Only 14 of the state's 336 best high school wrestlers taking over Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this weekend will leave Sunday as champions.
Here's a look at the top seed (top bracket listed first, bottom second), returning state placewinners (with place and weight listed in parenthesis), a few of the favorites and wrestlers to watch:
Top seeds: Michael Russo, Jackson Liberty (35-0); Yasel Corporan, Perth Amboy (34-2)
Outlook: Not often that an unbeaten No. 1 overall seed is not the favorite to win the title, but that's the case at 106, the only weight in the tournament without a single returning placewinner. Most think the tournament will go through a pair of freshmen phenoms. Bergen Catholic ninth grader Nick Suriano burst onto the scene by winning the prestigious Beast of the East tournament and is No. 1 in the country, according to InterMat. Suriano is seeded second in the top bracket with Holy Spirit sophomore Pat D'Arcy.
Returning placewinners: None.
Top seeds: Luis Gonzalez, Don Bosco Prep (32-2); Bryan Damon, Jefferson Township (37-2)
Outlook: Gonzalez is a junior and already had two top-four finishes in the state tournament. Gonzalez was a runner-up his freshman season as 103 (now 106) and finished fourth last year at 113. He is ranked 13th in the country.
Returning placewinners: Bottom bracket No. 2 seed Kevin Corrigan of Toms River South finished fifth in the state last season and could make a run. A.J. Vindici, Randolph (seventh at 106), Tyler McBride, Camden Catholic (eighth at 106), Gonzalez (second at 103 in 2010, fourth at 113 last season), Corrigan (fifth at 113).
Top seeds: Brenden Calas, Seton Hall (25-2); Craig De La Cruz, Bound Brook (33-2)
Outlook: Two-time state champion Calas faces one of the tougher weights in the tournament with seven returning placewinners and four multiple placewinners. De La Cruz appears to be Calas' top challenger. He finished fourth in the state last season as a freshman at 106. St. Augustine Prep senior Tom Gattinella is making his third trip to states. Gattinella is the No. 5 seed in the bottom bracket and would face De La Cruz in the quarterfinals.
Returning placewinners: De La Cruz (fourth at 106), Joe Ghione, Brick Memorial (sixth at 103 in 2011, sixth at 106 last season), Calas (first at 103 in 2011, first at 113 last season), Christian Innarella, Delbarton (sixth at 113), Ryan Pomrinca, North Hunterdon (seventh at 113), Marc Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights (eighth at 113), Robert Trombetta, Nutley (seventh at 112 in 2011, sixth at 120 last season).
Top seeds: David McFadden, DePaul Catholic (37-1); Mike Magaldo, Watchung Hills (34-2).
Outlook: Four nationally ranked wrestlers lead a loaded weight class. McFadden is 15th in the country, Magaldo is ninth, North Bergen's Anthony Giraldo 11th and South Plainfield's Corey Stasenko 13th. Stasenko, who will wrestle at Rutgers next season, finished sixth in the state all the way up 145 pounds last season. Buena Regional's Billy Ward, a four-time district 32 and Region 8 champ, is seeded second in the bottom bracket.
Returning placewinners: McFadden (second at 113), Magaldo (second at 112 in 2011, first at 120 last season), Giraldo (fourth at 112 in 2011, fifth at 120 last season), Mike Pongracz, Delaware Valley (seventh at 119 in 2011, fifth at 126 last season), Stasenko (sixth at 145 last season), Ward (third at 119 in 2011).
Top seeds: Scott DelVecchio, South Plainfield (40-0); Jason Estevez, Livingston (36-0)
Outlook: Each bracket has an unbeaten, nationally ranked wrestler as a No. 1 seed. DelVecchio, who will wrestle at N.C. State last season, is eighth in the country and the incumbent state champion. Estevez of Livingston finished third in the state at 132 last season and is ranked 18th in the country. Ocean Township sophomore standout Zach Hertling finished third in the state at 120 last season.
Returning placewinners: Hertling (third at 120), Nick Anderson, Delbarton (seventh at 126), DelVecchio (first at 132), Estevez (third at 132).
Top seeds: Anthony Ashnault, South Plainfield ( 36-0); Brandon Keller, Timber Creek (26-1)
Outlook: One of the weekend's biggest stories is South Plainfield senior Ashnault, who enters the tournament with a 166-0 career record looking to become the state's first unbeaten four-time state champion. Ashnault, ranked second in the country, will wrestle at Rutgers next season. Keller is also a three-time state placer already and would love nothing more than to ruin Ashnault's run at history. Keller was a runner-up at 132 last season.
Returning placewinners: Ashnault (first at 103 in 2010, first at 112 in 2011, first at 126 last season), Gary Dinmore, Hunterdon Central (second at 126), Brian Hamann, Jackson Memorial (fourth at 103 in 2010 and at 126 last season), Keller (seventh at 112 in 2010, fifth at 125 in 2011, second at 132 last season), Richard Lewis, Toms River East (eighth at 119 in 2010, fifth at 132 last season).
