Billy Ward, Buena Regional

Buena Regional junior 120-pounder Billy Ward saw his quest for a state title end with a 10-0 major decision loss to North Bergen's Anthony Giraldo in the quarterfinals.

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Giraldo, who also defeated Ward earlier this season, took control in the second period with a takedown and two-point near fall to go ahead 6-0. He added a reversal and near-fall in the final period to clinch the win.

Ward was eliminated from the tournament later Saturday with a 2-0 loss to Eastern Regional's Collin Mitchell in wrestlebacks.


Joe Esposito,

St. Augustine Prep

St. Augustine Prep senior Esposito dropped into the wrestlebacks with a 3-2 loss to Rutherford's John Boyle in the quarterfinals.

Boyle scored the decisive points on a takedown in the first period and eventually built a 3-1 lead after two periods. Esposito escaped in the third to close within a point, but ran out of time.

Esposito rallied in the wrestlebacks with a 9-4 decision over Nick Matthews of West Morris. The win was Esposito's 133rd, tying the school record held by A.J. Fischer.

But Esposito suffered a 4-2 loss in overtime to Delbarton's Jorge Lopez later Saturday. Lopez earned the win with a takedown 20 seconds into the one-minute sudden victory period. Esposito will wrestle for seventh place today.


Antonio Mancella, Oakcrest

Mancella, a senior, advanced to the second round of wrestlebacks with a 4-3 decision over Franklin's Cory Goshkagarian. Mancella fell behind 3-0 before pulling out the win with a takedown and two-point near fall in the third period.

He was later eliminated with a 6-3 loss to Brearley's Nick Lospinoso.


Steve Johns,

Southern Regional

Johns stormed into the second round of wrestlebacks with a technical fall over Jamie Calhoun of Paul VI. Johns grabbed a 15-0 lead in just 3 minutes, 3 seconds. But Johns was eliminated in the next round with a 5-2 loss to Dan Ressler of Pascack Valley.


Phil Bakuckas,


Bakuckas, a senior, became the first local wrestler to reach the semifinals with an impressive 9-2 decision over top-seeded Vinny Favia of Christian Brothers Academy.

Bakuckas trailed 2-1 after the first period but rallied with an escape and takedown to carry a 4-2 lead into the final period. He brought the crowd to its feet in the third, scoring a takedown and putting Fava on his back for a three-point near-fall with 30 seconds left.

He then became the first wrestler in school history to reach the state finals with a 5-2 decision over Haddonfield's Robert Schlitt in the semifinals.

Bakuckas broke a 2-2 tie with an escape early in the third period and then registered a takedown with 55 seconds left in regulation to clinch the win.

Bakuckas (41-0), who holds the school record with 131 victories, will face Bergen Catholic sophomore Johnny Sebastian (39-2) in the final.


Alex Gong, Absegami

Absegami senior 170-pounder Alex Gong was eliminated with a 3-2 loss to Jeff Farina of St. Joseph's-Montvale in the first round of wrestlebacks.


David Williams,


Williams, a junior, was eliminated with a 9-5 loss to Lukas Iorio of Bergen Catholic in the first round of wrestlebacks.


Lex Knapp,

Lacey Township

The senior advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling 5-3 decision over Armond Cox of St. Peter's Prep. With the match tied a 3-3, Knapp recorded a takedown at the buzzer to clinch the win.Knapp then advanced to the finals with a 2-1 overtime decision over St. Joseph's of Hammonton junior Roy Lucas. Knapp took 1-0 with a second-period escape, but then Lucas tied it with an escape early in the third. Knapp escaped 10 seconds into the first overtime to win.

Knapp (42-0) will take on Phillipsburg senior Brandon Hull (37-3) in the final.

Roy Lucas, St. Joseph

The senior earned a meeting against Knapp in the semifinals after notching a 9-3 decision over Andrew Jacobs, of Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Lucas took quick command of the match, registering a takedown and two-point near-fall in the first period to take a 4-0 lead.

After losing to Knapp in the semifinals, Lucas rebounded with a 3-1 decision over Don Bosco Prep's Zack Chakonis in the consolations to earn his 100th career victory. Lucas clinched the win on a takedown with 25 seconds left in regulation.

David Weinberg

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