ATLANTIC CITY - Although he only lives about 20 miles from Boardwalk Hall, no one has come further in the state individual wrestling championships this weekend than Egg Harbor Township High School senior Nigel Toussaint.
Toussaint, who put on a singlet for the first time last year, rebounded from a loss in the quarterfinals Saturday morning with a victory in the wrestlebacks.
As a result, he will finish either seventh or eighth in the 220-pound class when action resumes today.
"What Nigel has been able to do is just an amazing feat," Egg Harbor Township coach Mike Caiazza said.
"Think about how many kids wrestle for so many years and never even come close to accomplishing what he's been able to do in just two years. And the most impressive thing is, he's been able to get this far and probably still hasn't touched even 90 percent of his talent level yet."
Toussaint and Holy Spirit sophomore Pat D'Arcy at 106 pounds were the only local wrestlers who were able to stay alive in the wrestleback rounds after losing in the quarterfinals.
D'Arcy registered two wins in the wrestlebacks and can still place as high as third today.
Atlantic City senior 165-pounder Cesar Balmaceda, Millville junior 195-pounder Ed Shockley and Buena Regional senior 126-pounder Billy Ward all saw their seasons - and in some cases their high school careers - end with defeats on Saturday.
Balmaceda and Shockley both suffered last-second losses in the third round of wrestlebacks. Nutley's Brandon Keena executed a five-point move with eight seconds remaining in regulation to gain an 11-6 win over Balmaceda.
Shockley endured an even more dramatic defeat. Hawthorne's Evan Ramos scored a reversal on the edge of the mat at the buzzer in double overtime to beat Shockley 3-2.
"After I won my first match (on Friday), I got more confident and I really thought I had a chance of placing (in the top eight)," said Balmaceda, who was the first Atlantic City wrestler to qualify for the state tournament since at least the 1970s. "To come so close and not get there, it's a real bummer."
Ward, Buena's all-time winningest wrestler with 137 victories, saw his dream of a state title end when he was pinned in the second period of his quarterfinal match against North Bergen's Anthony Giraldo. Ward, who finished third as a sophomore, then dropped a 6-2 decision to Jackson Memorial's Alec Huxford to fall one match short of reaching the podium.
Aside from Hammonton 182-pounder David Williams, who will wrestle for a state title today, D'Arcy has had the most impressive tournament of the local competitors.
D'Arcy (39-5) suffered a 3-0 loss in the quarterfinals to Bergen Catholic freshman Nick Suriano, who is the top-ranked 106-pounder in the country. With a state title no longer possible, he had only a couple of hours to regroup and refocus.
He began wrestlebacks with a 3-1 decision over Clearview's Zack Firestone on Saturday afternoon, avenging a loss to Firestone in last week's Region 8 final. He then posted a 5-2 win over Ty Agaisse of Delbarton and will wrestle Perth Amboy's Yasel Corporan this morning. D'Arcy can finish as high as third place and no lower than sixth.
"I told myself that I can't be satisfied with losing," D'Arcy said. "I can't back down from a challenge. Losing was disappointing, but I couldn't afford to dwell on it. I just put it behind me and tried to move forward."
Toussaint dropped out of title contention with a 13-3 loss to Franklin's Ralph Normandia in the 220-pound quarterfinals, but came back to register a 3-1 overtime victory against Brick Memorial's Tyler Poling. Returning to the mat just 45 minutes later, he dropped a 1-0 decision to A.J. Iarussi, of Summit. Iarussi scored the only point on an escape with 45 seconds left in regulation.
Toussaint (34-5) will wrestle for seventh place this morning against Emerson-Park Ridge's Robbie Maggiulli.
"It was pretty tough to wrestle again so fast," Toussaint said. "My shoulders are kind of out of it. I'm still somewhat satisfied with the way I wrestled here, though. I lost my first match here last year and I wanted to do better than that this time. I wanted to go as far as possible and I can't complain about placing in the top eight."
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