Steinert’s Sal Famularo celebrates with coach Adam “The Postmaster General” Jankos after winning the 113-pound Region 23 championship.
By Rich Fisher
Feb. 24: Hamilton West senior Ryan Bennett spent four years working toward a special milestone, while Steinert sophomore Sal Famularo finally got his chance to start working toward the same thing after a season of frustration.
The bottom line is both got what they were looking for on Saturday, Feb. 22, as Bennett won the 170-pound District 24 championship while Famularo won the 113-pound title in District 23.
“The district championship is a huge accomplishment for Ryan,” Hornets coach Matt Minder said. “Our team was so proud because we know how much time and effort he has put into the sport.”
As has Famularo.
“Sal’s level of dedication to the sport of wrestling is unmatched and he works every day to accomplish his goals,” Steinert coach Adam “The Postmaster General” Jankos said. “We are very proud of Sal and can’t wait to see what the future holds for him on the mat.”
Both wrestlers will advance to the Region 6 tournament at Jackson Liberty this week, as will four other township grapplers. Steinert’s Will Laster took third at 195, while Nottingham’s David Aboasu (138 pounds), Joachim Larose (152) and Kwanir Edwards (160) in District 21.
The top four region finishers punch a ticket to the state meet in Atlantic City.
Top-seeded Bennett is headed to the regions for the first time after losing in the consolation final to, ironically, an Ocean Township’s Nicholas Benner at 145 pounds. Wrestling at his more natural weight this year, Bennett took an 8-7 win over Ocean’s 3rd-seeded Tah-Jay Phillips in the championship bout.
He opened with a 13-2 major decision over Burlington Township’s 8th-seeded Matthew Norris, and defeated Jackson’s 4th-seeded Ian Boyce, 7-0, in the finals.
“This is the result of thousands and thousands of hours training,” Minder said. “He was up against a talented Ocean Township wrestler, and Ocean has had our number at districts.
“He has really rounded into form these past few weeks and is on top of his game – wrestling well in all positions. He is hungry to qualify for the show in Atlantic City.”
Famularo was just hungry to wrestle at all after a mostly frustrating season, that actually started at the end of last year when he had to forfeit his consolation bout in the districts due to injury.
After enjoying a standout freshman season (19-1 in dual meets), Sal was tormented by injuries this year. He had surgery that took nine months to recover from, and was not cleared to wrestle for most of the season.
“We kind of planned on not having him in the lineup all season,” Jankos said. “Finally his ortho doctor cleared him. He tried to make a comeback in January against Nottingham and was in severe pain.”
Thus, Famularo got re-checked by his surgeon, who indicated there was a mass of scar tissue around the surgery area, and it would take some getting used to. After missing most of January, Famularo won four dual meet matches in January as a warm-up for the districts.
“After a few more weeks of physical therapy and drilling in the practice room we decided to give it another shot,” Jankos said. “And boy are we glad we did because he is wrestling better than ever. This season was a complete turnaround for Sal, from going to not wrestling to being a District 23 champion so far with more to come.”
Seeded-second, Famularo pinned Point Pleasant Beach’s Michael Storino in one minute and took an 8-3 decision over Point Pleasant Boro’s Lucas Sabo in the semis. Matched up against Long Branch’s top-seeded Dylan Kelleher in the final, Famularo completed his sweep of the Shore Conference with an 11-3 win.
Although not to the extent of Famularo, Laster also dealt with some injuries this year and ended up with a five seed at districts. He opened with a 6-3 decision over Lakewood’s Saavedra Gustavo in the quarterfinals and after falling to top-seeded Patrick O’Dwyer of Long Branch, came back to take a 6-4, sudden-victory decision over PP Beach’s George Kaiafas.
“We were really happy for Will,” Jankos said. “He also had some issues to deal with and to come in as a fifth seed and take third says a lot about his toughness.”
As for the Swamp Rats, Aboasu and Larose both lived up to their No. 3 seeds by winning their consolations finals over Northern Burlington’s Jarred Rosta and Lawrence’s Sean Mills, respectively. Edwards outperformed his 4th seed by defeating NBC’s Jamie Lovenduski in his consolation final.
“The three guys that advanced wrestled with great execution and wrestled with determination,” Nottingham coach Jason “The Rock” Marasco said. “They need to keep focused this week and do the same thing on Wednesday. I feel if they keep it up, they all should win on Wednesday.
“As for the rest of the team, we wrestled tough all day. There was no quit on Saturday and we are really proud of the team.”