Cherokee (NJ) falls in quarterfinals

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By John A. Lewis Staff writer John A. Lews: 609-871-8141; email, jlewis@calkins.com; Twitter, @JohnLewis19. | Updated 16 hours ago

EVESHAM — It was in sight for just a second. The Cherokee wrestling team had a one-point lead with six bouts to go in Monday’s South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinal.

A moment later it was all but impossible.

Back-to-back pins at 195 pounds and 220 propelled Toms River North back into the lead, and the Mariners went on to take eight of 14 bouts on the way to a 35-27 victory over the host Chiefs.

Toms River North (15-8) will face Cherry Hill West, a 32-25 winner over Absegami, in Wednesday’s semifinal round.

The Chiefs (21-9) suffered a setback in the very first bout, when North’s Vinny Fichera decisioned Jimmy Goldschmidt, 7-3. There were three takedowns in the bout and Fichera had all of them on the way to ending Goldschmidt’s 13-bout win streak.

Ryan Clancy (132) added a pin and Ryan O’Donnell a major decision to give the Mariners a 13-0 lead.

Cherokee won four of the next five bouts, beginning with D.J. Mele’s second-period pin of Michael DeGennaro at 145 pounds. Josh Karichner (160) also pinned, and the Chiefs took the lead with close decisions by Jesse Streb, whose last-minute takedown earned a 9-7 verdict, and Jordan Krug, whose reversal in overtime clinched a 6-4 win.

Krug’s victory put the Chiefs in the lead, 18-17, but the pendulum swung again right at that point.

Toms River North’s Alex Scherer caught Chris Pardoe with a half-nelson in the next bout, and it was 23-18.

“The pressure wasn’t that bad,” Scherer said. “You just think about your team, and all the work you’ve put in together as a team. That’s kind of motivation for your match, and that gets you through it. I hit a roll through, cement mixer, gator roll — however you want to call it. I’ve stuck a couple kids with that.”

Toms River North’s Michael Siwiec followed with a pin at 220, when he caught Logan Watkins with a power half.

“That was big for us up top,” Toms River North coach Bill Wilbert said. “Those guys have been coming up big all year for us, and even our 220-pounder (Andres Espinoza) who goes up to heavyweight, he saves bonus points for us and does a great job.”

This was no exception. Cherokee heavyweight Chris Cole’s escape accounted for the only point in a 1-0 bout, but Walter Orellana countered for Toms River North with an 11-10 victory over Shawn Webb at 106.

The two exchanged five-point moves in the first period. Webb fought off his back in the second minute and headlocked Orellana to tie the score, but the Mariners’ wrestler managed to reverse him just as the clock expired.

A takedown with 39 seconds left gave Orellana an 11-9 lead. Webb escaped with 15 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get Orellana covered before the final buzzer.

“I give them credit,” Cherokee coach Mike Booth said. “They wrestle all six minutes, and they wrestle the line — that’s what you’re supposed to do. (As a coach), you go back and watch films, and make the kids watch their matches, and try to make them a little bit more aware of situations — how much time is left, what the score is, where you are on the mat. It’s something we’ve struggled with, and we need to get better at it.”

There was even more drama at 113. Toms River North’s Ricardo Diaz held a 4-1 lead with 3:13 left in his bout with Connor Cosgrove, but Cosgrove’s attempt at a throw and headlock left Diaz with a knee injury. He used all of his injury time at that point, then limped back to the line.

Cosgrove scored a takedown in the third period, but Diaz, in obvious pain, held on to the end to secure a 6-3 win — and the clinching points.

The Mariners forfeited the final bout to Cherokee’s Alex Baider.

“(Diaz’s win) was huge for us,” Wilbert said. “He went back out. He had to. We know they’re tough down low, at 120 and 126, so that was big for us. We stole one at 126, I thought, and we knew (after that) we could battle.”

And battle they did.

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