By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
The 2023-2024 wrestling season got underway last Thursday night, December 14, when the Spartans of Ocean Township hosted the Blue Devils of Shore Regional. It was a non-divisional Shore Conference match-up which the Spartans dominated with a 72-12 victory.
Ocean is coming off a 13-9 overall season last year and finished 4-2, which was third in the B North division of the Shore Conference. Cip Apicelli is in his 14th season as head coach of the Spartans.
Last season, James Farina qualified for the third consecutive year to compete at the state tournament in Atlantic City and was just one win away from a podium finish. He qualified for AC by taking third in Region 6 Championships at 144-pounds. He finished his junior year with a 34-6 record and wrestles at 57 pounds this season.
At the District 21 Tournament last season, the Spartans finished fourth. It was also the first time in 18 years that Ocean did not have a District Champion. Farina took second at 144 pounds and Michael Poniros also finished second at 165 pounds. Finishing third at the districts was Boomer Volek at 132 pounds.
Ocean lost only a few wrestlers to graduation. Apicelli has a strong, seasoned and tested squad returning for 2023-2024. It showed in their performance over the Blue Devils.
Shore Regional is coming off a great season. They finished 17-9 overall and were undefeated in the B Central divisions at 5-0. Dave Porta is in his 15th season as the head coach of the Blue Devils. Unlike Ocean, Shore has lost eight starters from last year to graduation. “It’s a big-time down year for us as we may struggle to fill every weight but we do have some able bodies in the mix,” said Porta.
The Devils do have two wrestlers, Trevor Doremus and Lucas White, who had very impressive seasons last year. “Doremus was 24-12 last year and took third in districts, and White went 22-7 and was fourth in districts,” Porta said. He added that Jay Lebovich and Lincoln Noonan will help at 138 and 144 pounds. Porta also said that Dom Sciarappa, Jack Stetter and Dom Calabria are vastly improved this season.
Opening weight last Thursday was 215 pounds. It was the first of two Blue Devil wins all night. Setter scored a pin over Ocean’s Reuven Israeli at 2:25.
Ocean Township had Abimael Andre at 285 and Michael Apicelli at 106 pounds both getting wins by forfeit. Those were two of the five matches the Blue Devils forfeited that night.
The next eight matches had Ocean winning all of them, either by pin or forfeit. At 113 pounds Justin Penta scored a pin at 3:14 against Ray Brown of Shore. At 120 pounds, Justin Farina won by forfeit. Steven Perez scored at pin at 3:07 in his 126-pound match with Shore’s Dominic Calabria. Next match, 132 pounds, had Jake Volek winning by forfeit.
Ocean had another pin at 138 pounds where Dominic Volek put Jay Leybovich on his back at 3:29. Up next was the third Volek of the evening, Michael,, who won by forfeit at 144 pounds. The longest match of the evening occurred at 150 pounds where Malcom Beale scored at pin over Lincoln Noonan of Shore at 6:29.
Ocean won three out of the last four contested matches. The first was James Farina at 157 pounds with a pin at 0:49 over Anthony DiSano. Josh Calixte won the 165-pound match when Cole Torres of Shore was injured and could not continue.
The second win of the night for the Blue Devils occurred at 175 pounds, when Lucas White scored a pin at 5:30 over Ocean’s Nicholas Allen. The last match of the night featured the third Farina to wrestler. This time it was Daniel getting a pin over Angel Varreia in 12 seconds.
“We aren’t going to compete with schools with a full lineup. Too many forfeits and holes. I can spread them out best I can, but against bigger schools it’s just not going to pan out. We should be able to remain competitive with similar size programs,” said Porta.
Shore has had 11 straight seasons with a winning record and the goal is to make 12, according to Porta. “We take a lot of pride in that considering we are a Group 1 school (smallest) that routinely wrestles schools of all sizes and competes with schools of all sizes. We also do not have a middle school feeder program and rely entirely on kids that have wrestled at the recreation level, though most of the guys on our team this year are guys we have gotten out of the hallways,” Porta said. He and his staff do the best they can give those new wrestlers a crash course on the sport.
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