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by Matt Cosentino

History was made last season at Cherry Hill West, as the Lions went 19-8 and reached the playoffs for the first time ever. They won their first-ever playoff match before losing to Toms River South in the South Jersey Group III semifinals. Among the key returners from that squad are seniors Mark Papaneri (24-5), David Capone (24-8), Dylan Segrest (18-15) and Tyler Brake (23-8).

Last year was also a big one for Shawnee, which took home championships from District 27, the Olympic Conference American and the Pine Barrens Tournament in a 21-3 season. Despite graduating key wrestlers like state placewinner Austin Wetterau, the Renegades have a solid group returning. Senior 138-pounder Connor Muli, who went 20-4, won a district title and took second in the region at 132, will be looking to become Shawnee’s first four-time district champ and a 100-match winner. Senior 160-pounder Brennan Humphrey, who went 33-6, won a district title and took third in the region at 138, will also be seeking his 100th win. Other returners include senior 182-pounder Alex Foley (30-5) and senior 106-pounder Edward Moody (23-12), who both won district crowns.

Cherokee returns a pair of talented seniors in Alex Baider and D.J. Mele. Baider was a district and region champ who took sixth in the state at 120 pounds, while Mele was a district champ and took third in regions at 126.

Washington Township graduated three district champs and a district finalist from an 18-8 team, but should again be strong in the lightweights with returning district champ Nick Passarella and Mike Van Horn (29-6). “Obviously … we have some pretty big shoes to fill,” says coach Ron Ippolite. “However, we have some promising freshmen with significant experience who will help us this season. Passarella, Van Horn, [Kevin] Keppler, [Nick] Gaspari, Kyle Fisler and Patrick Deamer will be our core guys who we will be counting on to set the tone with their leadership and wrestling experience.”

Camden Catholic has even bigger shoes to fill with the graduation of state finalists Chad Walsh and Jeff Miller, and T.J. Miller, who took third in the state. Region champion Mark McCormick, a sophomore, and district champ Tyler McBride, a senior, will lead the way as the Fighting Irish seek their 11th straight state championship.

Moorestown, a member of the Burlington County League, is led by junior 195-pounder Tyreek Smith, who went 33-12, won a district title, took second at Region 7 and placed eighth in the state. In the Colonial Conference, Haddonfield returns district champ Jake Klaus, a junior, and senior Henry Klaus, a district runner-up.

Clearview should be one of the elite Tri-County Conference teams after reaching the South Jersey Group IV semifinals last year. The Pioneers return a trio of outstanding wrestlers in senior John VanBrill, junior Eddie Lenkowski and sophomore Zach Firestone. VanBrill went 38-2 at 145 pounds last year and won his third district title and second region crown while placing in the top 12 at states. Lenkowski went 37-3 at 152 pounds, won his second district title and reached the region final to qualify for states. Firestone went 38-3 at 106, won district and region titles and placed in the top 12 at states.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Winter Sports Preview, November, 2013.
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