Hermits win 5th title in 6 years

St. Augustine Prep celebrates with the South Jersey Non-Public A championship trophy

BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — St. Augustine Prep’s wrestling team cruised to its fifth sectional championship in the last six seasons Friday.

Connor Kraus’ and Ryan Taylor’s quick pins paved the way for a 47-18 victory over St. John Vianney in the South Jersey Non-Public A final.

A much more daunting challenge awaits the Hermits, however. The Hermits (16-4) advanced to Sunday’s state championship match against Bergen Catholic at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena at Toms River North at 9 a.m.

Bergen Catholic (16-2), which beat Delbarton 48-17 on Friday, is widely considered the top team in New Jersey regardless of classification.

The Crusaders, who seek their eighth straight Non-Public A title, have not lost to a team that competes in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association since 2012 (South Plainfield), according to NJ.com.

“It always feels good to get back to the state final,” Hermits coach Bill Ward said. “But it’s kind of anti-climactic. I wish we were wrestling (Bergen Catholic) at full strength, but we’re pretty banged up with injuries right now. There are still going to be some tough matches, and hopefully we can pull it out.”

Kraus (25-5) gave the Hermits some quick momentum against St. John Vianney in the first bout of the meet, which began at 152 pounds.

The match barely had started before the referee was slapping his hand on the mat to signal a pin. Kraus won in 26 seconds to draw cheers from his teammates and fans.

“This was the first time I’ve been the first match this year, so I was pretty psyched,” Kraus said. “You always want to be the one to set the tone. It’s a big thing on our team.”

Taylor, a freshman, delivered an even quicker victory under pressure.

St. John Vianney decided to forfeit at 113 pounds to have one of its wrestlers take on Taylor at 120. Taylor foiled the strategy with a 21-second pin.

“This was just my third varsity match because I usually wrestle (junior varsity),” Taylor said. “I just wanted to go out and try to get a win, so it was nice to get the pin, too.”

St. Augustine won six of the nine contested matches against St. John Vianney (9-4).

Junior Joe Colon earned the most exciting victory at 182, rallying from a 4-3 deficit to earn a 7-5 decision over Blake Clayton in overtime.

“I gave up a takedown in the second period and the same thing happened to me in my previous match,” Colon said. “I got beat last time, but this time I just got back on the horse and kept working. I had a better mentality tonight. I was more aggressive.”

The Hermits are going to bring that same mentality onto the mat against Bergen Catholic.

At their best, they are capable of beating anyone. They proved it at the Virginia Duels earlier this season with a victory over Liberty, which was the top-ranked team in Pennsylvania at the time.

“We’re feeling confident,” Kraus said. “ We know we can hang with (Bergen Catholic) because we’ve done it before against a top team. We’ve got no reason to be intimidated by them or anything.”

106 — Nicholas Diaz SJV d Ryan Defoney 2—1; 113 — D’Amani Almodova forfeit; 120 — Ryan Taylor SA p Nick Cammarano :21; 126 — Trey McLeer SA md Joseph Butler 15—2; 132 — Seth Dotondella SJV d Gianni DAnze 4—3; 138 — Gabe Jones SJV forfeit; 145 — Brett Bodner SA md Isaac Holt 10—1; 152 — Connor Kraus SA p Isaac Montalvo :26; 160 — Sal Manera SA forfeit; 170 — Anthony Bevilaqua SA p David O’Keefe :56; 182 — Joe Colon SA d Blake Clayton 7—5 (OT); 195 — Mike Misita SA forfeit; 220 — Double forfeit; 285 — Paul Liseno SJV p Brandon Jones 1:04.

Records: St. John Vianney 9—4; St. Augustine 16—4.

Match started at 152 pounds.

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Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com Twitter @PressACWeinberg

Sportswriter/columnist

Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 25th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

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