St. Joe's Lucas, Prep's Esposito earn medals

St Joseph High School junior Roy Lucas, top, wrestles West Orange’s Anthony Angelone during the 220-pound third-place match Sunday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Lucas won by a 9-5 decision.

ATLANTIC CITY - Hammonton High School's Phil Bakuckas and Lacey Township's Lex Knapp were the only area wrestlers to reach the finals of the individual state wrestling tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Sunday.

They were not, however, the only locals to leave with some hardware and a spot on the awards podium.

St. Joseph's Roy Lucas and St. Augustine Prep's Joe Esposito can also now say they are state placewinners.

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Lucas was the only local underclassman to place. The Wildcats' junior took third at 220 pounds with a 9-5 decision against West Orange's Anthony Angelone.

Esposito ended his high school career as a four-time state qualifier but he had never placed until Sunday. He finished seventh at 138 after winning by medical default against Region 5 champ Paul Kirchner of Somerville.

Lucas, the bottom bracket No. 1 seed at 220, was admittedly still hurting following a 2-1 overtime loss to Lacey Township's Lex Knapp in Saturday's semifinal, despite having picked up his 100th career win in the ensuing wrestleback.

"It's not first place," Lucas said Sunday. "I took third today. First was my goal and I didn't reach my goal, so I'm pretty frustrated."

Lucas wrestled well in the third/fourth-place match.

He had a takedown in each of the first two periods and put the match away with a near-fall in the third for decision.

"If I let (Saturday's loss) get to my mind, there was no way I was going to win this match," Lucas said. "Live and forget. There is no celebration right now. If I win next year there will be plenty of celebration."

Lucas will look to follow in the footsteps of the only other St. Joseph wrestler ever to place - Jack Corcoran, who placed in 2004 and was a champion in 2005.

Corcoran, who went on to play football at Rutgers University, wrestled in the third/fourth-place match as a junior before winning the state title his senior season.

St. Joseph first-year coach Joe Henshaw said he enjoyed the experience of coaching Sunday at states and said to look out for Lucas next season.

"As soon as we came into this tournament, I saw the best side of Roy," Henshaw said. "He was tilting guys, he was taking them down and he was setting up his shots. He was on fire and I said, 'Wow! He is going to go far,' and he did."

Esposito's consolation match was much easier than Lucas', but you wouldn't have known that by watching Esposito warm up.

Esposito woke up a little after 7 a.m. and headed to the Hall for weight check. He warmed up as he would for any other match.

"I didn't find out until I was about to walk out," Esposito said. "Then someone came up and told me I had a forfeit."

The win was the 134th of Esposito's career, breaking the previous school record of 133, set by 2009 graduate A.J. Fisher, the son of current Prep assistant coach Drew Fisher.

The younger Fisher, who wrestles at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., was in attendance Sunday.

"It's great," Esposito said. "It's something really special to be remembered for. It's a great accomplishment. I didn't finish as high on the podium as I wanted to so (the record) is kind of like a consolation prize."

Prep coach Joe Melchiore, who was a four-time NCAA All-American (he split his career at Iowa and Oklahoma), said Esposito having qualified for states four times was an impressive accomplishment.

"He has been consistent and consistency in this sport or in anything that you do is one of the most important things," Melchiore said.

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