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The dual meet portion of the 2021-2022 New Jersey high school wrestling season is complete, and with that brings the final Shore Sports Network Top 10.

The final team rankings, of course, crown the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference, and the decision was a difficult one in deciding between Christian Brothers Academy and Southern Regional. Both teams had excellent seasons, sport great resumes heading into the district tournaments, and finished the season ranked inside the top 10 in both state polls (New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association & NJ.com). But only one can finish No. 1 in the Brielle Orthopedics/Shore Sports Network Top 10.

After going over the results and analyzing the complete bodies of work for both teams, it is the Colts of CBA who are the No. 1 team in the final SSN Top 10. For the first time in program history, CBA reigns supreme as the Shore's top team.

Southern began the season No. 1 and was nearly at the finish line to go wire-to-wire atop the Shore, but a slipup in a 27-25 loss to eventual Group 5 champion Phillipsburg in the Group 5 semifinals - Southern's only loss of the season - opened the door for CBA. That same night, the Colts captured the Non-Public South A sectional title to advance to the Non-Public A state championship match.

The Colts ended up falling to Bergen Catholic in the state final, but that loss was actually a positive showing for CBA. Bergen Catholic finished as the No. 1 team in the state and dealt CBA two of its three losses. The first meeting was a blowout. The state final saw CBA close the gap considerably in a 38-20 defeat. It may seem silly to be hailing an 18-point loss, but considering the opponent, it was certainly a good representation of the Colts' strength. CBA's other loss came to Howell during the regular season, 32-21, but the Colts avenged that loss with a 38-29 win in the Shore Conference Tournament final in a match that was not as close as the final score may indicate.

Speaking of the Shore Conference Tournament, the opportunity the SCT presented to CBA helped the Colts overtake the Rams. CBA won the Shore Conference Tournament with a quarterfinal win over Lacey, a semifinals win over St. John Vianney, and the win over Howell in the championship match. Southern did not enter the SCT, which it hasn't since winning the title in 2011. The Rams usually wrestle Phillipsburg on the Saturday of the SCT Final Four, but that match was postponed due to a snowstorm.

There are a lot of opinions out there regarding Southern's participation - or lack thereof - in the Shore Conference Tournament, but that wasn't a consideration for us. The program does what it feels best for the team, and while, as a fan, I'd love to see them in the SCT, that decision alone played no part in the rankings.

However, it's undeniable that Southern not being in the SCT means it missed out on the opportunity to wrestle some of the Shore's best teams and probably wrestle CBA head-to-head. CBA was able to bolster its resume with wins over two teams ranked in the state top 20.

In all, Southern finished 17-1, as Class A South division champions, and won the South Jersey Group 5 state sectional title. The Rams earned team titles at three different tournaments and earned wins over four teams who finished ranked inside the state top 20 - Group 4 champion Mount Olive, Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, Central Jersey Group 3 champion South Plainfield, and Kingsway, which they dominated in the sectional final.

CBA finished 18-3, won a share of the Class A North division championship, won the Shore Conference Tournament, won a sectional title, and defeated six state top 20 teams, posting victories over Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, Group 5 finalist Howell, Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Middletown South, St. Augustine in the Non-Public South A final, St. John Vianney, and St. Peter's Prep.

Both teams have legitimate claims to be No. 1, but CBA's final resume is a little bit better.

Next up are the NJSIAA district tournaments, which will be contested on Saturday. The first season is over, and it sure was a lot of fun. Now, it's time for individuals around the state to begin their quest for a state championship.

01/31/2022: Shore Conference Tournament - Final
Richard E. O'Donnell
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1. Christian Brothers Academy (18-3). Last week: No. 2

The Colts are the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference for the first time in program history. Along the way, they earned a share of the Class A North division title with No. 5 Howell and No. 6 Middletown South, won the Shore Conference Tournament championship for the second time in program history (2016) with victories over No. 9 Lacey, No. 3 St. John Vianney, and Howell, and defeated St. Augustine Prep to win the Non-Public South A sectional championship. CBA also had state-ranked wins over Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, Middletown South, and St. Peter's Prep. The Colts have multiple individuals who should make a run at state medals and will begin the individual tournaments in the District 21 Tournament at Point Boro on Saturday.

