TOMS RIVER — Things started going wrong for the St. Augustine Prep wrestling team before the Hermits even showed up Sunday.

An already-daunting task of trying to upset one of the top teams in the country was made even more difficult as the flu knocked three starters out of the Prep’s lineup.

“It wasn’t a perfect situation,” St. Augustine coach Bill Ward said.

Bergen Catholic beat the Prep 65-11 to win its eighth straight state Non-Public A title at RWJBarnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River North High School.

“It’s always great wrestling here,” Prep senior Sal Manera said. “Bergen is always tough competition. We knew that coming into this match. Today. we didn’t have our full lineup, but we wrestled the best we could and just couldn’t beat them.”

The Hermits are more than familiar with the Crusaders. The Prep did not reach the state finals last year but did the previous four seasons and lost to Bergen Catholic each time. Bergen Catholic is the No. 4 team in the country, according to InterMat.

The Crusaders featured five nationally ranked wrestlers in Sunday’s lineup, led by Robert Howard (Penn State commit) and Jacob Cardenas (Cornell), the No. 1 wrestler in the country at 195 pounds.

Bergen Catholic reeled off eight straights wins to open the match. The Crusaders clinched the match when it led 42-0 with six bouts left as Nate Camiscoli upset Prep returning state qualifier Conner Kraus at 152.

“It wasn’t a great day for us,” Ward said. “We were behind the eight ball to begin with, so not having everyone in the lineup was tough. Plus, they are an awesome team.”

Manera put the Hermits on the board with a win at 160.

He used a late first-period takedown and nearfall to grab a 5-0 lead and then muscled John Fiore over for a pin 20 seconds into the second period.

Manera has won 15 straight matches, earning bonus points in all 15, including nine pins, during the stretch.

“I don’t care who is on the mat with me, I’m just going to do my moves and keep the pace going,” Manera said. “It was definitely an accomplishment getting here knowing that we can go through all those other teams, but Bergen Catholic is one of the top teams. I’m glad we got to wrestle them. I’m glad we got the chance.”

The Prep’s Joe Colon followed Manera and methodically worked his way to a 15-0 technical fall against Jack Patt.

“They are a tough team,” Colon said. “We knew coming in here that nobody expected us to win, so you just have to go out there and give them your all.

“You just have to go with that mentality that you’re going to give 100 percent no matter what.”

The Prep now shifts its focus to the individual state tournament, starting with districts this week.

“Now you’re just trying to fine-tune some stuff for districts next weekend and trying to get our heads right,” Colon said. “That’s the biggest part.”

Ward said he hopes to have Michael Albergo and brothers Alex and Nick Marshall back healthy this week. Wrestling tough matches like Sunday’s can only help in preparing the Hermits to make a run in the state tournament.

“I told them, ‘The season starts now,’” Ward said. “You can redeem yourselves from here on out and make it a whole new season.”

106 — Joseph Cangro BC p. Ryan Defoney 5:46; 113 — Nick Kayal BC md. D’Amani Almodovar 10-0; 120 — Dylan Cedeno BC tf. Trey McLeer 16-1 (5:02); 126 — Robert Howard BC tf. Gianni Danze 19-4 (4:26); 132 — Luke Digiovanni BC by forfeit; 138 — Richard Halal BC md. Jackson Putney 10-1; 145 — Wade Unger BC p. Brett Bodnar :52; 152 — Nate Camiscoli BC p. Conner Kraus 3:27; 160 — Sal Manera SA p. John Fiore 2:20; 170 — Joe Colon SA tf. Jack Patt 20-5 (5:15); 182 — Chris Foca tf. Mike Misita 16-0 (4:54); 195 — Jacob Cardenas BC by forfeit; 220 — Gabe Mendez BC by forfeit; 285 — John High BC p. Brandon Jones :56.

Match started at 106 pounds

Records — St. Augustine 16-4; Bergen Catholic 14-2.

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