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The South Jersey Group 5 sectional final was supposed to be a major test for Southern Regional with fellow state powerhouse Kingsway heading to Manahawkin for a clash of public school titans. Instead, it was just another conquest for a Rams team that appears to be peaking at the perfect time yet again.

Standout victories by freshman Wyatt Sout at 126 pounds, sophomore Matt Henrich at 138 pounds, and junior Cole Velardi at 150 pounds led the way on Wednesday night for undefeated Southern, which won the first seven bouts of the match and rolled to a 28-23 victory over the Dragons to claim the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 5 championship. It is Southern's 15th overall sectional title, its fourth in a row, and 14th in the last 17 years.

Check back for an expanded photo gallery by Ray Rich Photography

Ray Rich Photography
Ray Rich Photography

Southern entered the match undefeated and ranked No. 3 in New Jersey with Kingsway being ranked No. 9.

Southern will next host Phillipsburg in the Group 5 semifinals at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The four Group 5 sectional champions were seeded based on power points. Howell is the No. 1 seed, Southern is the No. 2 seed, Phillipsburg is the No. 3 seed and Livingston is the No. 4 seed. Livingston actually has more power points than Phillipsburg but the Stateliners jump the Lancers based on a head-to-head win.

Southern started off with an 8-6 win by Scottie Sari over Nathan Lubonski at 113 pounds and a 9-3 win over junior state runner-up Conor Collins over state qualifier Brendan Callahan at 120. The Rams really started to take over at 126, however, when Stout won a scramble-filled bout, 4-3, with Kingsway sophomore Nathan Taylor, who was a region champion last season. Stout's fantastic season continued as the freshman is now 27-0 with multiple victories over state medalists and state qualifiers.

After freshman Hayden Hochstrasser won by 7-3 decision over Chase Hedler at 132, Henrich delivered an 8-2 victory over Kingsway senior Joey Miranda at 138 pounds. Henrich was a state qualifier who reached the second round of wrestlebacks last season while Miranda was a state qualifier two years ago. The victory gave Southern a 15-0 lead through five bouts and took out another of Kingsway's top wrestlers.

Ray Rich Photography
Ray Rich Photography

The first bonus points of the match came at 144 pounds where rangy junior Nick Bennet won by 13-4 major decision over Tommy DiPietro to stretch the Rams' lead to 19-0. Even though the match wasn't technically out of reach for Kingsway, Velardi basically squashed any hopes of a comeback when he won 9-7 over Kingsway senior Josh Palmucci, a two-time state qualifier, to give Southern a 22-0 lead halfway through the dual.

Kingsway finally got on the board at 157 when David DiPietro won 4-0 over Nate Bischoff, but Bischoff holding the two-time state qualifier to a decision was another case of a Southern wrestler getting the job done. Tyler Chase then followed with a 7-1 win over Benjamin Dryden at 165 pounds thanks to a headlock for five points late in the second period.

Southern's 25-3 lead with five bouts left meant Kingsway state runner-up Dakota Morris could only do so much damage at 175 pounds. He won by technical fall over Kai Wanger in the first period to cut the Rams' lead to 25-8 and James Calhoun won 3-0 over sophomore Collin French at 190, but junior Riley O'Boyle won 9-2 at 215 pounds to clinch the match.

Ray Rich Photography
Ray Rich Photography

Southern led 28-11 at this point and thus forfeited the final two bouts at heavyweight and 106 pounds, making the final score a lot closer than how it played out on the mat. The Rams won 9 of the 12 contested bouts, jumping on Kingsway early and never faltering on their way to another state sectional title.


South Jersey Group 5 Final

1-Southern 28, 2-Kingsway 23


Scottie Sari (Southern Regional) over Nathan Lubonski (Kingsway) (Dec 8-6)
Conor Collins (Southern Regional) over Brendan Callahan (Kingsway) (Dec 9-3)
Wyatt Stout (Southern Regional) over Nathan Taylor (Kingsway) (Dec 4-3)
Hayden Hochstrasser (Southern Regional) over Chase Helder (Kingsway) (Dec 7-3)
Matt Henrich (Southern Regional) over Joey Miranda (Kingsway) (Dec 8-2)
Nick Bennet (Southern Regional) over Tommy DiPietro (Kingsway) (MD 13-4)
Cole Velardi (Southern Regional) over Josh Palmucci (Kingsway) (Dec 9-7)
David DiPietro (Kingsway) over Nate Bischoff (Southern Regional) (Dec 4-0)
Tyler Chase (Southern Regional) over Benjamin Dryden (Kingsway) (Dec 7-1)
Dakota Morris (Kingsway) over Kai Wagner (Southern Regional) (TF 17-0 1:45)
James Calhoun (Kingsway Regional) over Collin French (Southern) (Dec 3-0)
Riley O`Boyle (Southern) over Christopher San Paolo (Kingsway) (Dec 9-2)
Kani Hudson (Kingsway Regional) over Unknown (For.)
Jason Meola (Kingsway Regional) over Unknown (For.)


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