Top seeds: B.J. Clagon, Toms River South (40-0), Troy Heilmann, South Plainfield (39-1)
Outlook: Defending state champ (at 138) Clagon is the favorite, but the road won't be easy. Clagon, who will wrestle at Rider and is ranked third in the country, is a three-time placewinner. Heilmann is a two-time state runner-up looking for his first state title. Heilmann is ranked 10th in the country. Virginia-bound T.J. Miller of Camden Catholic won the state title at 135 in 2011 and has three top-three finishes in the state tournament.
Returning placewinners: Heilmann (sixth at 112 in 2010, second at 119 in 2011, second at 120 last season), Maaziah Bethea, Trenton Central (seventh at 132), Clagon (seventh at 125 in 2010, second at 119 in 2011, first at 138 last season), Miller (third at 125 in 2010, first at 135 in 2011, third at 145 last season), John Vanbrill, Clearview Regional (fifth at 112 in 2011).
Top seeds: Nick Gravina, Northern Highlands (35-1); Chad Walsh, Camden Catholic (37-1)
Outlook: Gravina is a two-time state placewinner who will wrestle at Rutgers next season and is ranked 16th in the country. Walsh is a three-time state placer with two top-five finishes. Walsh is ranked 13th in the country. Northern Burlington's Wayne Stinson is ranked 17th in the country and committed to wrestle at Rider next season.
Returning placewinners: Chad Walsh, Camden Catholic (eighth at 103 in 2010, fifth at 119 in 2011, fifth at 138 last season), Gravina (fifth at 103 in 2010, fourth at 145 last season), John Hennelly, Delsea Regional (seventh at 103 in 2011)
Top seeds: Jonathan Schleifer, East Brunswick (37-1); Dillon Artigliere, Roxbury (39-0)
Outlook: Region 5 champ Schleifer is a two-time state placewinner and ranked sixth in the country. Schleifer finished third in the state at 152 last season. Artigliere is the only unbeaten wrestler in the bracket and finished fifth in the state at 152 last year. Cesar Balmaceda is the first Atlantic City wrestler since the 1970s to wrestle in the state tournament.
Returning placewinners: Schleifer (eighth at 145 in 2011, third at 152 last season), Artigliere (fifth at 152), John Balboni, Brearley (eighth at 160)
Top seeds: Jadaen Bernstein, Voorhees (39-0); Ethan Ramos, Hawthorne (36-0)
Outlook: Bernstein is a two-time state placewinner. Bernstein finished second in the state at 160 in 2011 before taking seventh at 160 last year. Bernstein, ranked 20th in the country, will wrestle at the Naval Academy next season. Ramos is 12th in the country and headed to the University of North Carolina to wrestle. Bernstein, Ramos and Delsea Regional's Dylan Dobzanski all bring unbeaten records into the tournament.
Returning placewinners: Bernstein (second at 160 in 2011, seventh at 160 last season), Ramos (fourth at 170), Nick Farinaro, Don Bosco Prep (seventh at 170)
Top seeds: Johnny Sebastian, Bergen Catholic (36-1); Nicholas Zak, Jackson Liberty (35-0)
Outlook: The two top seeds are the only returning placewinners in the weight class and most think the title is Sebastian's to lose. Sebastian finished fifth in the state his freshman season at 152 and won the state title last season at 160, and is ranked seventh in the country. Hammonton two-time Region 8 champ David Williams is seeded fourth in the bottom bracket and brings a 38-0 record into the tournament.
Returning placewinners: Sebastian (fifth at 152 in 2011, first at 160 last season.
Top seeds: Razohnn Gross, Don Bosco Prep (25-2); Rory Bonner, West Deptford (32-0)
Outlook: Gross is the defending state champion in the weight class. Gross, ranked 19th in the country, is heading to Rutgers to play football next season. Region 8 champ Bonner is unbeaten. He finished fifth at 182 last season. Millville's Ed Shockley is seeded fifth and would face Region 6 champ Mike Oxley of CBA in the prequarters with a win in tonight's prelims.
Returning placewinners: Bonner (fifth at 182), Gross (first at 195), Dominic Carfagno, St. Joseph-Montvale (sixth at 195), Matt Moore, Brick Memorial (seventh at 195)
Top seeds: Bryan Dobzanski, Delsea Regional (38-0); Zack Chakonis, Don Bosco Prep (34-1)
Outlook: Dobzanski and his cousin, Dylan Dobzanski (170 pounds), are a combined 75-0 this season. Bryan Dobzanski finished third in the state at 195 last season. Chakonis finished fifth in the state at 220 last season as a freshman.
Returning placewinners: Dobzanski (third at 195), Mauro Correnti, Holy Cross (fifth at 220), Chakonis (sixth at 220)
Top seeds: Roy Lucas, St. Joseph (37-0); Alex Thompson, Haddon Heights (34-0)
Outlook: Lucas is ranked 13th in the country at 220 pounds but decided to remain at heavyweight for the state tournament and is the only area wrestler to earn a No. 1 seed. The top six finishers at heavyweight last season were all seniors. Seventh-place finisher Anthony Tufaro of Scotch Plains-Fanwood and eighth-place finished John Appice of Manalapan each return.
Returning placewinners: Lucas (third at 220), Appice (seventh at 285), Tufaro (eighth at 285)
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