Bergen Catholic wrestling stuns state No. 1 Delbarton on criteria, wins Non-Public A North
MORRISTOWN – Fourteen bouts were not enough to settle the score in the battle for No. 1 in the state.
Instead, the verdict came 10 minutes later after an agonizing review of tiebreakers. The decision: Bergen Catholic 24, Delbarton 23 in the undisputed Match of the Year.
The Crusaders took home the Non-Public A North title in unforgettable fashion on Friday – beating the defending champions on near fall points, with six. Bergen Catholic sent the match to criteria when AJ Fricchione beat Nick Olivieri, 11-5, in the final bout at 195 pounds.
Coaches and officials moved to another room to count up the points while a sold-out crowd stood in silence.
"It doesn't get better than that," Bergen Catholic coach Dave Bell said. "There were no losers tonight."
"I don't think you could find two teams that close competing that hard."
The high-powered showdown came almost two years to the day since their last meeting in the 2020 sectional semifinals. That was the night when Delbarton knocked Bergen Catholic from its perch after seven years as the No. 1 team in the state.
Bell said with so much roster turnover, the rematch was more about getting back on top than settling an old score.
"Being in the shadow for all that time was a motivation," Bell said. "The biggest thing was they believed they could do it. And they did it."
This time, second-seeded Bergen Catholic scripted a different ending by winning flip matches and saving bonus points against top-ranked Delbarton.
The Crusaders opened up an 11-point lead after three bouts, but the Green Wave ripped off five straight wins from 145 on to put the pressure on Fricchione.
"It was really loud. I couldn't hear much with the headgear," Fricchione said. "The coaches were looking at me saying stuff and I just couldn't hear."
What it means
Bergen Catholic (11-1) is on track to finish with the No. 1 ranking as long as they take care of business this weekend in Somerset.
The Crusaders will face South Jersey champion Christian Brothers Academy in the Non-Public A final at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Franklin High School. Earlier this season, Bergen Catholic beat the Middletown school, 51-12, in a dual at home.
"This team has put in so much work throughout the whole season and the years prior," Bergen Catholic senior Joe Cangro said. "It's just really awesome to see how a well-rounded team can come together and get it done. I'm proud of each and every one of them."
How close was this title match? Each team won seven bouts and every one of them went the full six minutes. Only four bonus points were scored in total – major decisions from Bergen Catholic's Remy Brancato (215) and Dom Brogna (285) and Delbarton's Andrew Troczynski (150) and Louis Cercio (165). An even number of first points scored eliminated another possible tiebreaker.
Bergen Catholic now has a chance to start a new title streak after winning eight straight state championships from 2012 to 2019.
"It's the best feeling," Bell said. "A long time ago a coach told me enjoy your victories. It never gets old because you may not be there. You may not have that same feeling. Two years without it was gnawing at you."
Inside the match
For Bergen Catholic, the road to the title was paved by the lower-weights. The top of the lineup extended the lead to 20-6 with scoring from Brian Melamud (106), Noah Kochman (120), Aidan Wallace (126) and Cangro (138). One of the most pivotal efforts came in a loss when Chris Nucifora stayed off his back in a 7-3 defeat to state champion Daniel Jones.
"I think we were more prepared and more accustomed to this kind of environment than we were two years ago," Cangro said. "That was big mentally."
Cangro wrestled for the first time in weeks after leaving the Bergen County tournament with an ankle injury. The Harvard commit gutted out a 7-2 decision over Alessio Perentin.
"We always say if only you could have 1,000 Joe Cangros," Bell said. "He's methodical. He thinks it through. I tell people think what Joe Cangro would do before you make a decision. I was very happy for him."
Delbarton's Cross Wasilewski started a string of 17 unanswered points by beating Chris Bacchioni, 3-1, in overtime at 145 pounds. Simon Ruiz scored another crucial Green Wave victory when he upset state No. 1 Nick Fea, 4-0, at 157. Two bouts later, Vincent Lee gave Delbarton a 23-20 edge by beating Leo Varga.
Bergen Catholic responded by sending out a returning state finalist in Fricchione to cap the night. The St. Joseph transfer gained control with an escape and takedown in the second, then nearly pinned with about a minute to go in the match.
"(Before the match), I was walking around smiling," Fricchione said. "Everyone was like, why are you so excited. I said because it's down to me. I really wanted to do that. I was either the first match or the last match and I'm so glad I was the last match."
Sean Farrell is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Bergen Catholic wrestling stuns No. 1 Delbarton, wins NPA A North