This area has seen a number of great wrestlers come and go during the past 60-plus years.
State champions, high school All-Americans and even a handful of NCAA All-Americans have donned singlets of area high schools.
But Penn State senior and Barnegat Township native Frank Molinaro started his own list Saturday night in front of roughly 20,000 fans at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
The Southern Regional High School alumnus and three-time New Jersey state champ became the first wrestler to graduate from an area high school and win an NCAA Division I title.
Molinaro won a 4-1 decision against Minnesota's Dylan Ness in a rematch of the Big Ten finals, also won by Molinaro. Saturday's win was Molinaro's fourth against Ness this season.
Franklin Gomez, who wrestled for one season at St. Augustine Prep before transferring out of the state, won a national title for Michigan State in 2009 and is the only other NCAA champ to have competed for an area school.
"It hasn't really set in yet," Molinaro said by phone following the championships, which were televised live on ESPN2. "I worked so hard for this.
"This year I put my heart and soul into this every single day in practice. I just wanted it so bad."
Molinaro finished the season with a 33-0 record and became the Nittany Lions' fifth four-time All-American.
Molinaro wrestled in the finals with a large brace on his right knee after he said his knee "popped out." He said the knee popped out again during the final.
"I don't care what's wrong with it right know," he said with a laugh. "I'm just happy that I gutted it out and got it done."
Molinaro spoke throughout the season of putting too much pressure on himself and said stress was one of his biggest opponents.
"It was a super-stressful and super-fun season," Molinaro said. "I'm just so proud to be a part of this.
"I'm proud to be the first national champ from the Jersey shore. You can't beat that. …I love it. I'm bringing it back to Jersey."
The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, won their second straight team title.
Two of Molinaro's teammates, David Taylor and Ed Ruth, also wrapped up unbeaten seasons with individual titles. Two underdogs added runner-up finishes for the Nittany Lions, who totaled 143 points for a 25-point cushion over Minnesota.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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