (23-11), St. Joseph-Montvale (Fr.), 7-2
285: Brian Sidle (28-6), St. Joseph-Montvale (Sr.) pin. Ryan Smith (33-8), Kinnelon (Sr.), 4:12
106: Shane Percelay (28-8), Pope John (Fr.) dec. Devon Liebl (29-8), High Point (So.), 4-2 (s.v.)
113: Spencer Stewart (33-7), Sparta (Fr.) dec. Ty Pfeufer (32-10), Westwood (So.), 9-2
120: Matthew Murawski (33-7), Old Tappan (Sr.) dec. Randy Wyble (29-9), Butler (Sr.), 6-3
126: Mike Cetta (26-11), St. Joseph-Montvale (Fr.) pin. Brandon Wyble (29-8), Butler (Sr.), 3:50
132: Michael Freda (25-14), Newton (Jr.) dec. Nick Franco (17-16), Don Bosco Prep (Fr.), 3-1
138: Carter Sheridan (32-8), Sparta (Jr.) dec. Joseph Parsons (36-8), Waldwick-Midland Park (Sr.), 3-2
145: John Trevisan (29-8), Ridgewood (Sr.) dec. Perry Maio (27-14), Kittatinny (Sr.), 5-3
152: Jack Farinaro (24-12), St. Joseph-Montvale (Fr.) won by forfeit over Robert Ferucci (27-14), Jefferson (Jr.)
160: Greg Schlett (30-9), Glen Rock (So.) pin. Frank Monte (21-14), St. Joseph-Montvale (Fr.), 1:21
170: Aidan Fernandez (30-10), Westwood (Sr.) won by forfeit over Joseph Napoleone (26-9), St. Joseph-Montvale (Sr.)
182: Casey Lewis (36-5), Pascack Valley (Sr.) dec. Joey DeLuca (27-13), Newton (Sr.), 2-1 (s.v.)
195: Jackson Downey (33-6), Old Tappan (Jr.) dec. Justin Randzio (13-12), Jefferson (Jr.), 10-5
220: Shane Carcich (35-6), Emerson-Park Ridge (Sr.) won by forfeit over Peter Dellechiaie (32-9), Wayne Hills (Sr.)
285: Austin Scher (35-5), Ramapo (Sr.) pin. Joey Sprague (27-10), North Warren (Sr.), 4:36