EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Arthur O. Marinelli Tournament championship was not among the Egg Harbor Township High School wrestling team’s achievements last season.
This season, it is.
The host Eagles edged defending champion Haddonfield 149-147.5 to win the team title at the Marinelli on Thursday, Dec. 28. Clearview Regional finished a close third with 146.5 points.
The Eagles had four individual champions.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of work in the (wrestling) room, and it paid off finally,” said EHT senior and 152-pound champion Jason Kaenzig.
The Marinelli, in its 33rd year, is named after Arthur Marinelli, a member of the South Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame. Marinelli coached at Absegami and Oakcrest and later became athletic director at Egg Harbor Township.
Joe Dilks, who is EHT’s first-year head coach but has been part of the program for 30 years, couldn’t remember the last time the Eagles won their tournament, but it was the first time for the senior class.
“My kids came to wrestle today, and I can’t be any happier for them,” said Dilks, who was an assistant coach for 29 years under the recently retired Michael Caiazza.
Last season, EHT won the Cape-Atlantic League American for the first time since 2012, beating St. Augustine Prep for the title. But the Eagles graduated four state-tournament qualifiers and several other key seniors from that squad.
“This was a huge emotional boost for our team,” Kaenzig, 17, said. “We weren’t expecting to win this. We knew there were 14 great teams in this tournament, and we had been working every day and it finally paid off.”
Kaenzig was named the Wrestler of the Tournament.
Kaenzig’s day included a 9-3 decision in the quarterfinals and a 6-4 overtime win in the semifinals. He won a wild 9-7 decision over Burlington Township freshman Mike Limone in the final.
Cody Dix was EHT’s other returning wrestler from last season who won a championship. He beat Cinnaminson’s Khalid Zeidieh 5-2 in the final.
But some newcomers helped put the Eagles over the top. Heavyweight Jefferson Dejean and 120-pounder Andrew Ngo, both in their first year in the varsity lineup, won titles.
For Dejean, the road to his title was a long one. For the past three years, the senior served as a practice opponent for 2017 graduate Paul Valian, who qualified for states last season.
On Thursday, Valian sat in Dejean’s corner as he beat Lower Cape May Regional’s Joshua Antorino in a 12-2 major decision.
“He’s a great person, and every single time I wrestled him, he used to kick my butt,” Dejean, 18, said. “But now, I got better off of him. Every time I wrestled against him, I lost. Right there, it was progress, progress, progress, and I thank him for helping me out.”
Other place-winners for the Eagles were Nick Leone (182) in second, Jonathon Nunez (106), Christian Smith (126) and Mark Mansour (170) in fourth and Brione Preston (138) and Jani Kolefski (160) in fifth.
Oakcrest, which took fourth in the team scoring with 122 points, had five wrestlers reach the finals. Cameron Garcia won at 182, beating Leone 3-1.
Oakcrest’s Hayden Horsey (106), Frank Gabriel (113), Reec Kreischer (132) and Keevon Berry (195) finished as runners-up. Enriqgue Tabora (220) won his third-place bout, and Billy Fifer (120) was fourth for the Falcons.
“I know a lot of our guys individually have their sights set high, so it should be a no-brainer that there is an automatic fire there,” Oakcrest coach Drew Muzslay said. “But in case it’s not, the coaching staff will remind them of this day, for sure.”
First place bouts
106–Bryce Ciccarelli (Clearview) d. Hayden Horsey (Oakcrest) 6-4; 113–Carmen Giumarello (Clearview) md. Frank Gabriel (Oakcrest) 13-4; 120–Andrew Ngo (EHT) d. Jack Florkowski (Cinnaminson) 3-0; 126–Max Grosset (Clearview) d. William Sabia (Haddonfield) 6-1; 132–Craig Cook (Burlington Twp) d. Reec Kreischer (Oakcrest) 9-7; 138–Luke Benedict (Haddonfield) d. Chad Tracy (Williamstown) 4-2; 145–Cody Dix (EHT) d. Khalid Zeidieh (Cinnaminson) 5-2; 152–Jason Kaenzig (EHT) d. Mike Limone (Burlington Twp) 9-7; 160–Brandon Dick (Clearview) p. Brandon Butler (Williamstown) 3:26; 170–Chriss Bolletino (Haddonfield) p. Andrew Marcucci (Absegami) 5:57; 182–Cameron Garcia (Oakcrest) d. Nick Leone (EHT) 3-1; 195–Bryan Martin (Williamstown) p. Keevon Berry (Oakcrest) 0:16; 220–Will Murray (Haddonfield) d. Jared Davenport (Lenape) 4-1; 285–Jefferson Dejean (EHT) md. Joshua Antorino (Lower Cape May) 12-2.
1. Egg Harbor Township 149; 2. Haddonfield 147.5; 3. Clearview Regional 146.5; 4. Oakcrest 122; 5. Cinnaminson 118.5.