‘Energizing’ win for Mainland wrestling
LINWOOD — As the heavyweight bout was going on Wednesday night, Mainland Regional wrestling coach Clayton Smith gathered his lower and middle weight wrestlers together behind the bench and got in there ears pretty good. With the Mustangs trailing Ocean City, 22-12, at the time, Smith said — in no uncertain terms — that if even one more wrestler took a bad loss the Mustangs would have no hope of recovering and winning the match.
The little guys responded.
Mainland went on a run, winning five of the last seven bouts — including the three via pin — and stormed back to win, 40-34, to get some much-needed confidence ahead of next week's playoff matchup with Hammonton. The Mustangs (13-9) also made a huge home crowd happy during the annual "Wrestling For Warriors" event. It was also Senior Night at Mainland.
Senior Mike Mucciarone got a huge pin at 132 pounds that propelled Mainland to its first win over the rival Red Raiders in eight years. Those six points broke a 28-28 tie, giving the Mustangs a 34-28 lead, and Antonio Yeoman sealed the victory with a pin at 138 pounds. The pins by Mucciaron and Yeoman were big, because they kept the match from coming down to the final bout, where Ocean City (8-6) had the advantage with Cameron Andres. Andres ended up scoring a pin at 145, but by that time the outcome was decided.
"That's his 17th pin. You might hear that at heavyweight or down at 106 pounds, but at 132, that's unheard of," Smith said of Mucciarone.
"The coin toss really won this match. I've been watching Cameron (Andres) for years, and he's just a tough wrestler. He just goes and goes, but when we got that coin toss and they had to send their kid out first — not that we were trying to duck Cameron — but we knew if we could get six out of our kid, we had it locked up. That's the strategy, and that's what you have to do," added Smith, who wasn't forced to bump his lineup around late in the match.
Mucciarone said Smith's impromptu speech during Emilio Roman's 2-1 win over Grand Howell at heavyweight really got the Mustangs fired up. Roman's win cut the deficit to 22-15, and Billy Rogers went out and scored a pin at 106 to get the Mustangs within a point, 22-21.
"It's big. I use a match like that to motivate my team. It's not the first time, and probably won't be the last. It's very motivating to the younger kids," Mucciarone said. "I just knew we had to go and get it done. Coach is that way, he gets into us, gets us mad at ourselves and gets us motivated. This win is very energizing. The team is uplifted right now, and we're going to flow this into some good, hard practices the next two days, come out for a quad on Saturday and keep it going into the playoffs on Monday."
"It started out bad. We didn't expect (to be down early), but we responded well at 170 and 182," Smith said. "I got the light weights together and I said, 'listen, we are one bad pin away from this getting to the point where we can't recover.' And they responded pretty well."
Walter Dale was down early to Gabe Eberly at 170, but rebounded to score a pin that cut the Red Raiders' lead to 12-6. Kobe Roberts followed with a quick pin to tie the score at 12, but Ocean City's Nick Williams scored a pin late in the first period at 195 and Ed Mejia followed with a major decision at 220 to push the lead to 22-12.
But Mainland was able to keep the match close enough to allow its lighter wrestlers to turn the tide. Jesse Bishop and Andrew Bradley scored back-to-back wins following a victory by Ocean City's Nick Loesch at 113, setting the stage for Mucciarone and Yeoman.
"Starting from 120 pounds and going into 138, that's the strongest part of our lineup with a lot of returning starters. Most of our best wrestlers are there (in those weight classes). (Mucciarone) is a pinner. He's got 17 pins now, and we know Antonio is probably our best pound-for-pound wrestler, so we just needed one more win, no matter how we got it," Roberts said. "The upper weights, we didn't do what we should have done, but coach got (the lighter weights) off to the side, got the captains together and said they had to get it done. And they did, and we got the win. This is a great win. It's a turning point. We have a quad this weekend and then playoffs on Monday, so we're going to get back in the room tomorrow and Friday and work even harder. We're just going to try to keep getting better and better."
"Me and the other coaches looked at it on paper, with multiple scenarios, and every single one was going to be one match, three points here, six points there would be the difference. We knew half the matches were going to be toss-up bouts. But those are the matches you want going into the postseason," said Ocean City coach Dave Castellini. "A big crowd like this, this will get them used to wrestling at districts."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays