STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - The Southern Regional High School wrestling team needed a signature win.
The Rams got one on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Southern fans, the Rams also suffered another pair of tough losses.
Southern opened its day with a 27-24 win against Shore Conference A-South rival Jackson Memorial.
Perennial power Delbarton followed and beat the Rams 28-27 on tiebreaker criteria. Southern, No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, ended its day with a 38-15 loss to St. Peter's Prep. The Rams overall record now stands at 3-4.
"I think it's going to help us in the longterm," Southern's Zach Wilhelm said of his team's brutal schedule. "When we get to the state sectional matches and when we get to districts, regions and states it's going to prepare us mentally and physically for those tough matches."
The Southern vs. Jackson match started at 152 pounds and Wilhelm entered his 132-pound match against Jarret DiGiantomass with a chance to clinch the match.
"I'm not going to lie, I was really nervous," Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm took matters into his own hands and put the match out of reach with a 6-0 decision.
"It feels great that I clinched the match, but in my heart I know I didn't wrestle the way I can," Wilhelm said.
Southern entered Saturday's quad following back-to-back losses to Bergen Catholic and Toms River South.
Southern is a bit dinged up (the Rams were without Nick Hem and Josh Throckmorton on Saturday) but desperately needed the Jackson win.
A winless quad would have been devastating for a team with state Group IV title aspirations entering the season.
"I know you have to dance with the girl you brought, but it's a tough situation to be in," Southern coach John Stout said. "For these guys to pull that win out was a good feeling.
"We had a tough loss to Bergen Catholic and a tough loss to Toms River South so this validates the hard work."
Jackson took its first lead of the match, 14-12, after a Fred Terranova pin at 106.
Sophomore Chris Crane started Southern's late push with a key pin at 113.
"I was just trying to get a win for the team," Crane said. "It was as simple as that. It was a good feeling, the right feeling."
All four teams in action Saturday are among the state's best. St. Peter's Prep, Southern, Delbarton and Jackson are Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9, respectively, in the New Jersey Wresting Writer's Association poll of the top 20 teams in the state.
Crane, Jake Campana (145/152) and Chris Serpico (152-160) were the only Rams to win all three matches they wrestled on Saturday.
Jackson Memorial's Brian Hamann picked up his 100th career win with a pin in the Jaguars' loss to Southern.
Contact John O'Kane:
No. 1 Southern Regional 27, Jackson Memorial 24
106-Fred Terranova JM md. James Knoeller 12-0; 113-Chris Crane SR p. Vinny Falzano 5:05; 120-Pat Mooney SR d. Zack Baker 6-2; 126-Andrew Tonneson SR d. Hunter Reese 4-3; 132-Zach Wilhelm SR d. Jarret DiGiantomass 6-0; 138-Brian Hamann JM p. Trevor Mooney 4:48; 145-Spencer Young SR md. Nick Racanelli 15-5; *152-Jake Campana SR d. Sean Leahey 6-4; 160-Chris Serpico SR d. Brandon Carroll 10-4; 170-Gerardo Jorge SR d. Connor Bohringer 7-3; 182-James Langschultz JM d. Cory Case 7-5; 195-Kenneth Bradley JM md. Connor Case 11-2; 220-Jesse Bauta SR d. Broderick Graham 9-5; 285-Max Mondello JM d. Cody Smead 4-3.
Records-Jackson 8-3; Southern 3-4.
*Match started at 152
Delbarton 28, Southern Regional 27
(Delbarton wins on tiebreaker criteria - most bouts won)
106-Ty Agaisse D d. James Knoeller 7-3; 113-Chris Crane SR d. Valentine Miele 2-0; 120-Nick Farro D md. Pat Mooney 22-11; 126-Christian Innarella D d. Andrew Tonneson 3-1; 132-Nick Anderson D md. Trevor Mooney 14-4; 138-Travis Vasquez D d. Zach Wilhelm 6-3; 145-Joseph Tavoso D md. Nick Racanelli 15-2; 152-Jake Campana SR by forfeit; *160-Chris Serpico SR d. Dan Reed 9-3; 170-Josef Johnson D d. Gerardo Jorge 9-3; 182-Connor Case SR d. Austin Gobbo 7-1; 195-Aaron Slodowitz D d. Patrick Ferraro 8-3; 220-Jesse Bauta SR p. James Grogan 3:45; 285-Cody Smead SR p. Corben Davis :19.
*Match started at 160
St. Peter's Prep 36, Southern Regional 15
106-Alec Kelly SP d. James Knoeller 6-0; 113-Chris Crane SR d. Isaiah McGowan 8-6 (OT); 120-Michael Russo SP md. Pat Mooney 12-3; 126-Andrew Tonneson SR d. d. Sonny Simonetti 5-1; 132-Connor Burkert SP d. Trevor Mooney 5-3; 138-Ryan Burkert SP d. Zach Wilhelm 4-2; 145-Jake Campana SR d. Stephen Kellner 1-0; 152-Chris Serpico SR d. Andrew Ulloa 7-1; 160-Gerardo Jorge SR d. Danny Splendorio 8-3; *170-James Kellner SP md. Cory Case 14-4; 182-Jordan Fox SP md. Patrick Ferraro 11-1; 195-Christian Collucci SP d. Connor Case 3-1; 220-Armond Cox SP p. Jesse Bauta 3:39; 285-Jose Palomino SP p. Cody Smead 1:44.
Records-St. Peter's Prep 5-1.
*Match started at 170