TOMS RIVER - The St. Augustine Prep wrestling team knew it had a tough task going up against Bergen Catholic, the top-rated high school wrestling program in New Jersey.
Bergen Catholic was just too much for the Prep, winning 52-9 Sunday evening in the state Non-Public B championship match at Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School.
St. Augustine (21-3), which is ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11, failed to earn its fourth state championship and first since 2003. It was the Hermits' first trip to the state finals since 2010.
"The season went great," coach Bill Ward said. "We lost to the number one team in the state who is ranked in the country."
Prep beat Christian Brothers Academy 37-25 Friday to advance to its first final in four years. Bergen Catholic is ranked No.1 in the state in the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association top 20 poll.
There were three mats lining the gym floor with three state championship meets going on at once. Though the Prep's match featured the quietest crowd of the three, it lasted the longest, a testament to how hard the Hermits fought the top program in the state.
"My guys fought," Ward said. "All these other matches are done and my guys went the whole distance. I asked them to be tough, and they were tough today. We didn't catch any breaks, and (Bergen) is a great team."
Ward said the Hermits had eight freshmen and sophomores in the lineup. "We've got a young team. We'll be back here," he added.
Facing competition like Bergen Catholic was an experience for the Hermits' younger wrestlers. Freshman Reid White won the only decision for Prep, beating Evan Quinn 8-0 at 106 pounds.
"I mean, it's great for me, but it's also great for the team," White said. "We understand that they're a really good team, and that's a lot of people placing in states and winning in states. Now we understand where we need to be and where we are in terms of teams like that."
The match started at 182 with senior James Bennett taking on Johnny Sebastian, who is one of the state's top wrestlers. Sebastian gave the Crusaders a 5-0 jump with a technical fall of 22-7 at 5 minutes, 22 seconds.
The Crusaders won the first four bouts and led 17-9 before White's victory at 106. St. Augustine's only other points came with senior Jack Clark's forfeit victory.
Clark said he was pleased with how hard the Hermits fought. St. Augustine took Bergen Catholic to the limit in nine of the 14 bouts.
"Top-10 team in the country, number one in the state - we fought hard, man," Clark said. "The other matches ended before us, and we weren't giving up bonus points. We fought every matchup, and I'm really proud of everyone."
Clark, a senior, will be one of a handful of Hermits focusing on the upcoming individual tournament.
"I'm going to work on all the little things: staying focused, stay in shape and just get ready for districts, regionals, and states," he said.
Contact John Russo:
106: Reid White SA md. Evan Quinn, 8-0. 113: Nick Suriano BC p. Colin Donahue 1:03. 120: Tyler Casamenti BC d. Dillan Taylor, 5-1. 126: Pete Lipari BC tf. Matt Dellinger, 16-1. 132: J.P. Ascolese BC d. Edward Donahue, 5-0. 138: Laurien Anghelina BC md. Branden Cirillo, 16-8. 145: Zach Spira BC d. Jarred Hodges, 7-2. 152: Dan Brennan BC p. Nick Clark 4:22. 160: Jack Clark SA won by forfeit. 170: Kevin Mulligan BC tf. Jose Tabora SA 20-4 5:37(52-9). *182: Johnny Sebastian BC tf. James Bennett 22-7 (5:22). 195: Danny DeLorenzi BC d. James Brady, 9-3. 220: Christian Jenco BC p. Ryan Lynd 1:42. 285: Connor O'Brien BC d. Thomas Lynd, 5-3.
*St. Aug. lost a team point during 132 bout
Match started at 182 pounds
Records: St. Augustine 21-3, B. Catholic 24-4