FLEMINGTON – Hello, New Jersey. Hunter Mays has arrived.
Howell’s junior is still largely unknown in Garden State, but that will change after his performance Sunday afternoon at the NJSIAA Central Super Region tournament.
Mays, who transferred to Howell after two years of wrestling in Pennsylvania, dominated his path to the 160-pound title and finished his regional championship with a major 14-3 decision over Colton Washleski of Hunterdon Central in the championship fight . Washleski was sixth at the NJSIAA Championships at 145 pounds last season.
Mays beat Washleski early in the first period, then set up his own tilt clinic, spinning his opponent three times for a total of nine near drop points. He was leading 11-0 after the first period, added an out in the second and left the mat with a major decision that rocked everyone inside Hunterdon Central Field House.
“It’s all business,” said Howell head coach John Gagliano. “He always works hard and tries to outdo everyone in the wrestling hall and he keeps the same intensity in games.”
Mays is undefeated this season at 12-0 with six pins, five technical drops and a major decision. He was only knocked out once, which came near the end of his win over Washleski. It sets an unrelenting rhythm, seamlessly switches between movements, and accesses its range of inclines at will.
“I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid since I was eight,” Mays said. “It’s like (three-time NCAA champion from Iowa) Spencer Lee. They know it is happening, the question is if they can stop it.
So far the answer has been no.
Mays moved to Howell after two years at Conwell-Egan High School in Bucks County. He was 41-2 last season, but those two losses came in the AA State tournament. He came in undefeated but had nothing to show in the end.
“I came in like a real top guy and didn’t have the best performance,” Mays said. “It was largely more mental than anything else. I now have a great support system at Howell and Triumph Wrestling Club and that has been the biggest difference.
Mays said his main training partners at Triumph are Rumson-Fair Haven 152-pound Max Brignola and Southern Regional 138-pound Eddie Hummel, both of whom won regional titles this weekend. Combine that with the Howell and Mays team of wrestlers and trainers, and Mays certainly has many high caliber drilling partners. He is also engaged with Rider University and trains regularly with some of the Broncos wrestlers.
“I train with the guys at Rider so a lot of that comes from that,” Mays said. “When you train with D-1 guys they’re going to be a lot more physical and wrestle at a harder pace than the high school guys.”
“He’s just on the move every time,” Gagliano said. “He’s so competitive and he wants to win everything. He is powerful in all three positions.
Next are the NJSIAA Championships on April 24-25 at Phillipsburg High School. A preliminary review of the contestants seems to indicate that Mays could be the No. 4 seed. He has established himself as a contender for the state title after his performance in the Super Central Region.
“I think I’m in a much better mental position (than last year),” Mays said. “This is the first time that I really believe myself, the first season where I really believe in myself and that I’m ready to do. I attribute a lot of this to Howell and Triumph.
“We know his capabilities,” Gagliano said. “The sky is the limit for him.”
After going winless in his last state tournament appearance in Pennsylvania, Mays predicts a very different performance on his Jersey debut.
“I think it’s time to redeem myself,” Mays said. “I have worked over a year for this and I think I deserve it.”
A conquest of Caseys
Red Bank Catholic School sophomore Sabino Portella on Sunday continued to change the record books for the Caseys wrestling program. In the 170-pound final, Portella scored with 10 seconds left in the third period to defeat Shay Addison of Rumson-Fair Haven, 3-1, in a clash between the area champions return.
“I knew he was really great deep down and I wasn’t going to be able to ride him so I waited as long as I could to shoot,” said Portella. “He’s really good at scrambling so I knew I had a hit and if I didn’t get it he was going to score on me.”
Portella shot a double leg, squeezed Addison’s legs together and secured the winning points as seconds ticked down on the third period clock. With this victory, he became the second two-time regional champion in RBC history, joining Tom Seitz (1973 and 1974). He also avenged a loss to Addison (8-7) in the Christmas Holmdel tournament last season.
“It’s great to be a part of (RBC’s story),” Portella said. “We are building and we are getting there. We have four guys in the regions and we haven’t had this in a while. Ultimately, RBC is going to be known as a wrestling school, that’s what the goal is.