 

2. Southern Regional (17-1). Last week: No. 1

Southern's lone loss of the season was a 27-25 defeat to Phillipsburg in the Group 5 semifinals as the Stateliners won two key bouts, 1-0, to knock off the previously undefeated Rams. While it ended with a sour taste, Southern had another tremendous season that included winning the Class A South division title and claiming the South Jersey Group 5 sectional title. Southern also won tournament titles at the Robin Leff Invitational, Hunterdon Central Invitational, and War at the Shore Tournament (Md.). Their top dual meet wins came over Group 4 champion Mount Olive, Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, Group 2 finalist High Point, Central Jersey Group 3 champion South Plainfield, and Kingsway in the South Jersey Group 5 sectional final. With a deep and balanced lineup, the Rams are heavily favored to win a district team title and should have great individual success beginning this weekend at the District 25 Tournament at Lacey.

 

3. St. John Vianney (16-4). Last week: No. 3

A tremendous freshman class helped lead the way for the Lancers to return to the upper echelon of the Shore Conference. Standouts Patrick O'Keefe (106), Anthony Knox (113), Jake Zaltsman (120), and Cole Stangle (144) joined veterans Nico Diaz (132), Joe Giordano (126), and Michael Foley (190) to form a great core that was only strengthened when a handful of transfer students became eligible. SJV won the Class A Central division title and in the process earned wins over No. 7 and Group 2 champion Raritan, No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven, Non-Public B finalist Red Bank Catholic, and Ocean. They also had notable wins over Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, North 2-Group 5 champion Livingston, North 2-Group 4 champion North Hunterdon, and South Jersey Group Group 5 finalist Kingsway. Once they had their full lineup, their losses were to No. 1 CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and to St. Augustine in the Non-Public South A semifinals. Expectations are high for the Lancers in the individual tournaments and it all begins this Saturday at Franklin High School for the District 17 Tournament.

 

4. Brick Memorial (19-4). Last week: No. 5

Peaking at the right time is the goal and Brick Memorial certainly accomplished that with a fantastic final week of the season to win another sectional title and reach the Group 4 championship match. The Mustangs won the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional title with a 26-25 win over No. 6 Middletown South in an instant classic. Their 17 sectional titles are the most in Shore Conference history. They then went on the road and easily handled a very good North Hunterdon team to reach the Group 4 final. In the championship match, the Mustangs wrestled tough in a 32-29 loss to the Marauders in a match that came down to the final bout. In addition to the aforementioned victories, Brick Memorial also defeated No. 8 Jackson Memorial twice, crushed South Jersey Group 2 finalist Haddonfield, and finished second to Southern in the Class A South division. Brick Memorial's four losses were to Mount Olive in the state final, to No. 1 CBA, to No. 2 Southern, and to No. 3 St. John Vianney. Led by returning state champions Evan Tallmadge and Anthony Santaniello, expect to see plenty of green and gold on the podiums over the next three weeks. The Mustangs will host the District 23 Tournament this Saturday.

 

5. Howell (22-5). Last week: No. 4

Howell won the Central Jersey Group 5 title with a 31-26 victory over Hunterdon Central and then dominated Livingston, 41-18, in the Group 5 semifinals. Their season came to a screeching half, however, via a lopsided 51-8 loss to Phillipsburg in the Group 5 championship match. That final score more than the result itself certainly had an effect on Howell's final ranking. Still, it was another championship season for the Rebels with a share of the Class A North division title with No. 1 CBA and No. 6 Middletown South, plus the program's fifth sectional title. Howell was the only Shore Conference team to beat No. 1 CBA, which it did 32-21 on Jan. 5. The Colts later avenged that loss, however, in the Shore Conference Tournament final. The Rebels also split matches with No. 5 Middletown South, beat No. 8 Jackson Memorial and No. 9 Lacey, and earned a win over North 2, Group 4 champion North Hunterdon. Howell's losses were to No. 1 CBA, No. 5 Middletown South, Group 5 champion Phillipsburg, Group 3 champion Delsea, and Group 3 finalist Warren Hills. Returning state champion Hunter Mays will try to become the program's first two-time state champion and leads the way for Howell entering the district tournaments. The Rebels are at Robbinsville on Saturday for District 22.

