Buena's Billy Ward wins fourth straight Region 8 wrestling title; 18 others also qualify for state finals
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Buena Regional High School senior Billy Ward is turning the postseason individual wrestling tournament into his own personal farewell tour.
Ward marched his way to the top of the Region 8 awards podium for the fourth straight season en route to picking up Outstanding Wrestler honors on Saturday at Egg Harbor Township.
Ward was one of four locals to win Region 8 titles. Six locals finished second and six finished third. The 16 wrestlers in the top three from Region 8 join three area qualifiers from Region 6 to give the area 19 qualifiers for the state individual wrestling tournament finals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City from March 8-10.
Ward is just the fourth local wrestler ever to win four Region 8 titles, joining Buena's Bobby Hansen (1995 grad), Absegami's Labe Black (2000) and Oakcrest's C.J. Mays (2003).
Ward battled Paulsboro sophomore standout Sam Morina in the 126-pound final and survived for a 9-6 decision.
"It was a little too close for comfort, but you have to win matches like that sometimes," Ward said.
Ward became Buena's all-time winningest wrestler with his semifinal win and will take a 136-12 career record into states.
He's also in rarified air as a four-time District 32 (where he also won OW) and Region 8 champ but he doesn't plan on celebrating any of that very long.
"It's going to be, 'Good job, yay Billy!' tonight, but tomorrow I'll be back in the room getting ready for next week," Ward said. "Right now I have my mind focused on other things now that I'm past this."
Ward finished third in the state as a sophomore but didn't place last season.
"There's nothing that can really compare to this," Ward said, before catching himself, "besides winning a state title."
Hammonton's David Williams and St. Joseph's Roy Lucas each won their second region titles on Saturday.
Williams took Kingsway Regional's Billy Leone down three times in the second period on his way to an 11-5 decision and the 182-pound title.
"It felt good," Williams said. "But now I'm worried about the state title. This means nothing to me right now. I'm worried about the state title coming into practice tomorrow."
Williams is on a short list of wrestlers expected to challenge defending state champ Johnny Sebastian of Bergen Catholic for the state title.
Sebastian beat 2012 Hammonton grad (and current Rutgers wrestler) Phil Bakuckas in last season's 160-pound state final.
Sebastian also knocked Bakuckas out of states the season before.
"He's 2-0 on Hammonton guys but that's going to change this year," Williams said. "But I have to make it there first. I'm ready for next Friday."
Lucas won an 8-3 decision against Holy Spirit junior Ray Ellis in the 285-pound final.
"It's another stepping stone to where I really want to get," Lucas said. "But I'll take what it means today."
Lucas finished third in the state last season and will now look to join 2006 grad Jack Corcoran as the only state champs in St. Joseph history.
St. Augustine Prep's Tom Gattinella won his first region title in his third finals appearance Saturday, winning a 2-1 decision against West Deptford's Tyler Kaminski.
"Third time's the charm - that's all I have to say," Gattinella said. "I came up short the past two years, but this year I'm on top."
Gattinella trailed Kaminski 1-0 after two periods in a rematch of last season's region final, won by Kaminski.
But Kaminski was penalized a point for an illegal hold to tie the match. Gattinella escaped late in the third for a 2-1 lead and the win.
Gattinella is making his third trip to states and looking to earn a spot on the podium for the first time.
"I have work to do to get on the podium at states," he said.
Holy Spirit's Pat D'Arcy (106 pounds), St. Augustine Prep's Jarred Hodges (132) and Tyler Sentman (170), Millville's Ed Shockley (195), Egg Harbor Township's Nigel Toussaint (220) and Ellis each took second.
Lower Cape May's Eric Pruszinski (106), Zach Hicks (113) and Cory Damiana (195), EHT's Shawn Bryant (132), Atlantic City's Cesar Balmaceda (160) and Millville's Obi Kali (220) all took third.
The 16 local qualifiers from Region 8 will join Southern Regional's Chris Serpico and Lacey Township's Luke Fernandez and Pat Schinder at states.
Southern's Serpico defeated Long Branch's Jacob George 3-2 to win the 152-pound title at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. Serpico, the only local to win a Region 6 title, defeated Cliff Ruggiero of Brick Memorial 9-4 in the semifinals.
Fernandez and Schinder each finished third.
Fernandez defeated Dillon Stambaugh of Red Bank Regional 5-1 at 170 pounds, and Patrick Schinder had a 16-6 major decision over Jacob Bell of Ocean at 220 pounds.
Fernandez pinned Kyle Lynch of Raritan in 5 minutes, 33 seconds in wrestlebacks, while Schinder pinned Southern Regional's Jesse Bauta in 2:39 in wrestlebacks.
Two other Southern wrestlers - Jake Campana and Gerardo Jorge - advanced to Saturday's semifinals but lost.
Campana lost to 138-pound top seed Brian Hamann of Jackson Memorial 4-0 in the semifinals and then lost to Dan Kinsella of Wall Township 3-2 overtime in wrestlebacks.
Jorge was pinned by 160-pound top seed Dan Wojtaszek in 3 minutes, 5 seconds and then lost 5-3 to Long Branch's Nick Pappayliou in wrestlebacks.
Contact John O'Kane: