EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - St. Augustine Prep's Jarred Hodges, Millville High School's Obi Kali and Holy Spirit's Ray Ellis all came through with big upsets in the quarterfinals of the Region 8 tournament Friday.
Hodges, Kali and Ellis had one thing in common: All three disagreed with calling their wins "upsets."
Hodges is the No. 9 seed at 132 pounds. He won a 2-0 decision against No. 8 Robby Wittman of Clearview Regional on Wednesday just to reach Friday's quarterfinal with No. 1 seed, unbeaten Washington Township senior Steven Passarella (19-0 entering Friday).
Hodges didn't know anything about Passarella before the match, and he didn't particularly care.
"All I knew was that I was going to wrestle him tough, wrestle him straight up and do the best I could," Hodges said.
The Prep sophomore said the key was getting the first takedown late in the first period.
"That felt really good," Hodges said. "I felt like I was faster than him and stronger than him and that I was going to dominate the match from then on.
"First takedown wins the match most of the time, and that's what I did. I didn't let him take a break."
The match was tied 2-2 heading to the third.
Hodges started down in the third and Passarella decided to look for a tilt or rideout.
The plan worked until Hodges finally broke free and escaped with seven seconds left for a dramatic 3-2 win.
Hodges will look for his third upset today in the semifinals against No. 4 seed and fellow sophomore John Gallo of Schalick.
"I just have to keep wrestling the way I'm wrestling," Hodges said. "Keep doing my thing."
Passarella was one of two No. 1 seeds to fall in a wild quarterfinal round. Clearview Regional freshman No. 8 seed Mike VanBrill- won a 4-2 decision against top-seeded John Gentile of Paulsboro at 120.
Kali wrestled the last match of the night.
Fans who stuck around were treated to another one of the bigger upsets of the night.
Kali, seeded 11th at 220 pounds, threw No. 3 seed William Cioffi of Pitman to his back in the final seconds of the first period to take a 4-0 lead.
Kali held off a late push from Cioffi in the third for an 11-5 decision.
“I don’t understand the seedings and placement of districts and regions, so it felt good to be an 11 seed and go out and beat people,” Kali said.
Kali will next wrestle No. 2 seed and 2012 state qualifier Nigel Toussaint of Egg Harbor Township in the semifinals.
“I have to go home, get some sleep and get prepared and focused,” Kali said. “It’s just another match.”
Toussaint won a 2-1 decision against Kali on Jan. 3.
Ellis is seeded sixth at 285 and won a 3-2 decision against No. 3 seed Cody Dooley of Pennsville Memorial.
“It wasn’t an upset,” Ellis said. “I got seeded low, but I feel like I’m better than these kids.”
Ellis didn’t have much seeding criteria since he didn’t wrestle last season as a sophomore.
Ellis will wrestle second-seeded Allan Westenberger of Gloucester in the semifinals.
“I’m pretty fired up, but there’s a job to be done (today),” Ellis said. “Celebrate tonight, come back on the mat and win (today).”
Oakcrest’s John Bernard won an 8-5 decision against previously unbeaten Frank Zeigler (14-0 before Friday) of Lower Cape May Regional.
Zeigler beat Bernard in the District 32 final. It was the second straight season Bernard beat a wrestler in regions to whom he had lost to in the District 32 final (Middle’s James Mooers last season).
“When somebody beats you, it’s like you have to get them back,” Bernard said. “It’s like you have a level up on that because it’s always harder to beat a guy twice when it really matters.”
St. Augustine Prep’s Tom Gattinella was nearly on the wrong end of an upset at 120.
Gattinella was tied 2-2 with No. 10 Stanley Atkinson late in the match but escaped with 42 seconds left for a 3-2 decision.
“It was a tough one,” Gattinella said. “To be honest, he wrestled better than I did. I should have lost that match, but I came out on top this time.”
Gattinella will wrestle third-seeded Zach Valcarce of Lower Cape May in the semifinals today. It will be the eighth meeting between them in their high school careers, with Gattinella having won each of the previous seven.
St. Joseph’s heavyweight Roy Lucas had the fastest pin of the night — 21 seconds against Triton Regional’s Brian Marzi.
The semifinals will start at 10 a.m. today. Third-place consolations will start at 3 p.m. with the finals to follow.
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