Wrestling: Local transfers glad to be back on the mat and winning titles
Holy Spirit High School's Brandon Bower, St. Joseph's C.J. LaFragola and Vineland's Steven Bergamo are still the same talented wrestlers they were last season.
They just wear different singlets now.
Bower, LaFragola and Bergamo all sat out the first 30 days of the season after transferring to their respective schools.
And all three managed to win their first district titles on Saturday.
The trio of district champs hope for similar results heading into today's Region 8 quarterfinals at Egg Harbor Township High School at 5:30 p.m.
"I'm very, very excited," said Bower, 17, of Egg Harbor Township. "I practiced hard all season for this moment."
Bower finished third in District 32 last season as a sophomore at Egg Harbor Township but tore his meniscus in the final weeks of the season and was knocked out of regions in the prelims.
"Last year, I didn't really get a chance to make it to the next round," Bower said. "This year I know I'm going to wrestle hard in front of my family and friends and everybody."
Bower enters regions with a 20-1 record. He won a 7-0 decision against Cedar Creek's Eric Hanusewicz in the 138-pound District 32 final.
All three wrestlers agreed that sitting the 30 days was the toughest part of the transition.
"I was super anxious," said Bower, who would have missed part of the season as it was with the injury. "I was pretty much just sitting around waiting and watching my teammates wrestle."
Bower is seeded third and will wrestle sixth-seeded Rian Lamanteer of Delsea Regional in the quarterfinals.
LaFragola was one season away from being teammates with Bower.
The St. Joseph sophomore 170-pounder left Holy Spirit for St. Joseph during football season this year.
LaFragola, 15, of Little Egg Harbor Township, enters regions riding a 17-match winning streak.
"It was really tough," LaFragola said. "You're watching your weight class and you know you can beat these kids and help your team but you can't."
LaFragola took third in District 32 for the Spartans last season as a freshman.He picked up his first district title with a 20-8 major decision against Highland Regional's Tom Nolan in District 30.
LaFragola wrestled for the first time this season on Jan. 14 and opened in style with a first-period pin against Palmyra.
The pin almost propelled his team to the win. The Wildcats, who went 5-26 this season, lost 37-36 on criteria.
"I definitely had the first match jitters before I stepped on the mat," LaFragola said. "I was just excited to get going and get on the mat. I couldn't wait."
LaFragola is seeded fourth at 170 and will wrestle fifth-seeded Cooper Gallagher of Ocean City in today's quarterfinals. LaFragola won a 6-5 decision against Gallagher on Feb. 16.
Bergamo, like LaFragola, came back with a fury, pinning his first opponent of the season in just 28 seconds on Jan. 17.
"I could tell I was a little rusty but it wasn't too bad because I was working and practicing the whole time," said Bergamo, 16, of Vineland.
Bergamo finished third in District 32 last season as a freshman at St. Augustine Prep. He won a 5-2 decision against Delsea Regional's Tom Carney on Saturday in the District 31 final.
"That was awesome," Bergamo said. "I loved it. It felt really good and I have more to come in the next couple years."
Bergamo is 15-2 this season, 10-0 against wrestlers in the Cape-Atlantic League.
The Vineland sophomore is seeded third at 113 pounds and will face sixth-seeded Carney again today in the rematch of the District 31 final.
Bergamo likes to push the pace during his matches and said his key is simple.
"I just have to stay aggressive," he said. "Stay on my toes, stay shooting and stay aggressive."
Today's winners advance to Saturday morning's semifinals. The losers on Friday can still wrestleback and finish as high as third. The top three wrestlers in all 14 weight classes advance to next week's state tournament.
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