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VIDEO: Lower ready to battle with mix of experience, talented newcomers

Lower Cape May’s wrestling team features a large number of seniors. They include (from left): standing – Sean Stoner, Jaydan Farrow, Logan Morris, Anthony Love, Mikey Castellano, Brody Saltzman, Nathan Stewart; kneeling – Braydon Castillo, Marcus Hebron, Corey Achuff, Matt Harris, Ian Pittman.


The Lower Cape May Regional High School wrestling program features an army of athletes.

The Tigers have more than 40 wrestlers in the program. This is a far cry from not too long ago, when Lower once finished a season with less than 10 wrestlers in the entire program.

The high numbers and the overall talent level have continued the buzz around the program being built by fifth-year head coach Billy Damiana, who was one of the school’s all-time greats as a high school athlete.

Lower begins the new season Friday evening at Lindenwold. Most of the Tigers will then compete in a tournament at Gateway on Saturday, while a few of its best wrestlers will instead head to the prestigious Beast of the East event the same day.

Lower is particularly strong in the middle to upper weight classes. Leading the way for the Tigers are four-year wrestlers Brayden Castillo (175) and Marcus Hebron (215). Hebron went 11-4 during the pandemic-shortened season in the spring, while Castillo won both of his matches before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Both were district champions and state qualifiers as sophomores.

Lower also gets major boost from St. Augustine Prep transfer Brock Zurawski (165), a junior who went 12-4 and reached the blood round at states last season.

“Marcus and Brayden both seem ready to go. They’re training very hard. Brock is obviously ready to make a splash for us, too,” Damiana said. “We have a lot of guys pushing each other in the wrestling room. That’s what happens when you have three state qualifiers in there.”

Lower also has a number of seniors without a ton of varsity experience who are ready to take advantage of their opportunities. They include Matt Harris (126), Nathan Stewart (150), Jaydan Farrow (157), Brody Saltzman and Corey Achuff (Hwt.).

“A few of those guys are program kids, guys that have been around all four years working hard and now they’re getting their chance to make something happen for themselves and the team,” Damiana said.

Lower is otherwise young and a bit inexperienced throughout the rest of the lineup but the talent is there.

The rest of the lineup includes freshmen Eric Coombs (106), Cade Heacock (106), Connor Barikian (113), Corson Hughes (120) and Gabe Donaghy (138) and sophomore Holy Spirit transfer A.J. Lemmon (32).

“We’re throwing a lot of freshmen out there,” Damiana said. “Is that fair? Maybe not, but a good portion of them have been wrestling for a long time now. They’re well versed in the sport and they’re ready to be pushed.”

Lower, coming off a 9-1 season in the spring, will again face a very difficult schedule, with the idea of getting thoroughly prepared for the postseason. The Tigers should be able to compete for a South Jersey Group II playoff spot and be one of the top teams in the Cape-Atlantic League.“I think we’ll be competitive but we have some work to do,” Damiana said. “There’s room for improvement. We need our older guys to perform the way they’re capable and for the young kids to get up to speed as fast as possible.”
Damiana is assisted by Dennis Elia, Cory Damiana, A.J. Fischer, Zack Hicks, Eric Simonsen and Bill Damiana Sr.