WEST MILFORD — This was the exact situation Pope John senior Kaya Sement was preparing for.
He wanted to stop caring so much about winning by a pin or a certain amount of points. As a senior who is already committed to the University of Pennsylvania, Sement wants the pressure off and to just have fun with his senior year.
"Honestly, this year that is what I’ve been working on," Sement said. "Sometimes, I focus too much on the score of where I want it to be. At this point, it’s not too much stress. I’ve already picked my college. I’m just trying to have fun now."
Despite allowing an escape and a takedown at the buzzer to blow a 4-1 lead to Michael Dellagatta of St. Joseph Montvale in regulation, Sement did not let it bother him. It did not take him long to hit a move he estimates he hasn’t hit in three years — a double — to get the takedown in sudden victory to win the second Region 1 title of his career.
"I think it was a mix of not wanting to get rolled to my back, me letting up and him hitting me," Sement said. "He never hit after the whistle. It was slow, slow, slow, and I wasn’t expecting it. It was a good move. He’s a great wrestler.
"The funny part is I don’t think I’ve hit a double in about three years, even in practice. I went for it. It was there, and I got a takedown. It feels good."
Pope John had the best day out of any area team by a good margin on Saturday at West Milford with three champions, a runner-up and a total of seven wrestlers headed to Atlantic City. Eddie Ventresca (126) won his third Region 1 title, Sement won his second, and Shane Percelay (120) won his first.
Cole Zydel (220), Jack Stoll (182) and Peter Delaportas (195) also are bound for Atlantic City.
"I’m really happy with where we are," Sement said. "Pope John is getting better and better every year. Last year, we had three state champs. We can still work for that this year, but for sure we’re on the rise."
"Our team is looking good," Percelay said. "I feel really good for Cole Zydel, Jack Stoll and Pete — two sophomores and a senior who have been working hard all year. It’s pretty exciting to see us all go to states together."
Ventresca, a defending state champion, had all he could handle from Alex Almeyda of St. Joseph and ended up with a 3-2 win. Almeyda was the Most Outstanding Wrestler of Region 2 last year when he wrestled for Fort Lee and placed seventh in the state at 113.
The difference was a single-legged takedown by Ventresca in the first period. He was able to keep Almeyda from taking him down, although Almeyda came close once in the third period. His two points came from an escape and a stall. Ventresca will now move on to Atlantic City to look for back-to-back state titles to end his career in grand fashion.
Percelay, a junior, placed seventh in the state at 106 a season ago, but did not come up victorious at Region 1. He faced an extremely familiar opponent in Newton’s Nathan Fitt. Not only did they grow up wrestling together, but it was their fifth meeting in the last two years on the high school level.
"It feels amazing," Percelay said. "Nate Fitt is one of my best friends. We’ve been wrestling every day since like fifth grade, so it was pretty exciting wrestling him in the finals knowing we’re both going to A.C."
Percelay moved to 5-0 against Fitt with a 3-0 win in the 120-pound final. All three points Percelay scored came in the second period. It was tough for both wrestlers to score with them knowing so much about each other.
"Honestly, it’s hard wrestling him all the time because we know each other inside and out," Percelay said. "During the weekdays we’ll work out together, so we know all our secrets. He knows my double is coming, and I know his dump is coming. It was a good match. It’s fun to wrestle him."
In total, the area had four champions, four runners-up and a total of 17 wrestlers headed to Atlantic City out of Region 1. That is down from last year when the area had six champions and 22 wrestlers who punched their tickets to Boardwalk Hall.
For the second year in a row to begin his career, High Point’s Brian Soldano pinned his way to a Region 1 title. Barely looking like he broke a sweat, Soldano decked A.J. Puerto of Fair Lawn in 1:45.
After winning MOW at Region 1 as a freshman, Soldano’s run in A.C. ended much earlier than he would have thought with a 2-2 record. That will likely not be the case again as the top-ranked 160-pound wrestler in the state by NJ.com. Still, Soldano takes nothing for granted.
"I’ve been getting more confident," Soldano said. "I’m not stage fright. Last year, I went down to states and kind of got blinded by the lights. I wasn't prepared. This year I’m feeling good and hopefully I can come out on top. I always get humbled in the room with Billy Smith beating me up, so I try to stay humble about it."
High Point’s Billy Talmadge and Josh Gervey failed to get revenge for their District 1 title losses to their counterparts from St. Joe’s. Talmadge went backward against Michael Cetta and lost 13-4, and Gervey fell 8-4 to Justin Bierdumpfel. Gervey did hand Sparta’s Spencer Stewart his first loss of the season, 5-1, in the semifinals.
Kittatinny had a pair of finalists in Brycen Mafaro (182) and Jackson Crawn (220), but both got pinned in their respective matches. Crawn was neck-and-neck with Michael Toranzo in the third period before getting put to his back while Mafaro could not make it out of the first period.
