Wrestling: Hammonton upperweights not to be taken lightly
The "Hammonton Heavies" has potential.
"Blue Devil Bigs" could work.
While some schools struggle to fill out their lineups in the heavier weights, the Hammonton High School wrestling team seems to have an abundance of talented big men.
And the Blue Devils' upperweights are wrestling well enough to start warranting some nickname consideration.
Hammonton's upperweights will be on display tonight as the Blue Devils host Lower Cape May Regional in a Cape-Atlantic League Na-tional Conference showdown at 6 p.m.
"It's pretty special," junior Kellen Whitney said. "Not many people have that luxury in South Jersey."
Whitney starts the run at 160 pounds.
"You could say the key to our lineup is definitely the upperweights," Whitney said. "As long as the lowerweights hold on and do what they have to do we should be all right."
Hammonton graduated a talented senior class a season ago and a handful of injuries this season have thinned out the lowerweights even more.
A number of wrestlers have been forced to learn on the fly.
"Our big guys go out there with a purpose and more often than not they come out on top," Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello said. "That gives our team a chance to win."
Hammonton is 11-5 this season and 3-0 in the CAL National. If the Blue Devils beat Lower today, they will face Buena on Jan. 30 in a match that would decide the conference.
Whitney is 16-2 this season and is among the favorites in the District 30 and Region 8 tournaments.
David Williams is a two-time District 30 and defending Region 8 champ. Williams is 21-0 at 182 pounds and on a short list of wrestlers favored to win a state title this year.
Brandon Beebe follows Williams and is 18-3 at 195.
Two weights later at 285, Bobby Frederico has emerged as one of the area's top heavyweights with a 21-1 record.
"We knew we had a lot of graduating seniors going out and we knew we had to fill the shoes," Frederico said. "We knew we had a big step to take so we took it and we're doing our best."
Frederico, a first-team Press all-star in football in the fall, won his first 21 matches of the season before dropping a 6-2 decision to St. Augustine Prep's Tom Lynd on Saturday.
Whitney, Williams, Beebe and Frederico get most of the headlines but another trio of wrestlers has been key to the group as well.
Jack Hartman (8-11 between 160/170/182) and Jeff Picariello (3-6 between 170/182/195) have each wrestled in three different weight classes and give the team the flexibility to dictate matchups. Lenny Habinowski has four wins at 220.
Frederico and Whitney each said the real difference is made in the team's wrestling room.
Having talented wrestlers with different styles at similar weights only stands to benefit everyone involved.
"It's great," Frederico said. "I can get a workout with any kind of style. I wrestle around with every guy in the room.
"It's nice. I always had problems with trying to find good big guys so having them right there in the room is nice."
Whitney added, "They don't slack off. They know what it takes to accomplish their goals. They know how to push me and I know how to push them - it's kind of an equal thing."
And Mauriello gets to keep most of the group intact.
Only Williams and Hartman are seniors.
Whitney, Beebe, Picariello, Habinowski and Frederico all return for another season.
"Our upperweights are our strength," Mauriello said. "They're good kids. They are tough, hard working, strong kids and they bring a lot to the table as far as wrestling goes."
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