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Wrestling: Holy Spirit finishes strong to cap off first sectional championship in school history

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher ABSECON — The Holy Spirit wrestling program has produced some outstanding individual talents throughout the years, including former state champions such as Mac Mancuso and Pat D’Arcy. The Spartans now finally have some team hardware to display in the school’s trophy case. Holy Spirit came into the Non-Public B South championship on Friday night as the top seed, but was in a dogfight to the final bout against second-seeded Holy Cross. It looked as though the Lancers would tie the match at 39 when Holy Cross’ Greg Long nearly pinned Spirit’s Ryan Keil, but the freshman rebounded and ended up pinning Long with less than seven seconds left in the second period to close out a 45-33 Spartans win and seal the deal on the team’s first sectional championship in school history. “That was a game-changer,” said Keil’s teammate, Reggie Jean-Charles. “If he would have gotten pinned, it would have come down to (criteria). But he gave it all he had. If it wasn’t for him, we could have lost.” “I couldn’t breathe. I was jumping up and down. It was great,” said 145-pounder Tim Fitzpatrick, who scored a pin in his bout. “He’s another freshman that came out, and he came through for us big time. That was huge.” Reggie Jean-Charles leaps for joy after teammate Ryan Keil scored a pin that sealed Holy Spirit's win over Holy Cross in the sectional championship match on Friday night in Absecon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Reggie Jean-Charles leaps for joy after teammate Ryan Keil scored a pin that sealed Holy Spirit’s win over Holy Cross in the sectional championship match on Friday night in Absecon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “A lot of heart. This is the first time he made 126. He cut the weight, he cut it right. We tried to get him down before the St. Joe match, but he couldn’t do it,” Spartans coach Ralph Paolone said of Keil. “He was out here last night working out with Mac. He had a lot of energy. He’s worked his butt off. All year long, as a freshman, just trying to get better, and he has.” Holy Spirit advances to the group championship round, scheduled for Sunday at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. Jean-Charles, a junior football player who has only been back with the wrestling team for the last month or so, also picked up a key win in the heavyweight division. He was giving up 84 pounds to Holy Cross’ Bobby Cristella, but with 36 seconds left in the bout, Jean-Charles hip-tossed Cristella, got him to his back and picked up the pin to give Holy Spirit a 32-21 lead. Spirit needed six points from that bout to have a chance to win the match. “He was big. We both gave it all we had and it came down to the end,” Jean-Charles said. “Reggie is probably 80 pounds less than that kid, so that was crazy. But he’s a great kid, he works so hard. He’s a football player and we got him out here wrestling, and he’s doing great things for us,” Fitzpatrick said. Paolone said it was a tough decision on who to send out to face Cristella, Jean-Charles or Dimitris Pali, who had wrestled most of the year at heavyweight. Paolone said he chose Jean-Charles because he felt Jean-Charles had a little better chance of scoring a pin against Cristella. “It was a struggle for me whether to send Demitri or Reggie out there. Demitri had wrestled phenomenally at heavyweight all season long. He’s a great kid. This is his first year wrestling,” Paolone said. “Reggie had wrestled as a freshman and then last year. He didn’t wrestle a lot this year because of football, but he came out about a month ago to help us out. So that was a real tough decision. We thought we needed six points there, and we thought Reggie probably, with his experience, had a better chance at getting six.” Spartans coach Ralph Paolone and his team celebrate the first sectional title in school history. Spartans coach Ralph Paolone and his team celebrate the first sectional title in school history. Spirit took an early 9-6 lead after Fitzpatrick’s pin at 145, and extended its lead to 15-6 on another pin, by Connor Boal. The Lancers answered with a pin by Avery DiNardi at 160 to cut the deficit to 15-12, then tied the bout at 15 when Cam Wasson outlasted Danny Ramirez 6-5 at 170 pounds. But Michael Waszen picked up a forfeit win at 182 for Holy Spirit, as did Justin Figueroa at 195. A quick pin at 220 pounds by Holy Cross’ Matt Correnti brought the Lancers within 27-21, setting up Jean-Charles’ momentum-changing victory at heavyweight. The victory sent a packed house into a frenzy, as Paolone said his entire team was urging fans to come out via social media. “We pushed for that. We had every kid trying to get their friends in here, we sent it out on Twitter, we sent it out on Facebook,” Paolone said. “The mother’s guild, the father’s club, the baseball team tweeted it out. Everybody was behind us, and it was fantastic.” “Spirit has been around for a long time, and it’s just now happening,” Jean-Charles said. “It feels great to be a part of this team. I’ve never experienced something like this. This is my first time winning a championship, but we have states on Sunday, so we’re not done yet. We can go farther.” “I never thought about it. A few years ago, we only had about six kids in the lineup. But now we have districts to look forward to, and Sunday to look forward to, which is awesome. We’re going up to Toms River, and it’s just unbelievable,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is crazy. It’s awesome. We’re a young team, but it’s so great. We’ve never won this is school history.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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