 

6. Middletown South (15-5). Last week: No. 6

Behind a great senior class, Middletown South put together arguably the best season in program history. The Eagles won a share of the Class A North division title with No. 1 CBA and No. 5 Howell to give them their first division title since 1987. They also advanced to the Central Jersey Group 4 final where they were defeated by Brick Memorial, 26-25, in a tremendous sectional final. Middletown South split matches with Howell and also defeated No. 8 Jackson Memorial. Their losses were to No. 1 CBA, No. 4 Brick Memorial, No. 5 Howell, Group 3 champion Delsea, and Non-Public North A semifinalist and state No. 8 Paramus Catholic. Junior Jack Zaleski is a two-time state medalist and will go after a state title beginning this Saturday. The Eagles are the favorites to win the team title in District 20 at Middletown North. Their last district team title came in 1996.

 

7. Raritan (22-6). Last week: No. 7

The Green Machine concluded the 2022 season in emphatic fashion as the Shore Conference's only state group champion. The Rockets defeated High Point, 37-27, to win the Group 2 state title as junior Bobby Mulligan delivered a title-clinching pin with three bouts left. Along the way, the Rockets defeated No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven in the Central Jersey Group 2 sectional final and cruised past Hanover Park in the Group 2 semifinals. The state title is the second in program history and first since 2012, while the sectional title is Raritan's fourth and first since 2018. Raritan's other quality wins came over South Jersey Group 4 champion Shawnee, No. 8 Jackson Memorial, and Non-Public B finalist Red Bank Catholic. The Rockets' losses were to Group 3 finalist Warren Hills, Group 5 finalist Howell, No. 3 St. John Vianney, Group 1 champion Delaware Valley, St. Peter's Prep, and No. 9 Lacey. Raritan will look to outpoint No. 6 Middletown South during Saturday's District 20 Tournament at Middletown North.

 

8. Jackson Memorial (18-8). Last week: No. 8

The Jaguars were third in Class A South behind No. 2 Southern and No. 4 Brick Memorial and reached the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals where they were eliminated by the rival Mustangs. Jackson's top wins came against No. 9 Lacey, No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven, and Point Boro. Among their losses were defeats against No. 2 Southern, No. 4 Brick Memorial (twice), No. 5 Howell, No. 6 Middletown South, and No. 7 Raritan. Jackson will compete in the District 24 Tournament at Monroe HS.

 

9. Lacey (23-5). Last week: No. 9

The Lions won the Class B South division title for the second season in a row and also reached the South Jersey Group 3 final where they were defeated by eventual Group 3 champion Delsea. Lacey's banner win was an early-season victory over Group 2 champion Raritan. They also defeated No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven twice. Their losses were to Delsea, No. 1 CBA, No. 5 Howell, No. 8 Jackson Memorial, and Central Jersey Group 3 champion South Plainfield. Lacey will host the District 25 Tournament on Saturday.

 

10. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-10). No. 10

The Bulldogs made a run at the program's first sectional title but were defeated by eventual Group 2 champion Raritan in the Central Jersey Group 2 sectional final. Rumson earned the 10th and final spot in the rankings thanks to wins over Ocean, Point Boro, and Non-Public B finalist Red Bank Catholic. Senior Shay Addison, a 2020 state medalist, and sophomore Hudson Skove lead a group of Rumson wrestlers who have high expectations for the individual postseason. Rumson will compete at the District 19 Tournament at Old Bridge on Saturday.

 

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