LOWER TOWNSHIP — There were no concerned looks on the faces of the Buena Regional High School wrestlers Wednesday.
A double-digit deficit with five weights left against rival Lower Cape May Regional didn’t even seem to faze the Chiefs in the least bit — and for good reason.
Buena, the No. 11 team in The Press Elite 11, still had plenty of pop left in its lineup.
The Chiefs won the last five matches and beat the host Caper Tigers 40-26 in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference showdown.
Buena’s last five — led by three-time District 32 and Region 8 champ Billy Ward and two-time District 32 champ Dillan Berghof — boasts a combined record of 60-17.
The match started at 160 pounds and the Caper Tigers led 26-16 after Zach Valcarce’s major decision at 120 pounds.
Buena’s Sal Marandino played the role of leadoff Wednesday and did a nice job setting the table with a 21-6 major decision at 126.
“We knew we had a lot of our best guys coming up,” Marandino said. “We needed to score points and that’s what we did. We just focused on wrestling and wrestling tough and we got it done.”
Ward followed Marandino and took the lead back for Buena for good with a 31-second pin at 132.
Chaz Bramble won a major decision at 138, Berghof officially clinched the match with a 53-second pin at 145 and Jarret Pierotti closed the night with a decision at 152.
Buena and Lower wrestling is quietly one of the area’s top rivalries.
The wrestlers from each school compete against one another in youth wrestling and become serious rivals at the middle school level before even getting to high school.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Marandino said. “It’s always a close, close match every time we wrestle.”
Buena coach Doug Castellari knows as much about the rivalry as anyone.
“It’s a good rivalry,” Castellari said. “Lower Cape May has great fans. It’s a big tradition. Even when I wrestled (at Buena) in 1980, it was always us and them going for the championship.
“It has always been fun. They’re great fans and great people.”
Wednesday’s win puts Buena (4-0 conference record) in command in the CAL National with Hammonton also in the mix.
Lower Cape May junior Cory Damiana had the night’s fastest pin at 195 pounds in 20 seconds.
The Caper Tigers (3-1 conference) wrestled well but the District 32 champ and Region 8 runner-up didn’t seem worried about moral victories.
“It should have been better,” Damiana said. “All week we were preparing for Buena. We knew this was the match. This and the Hammonton are the matches in the CAL. All week we were trying our best to come out on top but it just wasn’t our night.”
Lower Cape May sophomore 106-pounder Eric Pruszinski also had a pin and Jackson Sole added a major at 160.
Buena’s Elijah Brown had a pin at 170 and Ty Warren a major decision at 220.
Contact John O’Kane:
106—Eric Pruszinski LCM p. Ronnie Hawk 1:22; 113—Zach Hicks LCM d. Luis Rivera 10-6; 120—Zach Valcarce LCM md. Justin Inman 12-0; 126—Sal Marandino BR tf. Ryan Riess 21-6 (6:00); 132—Billy Ward BR p. Noah Gomersall :31; 138—Chaz Bramble BR md. Michael Harkin 15-3; 145—Dillan Berghof BR p. Alek Soriano :53; 152—Jarret Pierotti BR d. Ty Altieri 6-2; *160—Jackson Sole LCM md. Kristian Albert 18-5; 170—Elijah Brown BR p. John Campbell 3:11; 182—Joe Fabrizio BR by forfeit; 195—Cory Damiana LCM p. Nick Sherman :20; 220—Ty Warren BR md. Josh Frederick 11-2; 285—Doug Flitcroft LCM d. Nick Caporale 1-0.
Records—Buena 8-0; Lower 4-9.
*Match started at 160