Matthew Garcia of Pope John lost to Stefano Sgambellone of St. Joe’s, 6-4, in the 152-pound final.
REGION 1 RESULTS
106: Evan Mouligan (Kinnelon) md. Taisei Kurachi (River Dell), 11-2
113: Kelly Dunnigan (Don Bosco) dec. Cooper Stewart (Sparta), 5-0
120: Shane Percelay (Pope John) dec. Nathan Fitt (Newton), 3-0
126: Eddie Ventresca (Pope John) dec. Alex Almeyda (SJR), 3-2
132: Justin Bierdumpfel (SJR) dec. Josh Gervey (High Point), 8-4
138: Michael Cetta (SJR) md. Billy Talmadge (High Point), 13-4
145: Kaya Sement (Pope John) sv. Michael Dellagatta (SJR), 6-4
152: Stefano Sgambellone (SJR) dec. Matthew Garcia (Pope John), 6-4
160: Brian Soldano (High Point) p. A.J. Puerto (Fair Lawn), 1:45
170: Jack Bernik (Old Tappan) md. Tim Coffey (Fair Lawn), 13-2
182: Ben Liss (Fair Lawn) p. Brycen Mafaro (Kittatinny), 1:45
195: Tommy Goodwin (Pequannock) dec. Gunnar Nystedt, 4-0
220: Michael Toranzo (SJR) p. Jackson Crawn (Kittatinny), 5:31
285: Jimmy Mullen (SJR) dec. Jakob Shapiro (Fair Lawn), 4-0
106: Evan Mougalian (Kinnelon) p. Max Martinez (Pascack Hills), :37
Taisei Kurachi (River Dell) sv. Brett Redner (Butler), 3-1
113: Cooper Stewart (Sparta) p. Matt DiGennaro (River Dell), 1:30
Kelly Dunnigan (Don Bosco) dec. Clayton Utter (High Point), 9-4
120: Nathan Fitt (Newton) p. Mike Tandurella (Don Bosco) 4:49
Shane Percelay (Pope John) dec. Ethan Fernandez (Westwood) 5-2
126: Alex Almeyda (SJR) dec. Devon Liebl (High Point), 8-2
Eddie Ventresca (Pope John) tf. Nathan Greff (Pequannock), 19-4 (2:34)
132: Justin Bierdumpfel (SJR) dec. Cole Pfeufer (Westwood), 7-4
Josh Gervey (High Point) dec. Spencer Stewart (Sparta), 5-1
138: Michael Cetta (SJR) p. Ty Pfeufer (Westwood), 2:54
Billy Talmadge (High Point) dec. Garrett Stewart (Sparta), 3-1
145: Kaya Sement (Pope John) p. Jonathan Siemsen (Ramsey), 1:29
Michael Dellagatta (SJR) dec. Tyler Pizzi (Pascack Valley), 2-0
152: Matthew Garcia (Pope John) md. Devin Ianelli (Northern Highlands) 10-0
Stefano Sgambellone (SJR) dec. Alan Devries (Pompton Lakes), 8-1
160: Brian Soldano (High Point) p. Billy Barna (Lakeland), :22
AJ Puerto (Fair Lawn) dec. Roberto Padilla (SJR), 3-1
170: Tim Coffey (Cresskil) dec. Jacob Luciani (Butler), 2-1
Jack Bernik (Old Tappan) p. AJ Fricchione (SJR), 3:18
182: Brycen Mafaro (Kittatinny) sv. Will Andresen (Old Tappan), 3-2
Ben Liss (Fair Lawn) p. Andrew Morzetta (Hawthorne), 1:06
195: Tommy Goodwin (Pequannock) p. Peter Delaportas (Pope John), 1:30
Gunnar Nystedt (River Dell) dec. Alex Kostantas (Pascack Hills), 5-4
220: Jackson Crawn (Kittatinny) p. Jonas Hyman (Ramsey), 2:23
Michael Toranzo (SJR) md. Cole Zydel (Pope John), 15-7
285: Jimmy Mullen (SJR) p. Anthony Vacarella (Ridgewood), 3:55
Jakob Shapiro (Fair Lawn) p. Yosue Gomez (Passaic Tech), 3:55
THIRD PLACE (AREA ONLY)
113: Clayton Utter (High Point) dec. Matt DiGennaro (River Dell), 7-2
126: Devon Liebl (High Point) p. Tim Greff (Pequannock), 2:44
132: Spencer Stewart (Sparta) dec. Jack Oseback (Wayne Hills), 7-0
138: Garrett Stewart (Sparta) dec. Vincent DeMaria (Northern Highlands), 7-2
182: Jack Stoll (Pope John) dec. Brian Fall (Ramapo), 11-6
195: Alex Kostantas (Pascack Hills) p. Peter Delaportas (Pope John), 4:32