Last season, Portella reached the wrestlers’ fourth round at the NJSIAA Championships, a victory before a state medal. Now he knows what it takes to break through that barrier.
“I went there for the first game, the nerves for the first year, and I lost, I came back and I won a few, but you take things for granted,” said Portella. . “You learn more when you lose, and it made me hungrier to come back this year and get on the podium.”
Two more for Rumson
After spending the first 41 years of the program without a regional champion, then 11 years between regional champions, Rumson-Fair Haven has opened the floodgates with seven regional champions over the past seven years. On Sunday, the Bulldogs crowned two regional champions for the second straight season.
At 152 pounds, senior Max Brignola controlled Shore senior Mike McGhee and came away with a 5-0 decision to win his first regional title. Brignola suffered one out in the first period and another in the third and kept McGhee at bay the entire fight.
“It means a lot, I really wanted to win a regional title,” said Brignola. “But states are my biggest goal. It’s all about states now. No matter what happened here, any seed can upset any seed in the States.
Senior Jack Kelly also won his first regional title and did so in a dominant fashion. Kelly won by fall in just 44 seconds over Wall’s Brendan Newbury to win the 182-pound championship. He pinned his four opponents in the first period and his longest fight only lasted 1h10.
Kelly finished fifth at the NJSIAA Championships at 170 pounds last season.
“After my freshman year, when I didn’t get past Districts, it changed a switch in my head,” Kelly said. “I was tired of being happy that my friends were on the podium, tired of congratulating others. I was done with it. I wanted to be the one in the newspaper, the one everyone is talking about. This is where my mentality comes from.
The 182-pound favorite is High Point junior Brian Soldano, a Rutgers entry who is a returning state champion. Kelly knows that if he is going to win a state championship, he will have to go through it.
“I have a grudge match in mind, if you will,” Kelly said. “There are a lot of great wrestlers but I think of Soldano. He is the best dog and a wise man once said: “To be the best you have to beat the best”. I come for him but I do not let my guard down. Anything can happen at the State Tournament, as history has shown. I’m going to be ready and focused and raise my hand to the top step of the podium.
Striking their tickets
A pair of double-digit seeds put together some great tournament races to reach the state tournament. Howell sophomore DJ Henry was the 13th seed at 170 pounds but beat the No.4, No.5 and No.7 seeds en route to finish third (by forfeit. Matawan’s Adam Coleman did the same but as a 12 to 160-pound seed. Coleman beat the No. 5 seed in the first round and the No. 4 seed in the quarterfinals. He then pinned the No. 7 seed, Ocean’s Shane Cartagena-Walsh to clinch a spot for a state tournament and pinned CBA’s Zander Silva in the fight for third place.
152: 1-Max Brignola (Rumson-Fair Haven) d. 2-Mike McGhee (Rive), 5-0
160: 2-Hunter Mays (ocean) md. 1-Colton Washleski (Hunterdon Central), 14-3
170: 3-Sabino Portella (Catholic Red Bank) d. 1-Shay Addison (Rumson-Fair Haven), 3-1
182: 1-Jack Kelly (Rumson-Fair Haven) p. 6-Brendan Newbury (Wall), 0:44
152: 3-Tanner Peake (Hunterdon Central) d. 4-Paul Jakub (Howell), 3-1 in sudden victory
160: 12-Adam Coleman (Matawan) p. 9-Zander Silva (CBA), 2:22
170: 13-DJ Henry (Howell) by forfeit vs. 2-Norman Cella (Hunterdon Central)
182: 2-Josh Beigman (Hopewell Valley) p. 4-Jared Tracey (Ocean), 3:39
152: 5-Tyler Barrett (ABC) d. 7-Jack Bailey (Point Boro), 2-1 VG-2
160: 6-Jarazell Bull (New Brunswick) d. 7-Shane Cartagena-Walsh (ocean), 4-2 in overtime
170: 7-Mike Malucelli (Marlboro) md. 5-Chris Fanelli (Monroe), 11-1
182: 9-Brian Christian (St. Joseph-Metuchen) p. 3-Luc DuPont (Holmdel), 3:21