Jake Maxwell had himself some pizza and chicken wings just days after the state individual wrestling tournament.
He no longer has to manage his weight, at least for a while.
The Buena Regional High School senior weighed anywhere from 160 to 170 pounds this winter, allowing him to wrestle in three weight classes. His unselfishness put him and his team in the best possible scenarios to be successful.
For that, Maxwell is The Press Wrestler of the Year.
“I knew it was my last high school ride, so I wanted to make sure I had no regrets,” Maxwell, 18, of Estell Manor said. “Dieting and working out was a really big part of it, and I made sure I did all the little things right. I feel like I earned some ice cream.”
Buena coach George Maxwell, Jake’s father, is proud of what his son accomplished throughout his high school career.
Jake Maxwell had a breakout season as a sophomore, placing sixth in the states at 152. He overcame a disappointing end to a junior season in which he finished fourth at 170 at the Region 8 tournament.
He called the 2016-17 season “a comeback story.” He went 42-4 and got back on the podium — a top-eight finish — at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Maxwell finished his career with a 130-25 record, two district championships, a region championship and two podium finishes at states. His 130 wins are third most in Buena history
“Along the way, he’s beaten some kids better than him, which is a tribute to him,” George Maxwell said. “We pride ourselves in being tough at Buena and finding a way to win. I thought he did a good job of carrying that out.”
Jake Maxwell wrestled mostly at 170 and 182, and his versatility helped the Chiefs be strong at the middle to upper weights. The Chiefs went 19-9, won their fifth straight Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title and reached the S.J. Group I tournament semifinals.
“Part of the strategy was to get him on the best guy and get the win,” George Maxwell said. “That can really swap a lot of points.”
For Jake, the win that stood out the most was in a consolation bracket at states.
He took Hasbrouk Heights’ Matthew Dallura to three overtimes and won a 2-1 ultimate tiebreaker. It guaranteed him a spot on the podium.
“I had to dig real deep,” Maxwell said. “It’s probably the deepest I had to dig to win a match. I wanted it a lot. I wanted to get back to the podium.”
Coach and Team of the Year
When Michael Caiazza took over the Egg Harbor Township wrestling team for the 1986-87 season, winning wasn’t the immediate focus.
It was building a program.
Thirty seasons and more than 350 wins later, Caiazza is retiring from coaching. He leaves a team that went 20-3, won the Cape-Atlantic League American title, the school’s first District 30 title and was runner-up in the S.J. Group V tournament.
Caiazza is The Press Wrestling Coach of the Year, and the Eagles are the Team of the Year.
“Just to watch this team come together and do the things they had done was really nice,” Caiazza said.
EHT finished fifth in The Press Elite 11, one spot ahead of St. Augustine Prep.
They faced each other Feb. 1 to decide the CAL American title, and EHT won 31-29. St. Augustine had won 50 consecutive matches against CAL opponents.
“The Prep was the team ranked above us and all that stuff, and for us to (win) that night in a real tight close match was the highlight,” Caiazza said. “It came down to 14 kids, not just one.”
Ten EHT wrestlers, including five district champions, competed in his final Region 8 tournament. Three — seniors Terrell Coleman, Connor Agostino and Paul Valian — advanced to the state tournament.
Fellow seniors Hunter Thomas, Louis Vanacore, Joey Brito, Cody Dix, Mark Woods, Dan Wollermann and Eugene Wayns also helped make this season special for Caiazza. He was happy to see juniors Jason Kaenzig, Christian Smith, Matthew Moreno and sophomore Nicholas Leone develop and contribute as well.
“It was amazing to ride off into the sunset with that group of kids,” Caiazza said.