Region 8 titles elusive, but five advance to state tournament

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balmaceda Mike Schultz/Atlantic City's Cesar Balmaceda (160) pinned Hammonton's Kellen Whitney in 4:00 during the Region 8 consolation finals to advance to the NJSIAA State Tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Region 8 titles proved elusive for three local wrestlers Saturday at Egg Harbor Township High School.

After advancing to the finals, EHT’s Nigel Toussaint (220), Holy Spirit’s Pat D’Arcy and Ray Ellis each lost their final bout.

In all, only two wrestlers from District 32 won Region 8 titles. Buena’s Billy Ward claimed his fourth straight region title and St. Augustine’s Connor Donahue.

Region 8 is made up of 4 Districts including District 29, 30, 31 and 32.

Wrestling began at 170 on Saturday. Toussaint, in his home gym, was the first of the three local finalists to take the mat. He came into the match against top seeded Bryan Dobzanski (Delsea) with excitement to avenge his elimination loss to him last year at regions. Dobzanski wanted no part of that. He pinned Toussaint in 4:27 to claim the title.

“He got in my head a little bit tonight,” said Toussaint.

By placing second, Toussaint ensured himself a spot in the state tournament.

“It’s gonna feel great when I get there, I was a little nervous when I was there last year. Hopefully I won’t be this year.”

Despite losing an 8-3 decision to St. Joseph’s Roy Lucas, Ellis also earned a spot in the state tournament with his second place finish. Ellis emerged from the sixth seed. He pinned second seeded Allen Westenberger from Gloucester in the semifinals to lock up the berth.

D’Arcy, was the top seed at 106. His business-like wins throughout the tournament came to be expected.

D’Arcy trailed Clearview’s Zack Firestone 3-1 with 1:10 left in the match. With :22 left D’Arcy earned two points to tie the match and delight the crowd. Looking like momentum had swung he went in for a takedown but Firestone avoided it and collected two points for a reversal. With just seconds left, D’Arcy earned an escape making the score 5-4 but time ran out.

Despite the loss, D”Arcy advanced to the state tournament placing second overall in Region 8.

In all, five local wrestlers will participate in the state tournament.

Atlantic City’s Cesar Balmaceda (160) and Egg Harbor Township’s Shawn Bryant (132) advanced by winning consolation matches. Balmaceda pinned Hammonton’s Kellen Whitney in 4:00 to place third overall in Region 8.

“This is the best moment in my life, I worked so hard for this.” Balmaceda said.

After storming back from 5-1, he knew that losing wasn’t an option. “I knew I was losing and as a senior, this was my last chance. I knew I had to push it,” he said. “He slipped up and I caught him.”

Bryant defeated Isaiah Goodman of Timber Creek 4-3. Knowing the speed of Goodman, Bryant stayed alert on his feet, aggressive and stayed on his opponents head. By doing so he achieved his ultimate goal, the state tournament.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” said the senior. “I’m glad I got to accomplish my biggest goal and finally get to go there.”

Holy Spirit’s Brandon Bower (138) was defeated 3-0 in his consolation finals match by Delsea’s Rian Lamenteer. Oakcrest’s John Benard (182) also suffered defeat in consolation finals, losing 5-1 to Delsea’s Victor Defrance.

The NJSIAA state wrestling tournament begins Friday March 8 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

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