By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — It came down to the heavyweights, and Ryan Jackson came through for the Lower Cape May Regional High School wrestling team Friday evening.
Jackson posted a 7-3 decision over Dom Galati to secure the Caper Tigers’ 36-29 victory over Middle Township in front of a near-capacity crowd in the Panthers’ auxiliary gymnasium.
With the Tigers ahead, 33-29, Jackson stepped to the mat knowing all he had to do was not lose a match in which Middle Township earned bonus points. Even a loss by decision would give Lower a victory. But Jackson aggressively went for the win anyway and his tactics paid off as he controlled his bout throughout.
The win was Lower’s first over Middle in three seasons.
“This was a really good, back-and-forth match,” Lower coach Bill Damiana said. “The atmosphere here was great. (Middle coach) Matt wolf has done an incredible job during his tenure at Middle. We had a great crowd and there were two live video streams here. This was just awesome for wrestling in our area.
Jackson’s victory culminated a terrific day of wrestling that began in the afternoon with a match between the Richard M. Teitelman School and Middle Township Middle School. Then more than a dozen junior varsity matches followed, highlighted by a victory by crowd favorite Shane Nickels of Middle Township.
The main event did not disappoint. There were several competitive matches between the two fierce but friendly rivals.
Middle Township earned a forfeit at 106 pounds and an 18-10 major-decision victory by Matt Sgrignioli at 113 to start the action.
Devon Bohn then earned Lower Cape May’s first victory with a win by fall in 1:20 at 120 pounds.
Middle’s Evan Dugan followed with a 13-6 win at 126 pounds.
Middle then surrendered a forfeit to Lower’s Wes Tosto at 132 so its unbeaten wrestler, Alick Killian, could bump up to 138. Killian scored a win by fall in 3:33.
Cameron Leslie of Lower Cape May followed with a pin in 3:13 at 145.
Middle then won the next two as Mike Adelizzi scored a 13-8 decision at 152 and Karl Giulian — returning to action for the first time in three weeks due to a knee injury — posted a 10-6 win at 160.
Lower’s Brayden Castillo got a win by fall at 170, followed by Middle’s David Giulian scoring a 10-4 victory at 182.
In one of the more spirited bouts of the evening, Lower’s Sean Connelly grabbed a 7-4 win at 195, finally securing the victory with a takedown in the final 10 seconds.
Then at 220, Lower’s Matt Craig needed just 22 seconds win by fall.
That set the stage for Jackson’s match-securing victory at heavyweight.
Lower ran its record to 7-1 in dual meets.
“I thought all our guys pretty much wrestled well,” Damiana said. “I think some of our kids let the atmosphere get to them and they went out and wrestled not to lose instead of wrestling to win. We’ll have to work on that for the postseason. But there were a lot of good back-and-forth exchanges and we came out with the win and that’s what matters at the end of the day.”
Middle fell to 0-3 in dual meets with the loss.
“I think Lower came out and wrestled a great match,” Middle coach Matt Wolf said. “They’ve done a great job the last couple years and they’re turning into a great team. But I’m really proud of our kids and how they wrestled. To an extent, a lot of them wrestled over their heads. They really showed up for this. We came up a little short but this match was a lot of fun. The kids are disappointed and I’m disappointed in the result but we’ll come back ready to work.
“I thought we won every match we could have. We would have needed a major upset somewhere to have a chance to win this. We didn’t get it, but I’m proud of how our kids battled.”
CoastSportsToday.com carried a live video stream of the match. Click here to watch the full replay.