Millville High School athletic director Dave LaGamba insisted his allegiances would not be divided tonight.
LaGamba won't be wearing a St. Augustine Prep shirt under his Millville jacket as the Thunderbolts take on the Hermits in perhaps the biggest wrestling match the school has hosted in almost two decades.
The match will decide the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference.
St. Augustine Prep (12-7) is No. 6 in The Press Elite 11. Millville (14-2) is No. 9.
"You're killing me, man," LaGamba said with a laugh. "Honestly, I'm happy for our guys. I'll be rooting for our Millville program."
LaGamba is a wrestling guy.
He won district and region titles as a senior in 1991 wearing a St. Augustine Prep singlet.
"It really is nice to see both programs doing well," LaGamba said. "That makes me feel good."
Millville last won a CAL American Conference title in 1996.
LaGamba's coach his senior season at the Prep was Bill Ward, who then spent two decades as an assistant at Buena Regional before starting a second stint as head coach of the Hermits this season.
The Prep won the CAL National title in 2010 before switching to the American two seasons ago.
"I think were ready," Ward said. "We want to win the conference. We know Millville is tough and we're going to be ready.
"We're not overlooking them - that's for sure."
Ward's wife and father-in-law are proud Millville graduates.
"They may not be rooting for me in my own house," Ward said with a laugh. "Of course they want me to do well but they are diehard Millville fans."
Each team has talent throughout their lineups.
The Prep has six wrestlers in The Press rankings of area wrestlers (James Bennett is out tonight with an injured shoulder). Millville has three.
Defending District 32 champs Tom Gattinella (22-3 at 120 pounds) and Tyler Sentman (21-4 at 170) lead the Hermits. Sophomore Tom Lynd (22-2) has emerged as one of the area's top heavyweights.
Millville junior Ed Shockley is the top-ranked 195-pounder in the area.
Freshman Keith Mahoney and senior Rico Rivera give the team a nice combo in the middleweights at 138 and 145, respectively.
Mahoney and Rivera are a combined 26-1 since Jan. 1.
Tonight's match will start around 6 p.m.
"We have to wrestle tough," Ward said. "The whole thing is I don't ask them to win. I ask them to wrestle tough and give 110 percent and if they do that, good things will happen."
Win or lose tonight, Millville will look to qualify and challenge for a title in South Jersey Group IV.
"I really enjoy seeing the program and where it's at with coach (Scott) Stay and his staff," LaGamba said. "It's fun to be around."
Any predictions from LaGamba?
"I'm going to have to pass on that one," he said.
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