Rockets riding momentum of state championship win

first_img Raritan The Raritan High School wrestling team defeated Delsea (Franklinville) in the NJSIAA Group II final on Sunday, propelling the team into the District 22 championships this weekend with a state title already in the books.The Rockets first took care of High Point, 31-18, in their semifinal match in the afternoon at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, advancing to the final of the Group II championships. Raritan then beat a state powerhouse in Delsea, 30-28, for the program’s first state championship.It was a thrilling day for Raritan, a team that won its second sectional title and first since 2004 when it defeated Delaware Valley on Feb. 10. In the championship match on Sunday, Nick Rice, Dylan Seidenberg, Matt Lindo, Anthony Scarcella, Nick Liguori, Devin Holmes and Tyler Sookdeo registered victories for Raritan, who defeated Delsea twice this season — in the season’s opening match and then the state championship. Raritan High School’s Matt Lindo (top) tries to finish High Point’s John Torppey by pinning him during their 113- pound match in the NJSIAA Group II team championship semifinal held at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River on Feb. 12. Lindo didn’t get the pin, but he won the match by a 7-1 decision. The Rockets won the match, 31-18, advancing to the Group II final, where they captured the school’s first state wrestling championship by defeating Delsea Regional High School, 30-28. PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT staff “It was just absolutely amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” head coach Rob Nucci said, adding that Raritan’s demanding schedule prepared the Rockets for what the group championships brought on Sunday.“All three teams there on Sunday, we beat already this season. It shows you how our schedule during the course of the season really set us up for the state tournament,” he said. Raritan High School’s Nick Rice (bottom) and High Point’s Christopher Epperly struggle to gain control during their 220-pound match in the NJSIAA Group II team championship semifinal. Rice went on to win the match, 10-5. “It was a complete team effort. It was something we stressed this season, embracing the grind,” he added. “And Delsea has only two losses, both of them to Raritan.”For Nucci, who is coaching his 11th season as Raritan’s head coach, the state championship brings his tenure with the Rockets full circle.“I remember seeing some of [Raritan’s wrestlers] as little boys sitting in the stands watching their older brothers,” he said. “As a coach, that is absolutely awesome.”The state championship gives the Rockets considerable momentum going into the District 22 tournament, which will be held at Red Bank Regional on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17 and 18. In addition to Raritan and Red Bank, the championships will feature Christian Brothers Academy, Keansburg, Keyport, Long Branch, Middletown North, Middletown South, Ocean Township, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven.Raritan (24-6) will be looking to defend its District 22 title from last season, when it topped second-place Ocean Township, 196-168. CBA finished third with 155 points.“It’s going to be another circus,” Nucci said of the district tournament. “At the group championships, Ocean was at the mat to our right and CBA was to our left. District 22 is up for grabs.”Ocean Township (22-2) will enter the district tournament as a contender for the top spot. After defeating Paramus, 48-15, in the Group III semifinals, Ocean fell to South Plainfield, 30-27, in the title match-up. Jason DaCruz and Colton Bigelow were district champions in 2011. Ocean’s 12 District 22 titles is a record. The Spartans won five consecutive championships from 2004 to 2008.In the Shore Conference Tournament, the Spartans beat the Rockets, 34-24. CBA (18-6) fell to Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public A championship match on Sunday, a 36-16 loss that followed a sectional victory for the Colts against St. Augustine. It was CBA’s first sectional title since 2002 and only the second in the program’s history. Erik Beshada, Christian Casselli, Vin Favia and Hayden Hrymack each won championship bouts at last year’s District 22 tournament, giving the Colts more returning champions than any of the other contenders.Long Branch lost to Raritan, 34-16, in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals on Feb. 8. The Green Wave, which won its first District 22 title in 2010, placed fourth in last season’s district championships with 151.5 points.Middletown South senior Nick Herring returns this week after winning a District 22 title last season. Herring’s championship helped the Eagles score 72 points for a fifthplace finish in 2011. The District 22 championships at Red Bank Regional will begin with the first round on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The tournament continues Saturday at 10 a.m., and title and consolation matches are slated to begin at 2 p.m. Headed to District 22 tourney at Red Bank Regional, Raritan is defending champion BY MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent last_img

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