Four of the nation's top seven teams convened at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon. However, when all was said and done, it was the host Crusaders that ruled the day. Ranked No. 2 in the country entering the day, the certainly validated the status in their first two matches: a 34-24 (8-6 matches) victory over No. 6 Buchanan (Calif.) and a 41-22 (9-5) victory over No. 7 Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)
In the day's opening dual, Bergen Catholic and Buchanan split four key bouts. To the good of Bergen Catholic, it was a 5-3 overtime win for three-time state placer Carmen Ferrante over No. 20 (at 126) Ethan Leake in the 132 pound bout; Leake was up at 132 to cover for the absence of state placer Tyler Deen. Additionally, No. 2 Shane Griffith earned a 9-1 major decision over two-time state placer Joel Romero at 160. On the favorable side for Buchanan was a 4-3 victory for multi-time state qualifier Chris Gaxiola over three-time state placer Gerard Angelo at 152, and a 5-2 tiebreaker victory at 182 for No. 11 Anthony Montalvo over No. 16 Jacob Cardenas.
The second dual had one ranked vs. ranked showdown, and it was Griffith who came thorugh with a 9-3 decision victory over No. 15 Erich Byelick of Lake Highland Prep at 160.
No. 1 Blair Academy showed why they were number one in their first two matches. The Buccaneers opened the day with a 45-13 (10-4 matches) victory over Lake Highland Prep before beating Buchanan 49-9 (11-3).
There were four showdowns involving a pair of ranked wrestlers in the Blair/Lake Highland Prep dual, and the teams split those bouts. No. 2 Trevor Mastrogiovanni opened the dual for Blair at 113 with a pin in 4:42 over No. 17 Nick Bouzakis, No. 2 Joey Silva would give Lake Highland Prep their first win of the day with a 12-7 decision over No. 19 Travis Mastrogiovanni at 132, No. 5 Andrew Merola beat Byelick 6-2 at 160, while No. 10 Ben Goldin for Lake Highland Prep beat No. 14 Owen Trephan 3-2 in the tiebreaker at 220.
There was one true ranked vs. ranked showcase in the Blair/Buchanan dual, No. 11 Anthony Montalvo beat No. 8 Leo Tarantino 9-3 at 182. Other notable results saw Travis Mastrogiovanni beat Leake 9-8 at 132, No. 20 Matthew Olguin beat Malcolm Robinson 4-2 at 138, and Merola beat Romero 9-3 at 160.
In the clash of No. 1 vs. No. 2, Bergen Catholic showed that they weren't here just for a participation trophy from the start. It was a seismic shock to the system in the opening bout at 126 pounds when freshman Dylan Weaver pinned No. 4 Chris Cannon of Blair at the 1:32 mark.
The top-ranked Buccaneers bounced back to tie the dual meet at 6-all with decisions from Travis Mastrogiovanni (6-4 over Ferrante) and Mike Madara (6-3 over state qualifier Joseph Zargo). The next two matches represented a pair of upsets, though they were a wash, as each team picked one up. 9-9 was the dual meet score after Bergen Catholic's Wade Unger beat three-time National Prep placer Malcolm Robinson 3-0 at 145, and National Prep placer Willie Kaiser of Blair Academy upended three-time state placer Gerard Angelo 4-3 at 152.
Mild upsets in the next three matches confirmed the tenor of this one vs. two showdown dual meet. At 160 pounds, No. 2 Griffith beat No. 5 Merola 5-2, though Merola had beaten Griffith three weeks before in the semifinals at the Beast of the East by rideout in the ultimate tiebreaker. The 170 pound match saw No. 6 Chris Foca pin No. 3 Julian Ramirez in 5:35, though Ramirez won the Beast of the East (beating No. 4 Soehnlen in the final) and Foca placed third (losing to Soehnlen in the semi). The 182 pound match saw Cardenas avenged a 3-2 Beast of the East finals loss to Tarantino in the form of a 6-0 win on Saturday afternoon.
Josh McKenzie, who placed at state two years ago as a freshman, extended the Bergen Catholic lead to 24-9 after his 5-2 decision over freshman Peyton Craft at 195. Trephan would give Blair hope with a 10-2 major decision at 220. However, that hope was vanished with decisions in the next two matches for Bergen Catholic that pushed the dual meet out of reach, 30-13 with two matches left. At 285, John High beat Kraig Correll 7-2, while it was No. 8 Nick Kayal with an ultimate tiebreaker rideout over No. 10 Ryan Miller at 106.
Trevor Mastrogiovanni provided some consolation with a pin for Blair Academy at 113 over state medalist Enrique Sanchez. However, the day's last match provided a coup de gras for the team that will be ranked No. 1 come Wednesday: No. 5 Robert Howard of Bergen Catholic beat No. 1 Michael Colaiocco 4-3 at 120; Colaiocco was undefeated on the season, including a title at the Beast where Howard placed third.
In the other third round dual meet, No. 6 Buchanan beat No. 7 Lake Highland Prep 30-27 as the teams split the fourteen bouts at seven apiece.