EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Mike Misita placed eighth in the state last year at 182 pounds. For most wrestlers, that would be a dream come true. But for the St. Augustine Prep junior and Williamstown native, that simply wasn’t good enough. Misita has been on a mission to win a state championship since he got to the Richland campus as a freshman, and he certainly will be a contender next weekend in the 195-pound weight class at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Misita, the top seed, got a bye into the quarterfinals and spent all of about five minutes on the mat at Egg Harbor Township High School over the span of two days. He pinned No. 9 Dalton Beals of Pennsville in the second period in the quarterfinals, dispatched fifth-seeded Mikal Taylor with a pin in just 58 seconds in the semis, then pinned second-seeded Marcus Hebron of Lower Cape May — who came into the Region 8 tournament with just one loss — in 90 seconds to capture his second straight region championship.

“This is a better feeling (than districts) but I want an even better feeling, and I think we all know what that is. I did break a sweat, it was good competition, I guess I’m just that far ahead,” said Misita, a three-time district champion. “I’m a little more experienced (this year). I wasn’t quite as nervous going into the finals match as I was last year, and I guess that played a big role. I was just ready to wrestle and looking forward to it.”

Misita took down Hebron within the first few seconds of the match on Saturday evening, and it was only a matter of time until he found a pinning move that would work. Now, it’s back to work to prepare for the NJSIAA Championships this coming weekend in Atlantic City, where Misita hopes to be standing on top of the podium, and not on the floor as the eighth-place finisher.

“Nothing’s really going to be different, I’m just going to take it one match at a time and continue to wrestle my best. The mentality is all the same, it’s just a different feeling knowing the kids (at states) aren’t going to be pushovers. You have to go out there and want it, and go get it,” he said. “You realize what you’ve worked on and what you’ve slacked on. You just have to do what you can do and deal with what you’ve got, and make the best of it. I expected this — even freshman year I expected to go to states, I don’t expect anything less, because I knew I worked hard for it and I knew I wanted to go get it. I’m ready to go get it and go do the best I can.”

Griffin Jackstadt became Barnegat High School’s first region champion when he outlasted Southern’s J.T. Cornelius, 3-2, in the heavyweight championship. Ocean City’s Nick Sannino, who came in as the No. 3 seed, took fourth after an 8-6 loss to Washington Township’s Jack Dunn and will be heading to Atlantic City. The top four finishers in each of the 14 weight classes at regions advance to states. Holy Spirit’s Kurt Driscoll finished fifth.

At 106 pounds, both St. Augustine Prep’s D’Amani Almadovar and Oakcrest’s Hogan Horsey advanced, as Almadovar beat Horsey 4-0 to take third. Horsey’s twin, Hunter, captured third place at 113 by pinning Absegami’s Sean Cowan. At 132, St. Augustine Prep’s Brock Zurawski, who lost to Oakcrest’s Frank Gabriel in the quarterfinals, wrestled his way back to take third and punch his ticket to A.C., while Gabriel finished fifth overall, defeating Ocean City’s Charlie Cossaboone in the fifth-place bout.

At 160 pounds, Lower Cape May sophomore Brayton Castillo advanced by taking second. He beat Absegami’s Quinn McLaughlin in the semis before falling to Southern’s Robert Woodcock 9-1 in the championship bout. St. Augustine Prep’s Alex Marshall finished third in that weight class. At 170 pounds, Absegami freshman George Rhodes made it all the way to the finals before falling 12-6 to top-seeded Jacob Rodriguez of Clayton-Glassboro. And at 182, Prep’s Nick Marshall took third to punch his ticket to Atlantic City.

Holy Spirit sophomore 138-pounder K.J. Sherman — a state qualifier a year ago — had the most inspirational day at the Region 8 tournament, as he scored two thrilling victories in the wrestlebacks to place third and advance to Atlantic City, less than eight weeks after his father, Ken, suddenly passed away. Sherman was trailing Prep’s Trey McLeer 8-1 early in the second round of wrestlebacks but fought his way back to tie the match and send it to overtime, where he pinned McLeer in 6:15. Then, in the third place match, Sherman was down again to No. 4 Ryan Figueroa of Hammonton, but scored a takedown in the waning seconds to win, 6-5, and take third.

“This day has been pretty good, hectic, but good. In my first match I was down 8-1 but I got a roll-through cradle, tied it up, rode him on top in the second period, and in overtime I rolled through and pinned him,” Sherman said. “(The last match) worked a little more on my nerves. The first time he got a shot it was kind of my fault, I wasn’t really awake, sadly, but I was able to come back and keep persevering. I knew I couldn’t give up, my father passed away not too long ago and I’m trying to respect his name and make it back to states.”

(Editor’s note: stay tuned for our next digital magazine for a full-length feature about K.J. Sherman and his inspiring run through the Region 8 tournament).

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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