|Four for the show: wrestling sectional final preview|
Four Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference wrestling teams will take part in sectional finals on Friday night. And all four have a good shot to come home with a trophy.
None of the finalists are a surprise: all were either first or second seeds coming into the sectionals. Here's a preview of the matches:
North 1, Group IV: Morris Knolls, the second seed, hits the road to face top seed West Orange. While the Golden Eagles may be the lower seed, they probably should be considered slight favorites in this match.
Knolls has a solid lineup, featuring one of the better upper-weight groups around plus 106-pounder Jan Rosenberg, ranked #1 in the state. The Eagles whipped North Bergen 48-24 in the semifinals, while West Orange slipped past Clifton 36-32.
As we mentioned in our playoff preview, winning on the road in the sectional finals is never easy, but we believe Knolls has a solid shot.
North 1, Group II: High Point is back in the sectional final, a familiar spot to be sure. But things are somewhat different this year for the Wildcats.
Always a Group III school, High Point is competing in Group II for the first time in memory. And while their superstar-laden lineup of the last four years is gone, the Wildcats have rounded into form, as they showed in their 41-13 semifinal win over Jefferson.
The Cats host West Essex, which won the last two titles in this section but never had to face one of the Sussex County powers. The trip up to Wantage will be quite an eye-opener for the Knights; we expect High Point to roll to another sectional crown.
North 1, Group I: The toughest of the four matches, as Kittatinny must go to Bergen County to face a very strong Emerson/Park Ridge team. The Cavos have only two losses all season, but both came against teams (Wayne Valley and Toms River South) that Kittatinny has beaten.
Those results suggest Kittatinny has a real chance, as does Sussex County teams' history against Bergen County opposition in the state tournament. Still, this appears to be the kind of match that could pivot on one or two key bouts.
This should be a great match, and the winner has a real shot to go all the way in Group I.
North 2, Group I: Hanover Park is a quality team with some strong results this season. The Hornets are also fortunate to be in a section that is not nearly as strong as North 1, which featured three top teams.
As the top seed in this bracket, Hanover Park hosts #3 seed Belvidere in the section final. The two teams don't have many common opponents, but both did wrestle Jefferson early in the season; the Hornets won by 12 while the County Seaters lost by 16.
We expect Hanover Park to come away with the sectional title. And though the Hornets are under the radar in the overall Group I state picture, they will not be an easy team to beat if they make it to Toms River on Sunday.