STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Given every opportunity, Southern Regional High School wrestling coach John Stout refused to make excuses following his team’s demoralizing 35-13 loss to Shore Conference rival Brick Memorial.

And Wednesday’s loss was particularly disheartening for Southern, the No. 2 team in The Press Elite 11.

The Rams lost 10 of the 14 weight classes, seven coming by decision.

Of the seven decision losses, five were by two points or less.

“That just shows which team is tougher, that’s all,” Stout said. “There is no two ways about it. They came in. They were more motivated, their kids were tougher and they won.

“There is no way to make an excuse for it.”

Southern has lost nearly half of its projected starting lineup entering the season due to injuries and other various issues.

“We’re in a tough spot,” Stout said. “This is the toughest spot we’ve been in since I’ve been the head coach (12 years).”

Wednesday’s showdown of defending sectional champs was billed as a high-powered showdown between two of the state’s best.

Things didn’t work out that way.

Back-to-back wins from Andrew Tonneson and Beast of the East placewinner Zach Wilhelm at 126 and 132 and another pair from Chris Serpico and Gerardo Jorge at 152 and 160 were Southern’s only wins.

Wilhelm’s 12-3 major decision against Jose Bocalman gave Southern its only bonus point of the night.

“It’s tough,” Wilhelm said. “It doesn’t help that we’re missing guys out of our lineup, but what happened just now, that’s no excuse. Personally, I feel like we just wrestled un-tough, but having guys out of the lineup definitely doesn’t help us.

Brick Memorial is one of the state’s premier programs.

The Mustangs are the defending Central Jersey Group IV champs and overall state Group IV runner-ups. Memorial is No. 5 in the latest New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association poll of the state’s top 20 teams.

Southern, two-time defending South Jersey Group IV champions, is No. 10.

“They have a really tough team,” Wilhelm said. “They wrestled as a team tonight and we didn’t.”

After dropping the first three weights of the night, Tonneson put the Rams on the board with a 2-1 decision against Staub.

Wilhelm followed with his major to make it a 10-7 Memorial lead.

Serpico jumped out to an early lead and fought off a late charge from defending District 23 champ Cliff Ruggiero for a 6-5 decision at 152.

Jorge’s win brought the match within three points once again, 16-13, but that’s as close as it would get.

Brick Memorial won the last five bouts of the night to turn an otherwise close match into a rout.

Things may be tough but don’t expect Stout and the Rams to throw in the towel with plenty still to wrestle for, including a third straight South Jersey Group IV title.

“It’s really trying to get though this and make as many good things happen by the end of the year as you possibly can,” Stout said. “I don’t really know what else. This is really the first time I have ever been in this position so we’ve got to try to fight through it and see what happens in the end.”

Contact John O’Kane:


*106—Luke Vescovi BM d. James Knoeller 7-5; 113—Connor Maliff BM d. Chris Crane 6-2; 120—Joe Ghione BM md. Pat Mooney 22-8; 126—Andrew Tonneson SR d. Jared Staub 2-1; 132—Zach Wilhelm SR md. Jose Bocalman 12-3; 138—Alec Donovan BM d. Nick Racanelli 4-2; 145—Rob Ruggiero BM d. Jake Campana 4-2; 152—Chris Serpico SR d. Cliff Ruggiero 6-5; 160—Gerardo Jorge SR d. Nick Piezzo 13-6; 170—Joe Beverly BM d. Cory Case 1-0; 182—Tyler Richardson BM d. Connor Case 4-2; 195—Nick Costa BM md. Patrick Ferraro 11-2; 220—Matt Moore BM by forfeit; 285—Tyler Poling BM d. Jesse Bauta 7-1.

Records—Brick Memorial 15-2; Southern 6-5.

*-Match began at this weight.