Tim Fitzpatrick came back from a trip last weekend of unofficial visits to NCAA Division I wrestling programs.

The Holy Spirit High School senior had wanted to build his resume on the mat this season before weighing his collegiate options.

It’s safe to say he a did a pretty good job.

Fitzpatrick went 39-5 this season, finishing fourth at 160 pounds at the state individual wrestling tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He won District 29 and Region 8, led the Spartans to their third straight sectional title and was as consistent as any local wrestler.

Fitzpatrick, with a career 120-25 record, is The Press Wrestler of the Year.

“I planned on winning every tournament I entered,” said Fitzpatrick, 18, of Somers Point.

That plan didn’t exactly go as hoped every time, but Fitzpatrick bounced back from each setback.

It started Dec. 17 when he competed at the Beast of the East Tournament at the University of Delaware. Fitzpatrick ran into Shane Griffith, of Bergen Catholic, on his way to becoming a three-time state champion, twice at that tournament, dropping both bouts on his way to a fourth-place finish.

From that moment, Fitzpatrick was dominant, losing just one other match before reaching the state tournament. Only four of his victories between The Beast and the state tournament ended in decision.

“I’d rather be taking down people. I love scoring points,” he said.

That love for scoring aided Holy Spirit win the South Jersey Non-Public B championship again. Some of the greatest wrestlers in program history never got to celebrate sectional championships, so Fitzpatrick was especially proud to be a part of those team successes.

“I’ve really been lucky,” Holy Spirit coach Ralph Paolone said of working with Fitzpatrick for four years. “I’ve had some great kids who had the talent and were willing to work really hard to develop that talent. It’s fun to see how those kids developed mentally. Fitzy did a good job at that.”

That attitude of bettering himself started during his sophomore year. Wrestling at 113 pounds, Fitzpatrick was hospitalized for a few weeks because his heart rate was low due to his weight.

He put on more than 30 pounds to get healthy and was wrestling at 145 by the end of the season. After realizing his potential and what he needed to do to wrestle at that weight, he began a strict lifting regimen that kept him at that weight while making himself stronger.

Working with assistant coach Mac Mancuso, a former state champion and 2009 graduate, and 2015 state champion Patrick D’Arcy at Elite Wrestling in Toms River showed Fitzpatrick what the winning attitude should be like.

He carried that into fantastic junior and senior seasons that landed him on the podium (seventh in 2017 and fourth in 2018) at Boardwalk Hall.

He expected to win a state title this month. When he lost in the quarterfinals, he reconfigured his goals.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said of losing his third-place bout. “God had a reason for that match, and I’ll see what that reason was soon.”

Team of the Year

Southern Regional won its 11th sectional title since 2005, beating Kingsway Regional 33-29 in a challenging South Jersey Group V bracket.

The Rams also sent eight wrestlers to the state individual wrestling tournament in Atlantic City with three Region 8 winners. Southern, ranked No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, is the Team of the Year.

John Stout (170 pounds), Matthew Barnett (132) and Nicholas O’Connell (152) won Region 8 titles for the Rams. Barnett, Nicholas Pepe (145) and Stout added District 29 championships as well.

Owen Kreschmer (120), Sebastian Delliatti (126), Robert Woodcock (138), Dan Gorman (160) and Matt Mackanic (220) were the other state qualifiers.

Though Southern loses key seniors Kreschmer, Mackanic, Gorman and Barnett, it will return a strong senior and junior class next season led by Stout, O’Connell, Woodcock and Delligatti.

Coach of the Year

In Matt Wolf’s 10 years at Middle Township, he never had a team like the one he guided this winter.

The Panthers, who set a program record with 18 wins. They sent seven wrestlers to the Region 8 tournament, by far the most in program history, and had three District 30 winners. Three Panthers surpassed 35 wins, one — Gary Nagle — advanced to the state tournament.

Wolf is The Press Coach of the Year.

“I’m really proud of them,” Wolf said. “I didn’t do anything drastically different (than year’s past). We tried to improve every day. I asked the kids to do this. It’s the kids who came through that were the difference.”

His goal has always been to influence his kids in a positive way like any other coach. It showed this season when seniors Nagle (160) and Austin Cominsky (195) and junior Romeo Rodriguez (126) emerged as some of the best wreslters at their weight classes in the Cape-Atlantic League. The most rewarding aspect of seeing that, Wolf said, is knowing his kids listened and executed.

“I say to the kids, I don’t care if it’s wrestling or school. Just work hard,” he said. “Working hard and it’ll pay off. It’s extremely rewarding to see them listen.”

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Contact: 609-272-7210 JRusso@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_Russo

I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July of 2013

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