St. John Vianney wrestling is thinking big with tournament season looming
HOLMDEL - Those inside the St. John Vianney High School wrestling program have no doubt how good they can be. .
"We can be No. 1 in the state,'' junior 157-pounder Jasiah Queen said.
The Lancers, who clinched a tie for the Shore Conference Class A Central championship with a 47-28 win over Raritan Monday, are a fascinating mix of talent.
They have a talented freshman class - led by Anthony Knox, the No. 1 ranked 113-pounder in the country. There are several transfers, led by two-time state qualifier Queen. They also have some solid wrestlers who have been in the program the last several years, led by three-time state qualifier Nico Diaz.
"With the talent we have on this team, I don't see why we can't be No. 1,'' Diaz said.
A full lineup for St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney, which did not field its best lineup until Queen, returning region qualifier Kevin McBridge (144/150) and two-time region qualifier Thomas Cleary became eligible on Jan. 17 under NJSIAA transfer rules, showed its potential this past weekend when it won the Patriot Duals at North Hunterdon.
The Lancers defeated Livingston, which was then ranked No. 20 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association Top 20, then No. 13 (and current No. 16) North Hunterdon and then No. 5 (and current No. 9) Kingsway in that tournament.
Those three wins enabled St. John Vianney to move into the NJWWA Top 20 at No. 8 after they were unranked the previous week.
Related: St. John Vianney makes big entrance into NJWWA Wrestling Top 20 after Patriot Duals win
"That was a huge confidence boost,'' Diaz said. "We all just came together and put our talents to use.'' .
The Lancers will get tested once again this week in the Shore Conference Tournament, which is returning to a dual-meet format for this season only.
St. John Vianney (10-2, 5-0) is the No. 5 seed. It is likely to meet 15-time SCT champion Brick Memorial at Brick Memorial in the quarterfinal Thursday night. If it wins that match, it will wrestle No. 1 seed Christian Brothers Academy in the semifinal. Middletown South and Howell, the No. 14 and 15 ranked teams in the NJWWA Top 20, are the teams to beat in the lower bracket.
The NJSIAA Team Tournament will take place Feb. 7-13. St. John Vianney is in Non-Public South A with CBA and perennially strong St. Augustine. Powerful Delbarton, ranked No. 1 in the NJWWA Top 20, is the favorite to win the Non-Public A championship.
"We can be way better than we are,'' Queen, who wrestled at Elizabeth High School the first two seasons of his scholastic career, said. "We practice hard, train hard every day.''
St. John Vianney did have a stumble Jan. 8 when it did not have its full lineup. It was defeated 40-39 and 39-36 by Governor Livingston and Northern Highlands respectively in a quad meet at River Dell. The Lancers forfeited several weights in that match. They also forfeited several weights in a 42-36 win at Ocean on Jan. 12.
The Lancers did not wrestle their complete lineup Monday night. Freshman 120-pounder Jake Zaltsman, who has two wins over previous state placewinners, weighed in but was held out for precautionary reasons, head coach Chris Notte said. Zaltsman is expected to wrestle Thursday night, Notte said.
Queen said it was frustrating having to sit the first 30 days of the season under the NJSIAA transfer rule.
"It felt crazy. I was hungry to get back on the mat.'' Queen said.
There were several reasons Queen decided last summer to transfer to St. John Vianney.
"The team was better. The school was better, better partners,'' Queen said.
5 pins for SJV
St. John Vianney won nine of the 14 bouts Monday night. Queen, junior and two-time region qualifier Michael Foley (190), freshman Pat O'Keefe (106), Knox, and 2020 region qualifier Joe Giordano (126) all pinned.
Foley's pin came when he took Falzon down to his back while trailing 6-5 in the third period.
O'Keefe had a sensational weekend as he beat two returning state top five finishers, including North Hunterdon's Logan Wadle, who was the runner-up last season.
St. John Vianney was pinned in three of the four on the mat bouts it was defeated, including one in which it was ahead 5-3.
"There's always little mistakes that you can always improve in one's wrestling,'' Diaz said. "We're going to get in the practice room (Tuesday) and improve on what we didn't capitalize here. Hopefully, we can improve from here on out.''
St. John Vianney 47, Raritan 28
144: Cole Stangle (SJV) md. Alex Auletta 12-4
150: Kevin McBride (SJV) d. Quinn Peters 5-0
157: Jasiah Queen (SJV) p. Jack Devaney 0:53
165: Thomas Cleary (SJV) by forfeit
175: Bobby Mulligan (R) md. Ryan Cawley 9-1
190: Michael Foley (SJV) p. Kieran Falzon 4:52
215: Sean Lane (R) p. Elijah Portales 2:30
HWT: Nick Burns (R) p. Ryan Buchanan 2:20
106: Patrick O'Keefe (SJV) p. Aidan Davis 5:14
113: Anthony Knox (SJV) p. Avery Rafalko 2:59
120: Ryan Mansueto (R) by forfeit
126: Joe Giordano (SJV) p. Jake McCully 1:26
132: Nico Diaz (SJV) md. Braden Kmak 21-8
138: Zach Reilley (R) p. Dom Terracciano 5:11
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Shore NJ Wrestling: St. John Vianney has major goals