Lower, Middle seek success in District 32 Wrestling Tournament

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It’s been a long, grueling season for area high school wrestlers. Quite a few of them have wrestled more than 30 matches during a season that featured early-season tournaments, tri-matches and quads just about every weekend in January and February and other matches on many Mondays and Wednesdays.

But the regular season has now passed and it’s time for the sport to shift focus more from team to individual results.

The District 32 Tournament begins the postseason for wrestlers from Lower Cape May and Middle Township. They’ll be joined by wrestlers from Absegami, Buena, St. Augustine, Egg Harbor Township, Oakcrest, Mainland, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Holy Spirit. The competition will be held at Absegami, with pre-quarterfinal and quarterfinal bouts scheduled for Friday evening. Quarterfinal winners advance to Saturday, while the season will be over for pre-quarterfinal and quarterfinal losers. Semifinal bouts will be held beginning late Saturday morning, with consolations scheduled shortly thereafter. Then, after a short break, championship matches in each weight class will commence, usually sometime after 4 p.m.

The top three wrestlers in each weight class at districts will advance to next week’s Region 8 Tournament at Egg Harbor Township High School.

Lower and Middle each feature multiple wrestlers who could be in the mix for district championships. Others could land among the top three.

Lower Cape May has seven wrestlers who have a very good chance to advance through to regions. Defending district champion Cory Damiana, a junior, is a favorite to repeat at 195 pounds after finishing 26-5 in the regular season. Seniors Zack Valcarce and Zach Hicks and junior Doug Flitcroft should also challenge for a berth in district finals. Valcarce, a career 100-match winner who placed second at districts a year ago, will wrestle at 120 pounds, where Tom Gattinella of St. Augustine Prep, who beat Valcarce in a title bout last season, is the favorite. Valcarce was 26-5 in the regular season. Hicks, who is 23-8 for the season, is among the top wrestlers at 113. And Flitcroft was an excellent 23-7 this winter at heavyweight.

Sophomore Eric Pruszinski and senior Frank Ziegler will also challenge in their respective weight classes. Pruszinski enjoyed a solid season at 106 pounds, going 23-8, while Ziegler went unbeaten in 11 bouts at 182 after wrestling for the first time in late January.

“All of these wrestlers should place in the tournament,” Lower coach Rocky Ciccozzi said in an email.

Other Caper Tiger wrestlers who could challenge for a place among the top three include seniors Ty Altieri (145) and Jackson Sole (152). Altieri was a solid 13-6 after joining the lineup a few weeks into the season while Sole was 16-7 after missing a few bouts due to injury/illness.

“We’re looking to have a good tournament and compete for the District 32 (team) title this year,” Ciccozzi said.

Three Middle Township wrestlers have excellent chances to advance through to regions, if not win district titles. Senior John Mallett posted a wonderful regular season, going 29-5 overall and unbeaten against wrestlers from the district at 152 pounds. He should be the No. 1 seed in the weight class.

“I fully expect him to win but we are focusing on taking it one match at a time,” Middle coach Matt Wolf said of Mallett in an email. “(But) John has never been out of Friday night so we are not taking anything for granted.”

Junior 132-pounder Brandon Curtis had a wonderful regular season, going 26-7. But he’s wrestling at one of the deepest weight classes in the district and will have to pull off at least one upset to advance out of the tournament.

Junior Kenny Dale went 25-4 at 120 pounds and should challenge for at least a third-place finish.

Middle Township also has a few wrestlers who could advance if they get hot. First-year wrestler Joey Curtis (10-19) at 106 pounds, senior Jacob Kershaw (16-12) at 138 pounds and junior Jake Canter (17-14) at 160 pounds certainly fall into this category.

Another wrestler to watch from Middle is sophomore 160-pounder John Mooers (15-16), who went 14-8 to close the season after losing eight of his first nine matches.

James Loftus (182) and Jason Viola (Hwt.) will be seeded low, but are capable of an upset victory.

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