NEWARK — Forget six minutes. Nico Richards and Jesse Maple went the full 8:30 in their latest bout Monday.
Maple edged Richards 1-0 in the ultimate tiebreaker for visiting Ridgewood against host Newark Catholic to highlight the teams’ dual. The two had met twice each of the last two seasons, and they could share the mat again at the Division III district tournament next month.
“Our room does an amazing job of helping us focus when you are almost suffering,” said Richards, crediting coach Jake Nelson and his staff. “You just have to block it out. On top of the endurance we have already built up throughout the season, there’s one goal, and that’s to win the match.”
It was a defensive battle throughout the match. Nobody scored on their feet in the first period, and neither could escape in the second or third periods.
The first overtime featured a minute on their feet, and neither again could escape during two 30-second periods. Maple, who was the 132-pound champion Saturday at Heath, held Richards down again during the do-or-die 30 seconds to earn the win.
“You have to wrestle hard the entire match, no breaks,” Maple said. “A lot of that comes down to the wrestling room, going hard all of the time and making sure you are in good condition come match time for matches like that. The better competition you wrestle the better you are going to be. If you wrestle studs, it will make you more of a stud.”
Ridgewood won the dual 39-21, but NC won three of five contested matches despite returning state qualifiers Brian Luft and Griffin Halenar each sitting out with injury.
NC sophomore Theo Talbott outlasted Ridgewood sophomore Aiden Sparger 3-1 at 157 after taking the initial lead with a quick takedown. Seniors Rugby Meza at 165 and Brendan Sheehan at 175 followed with pins for the Green Wave, who are preparing for this weekend’s trip to Lima Central Catholic, where they will see many of the best Division III competitors in the state, after recharging their batteries.
“We knew what we were getting when we invited (Ridgewood) here,” Richards said. “It’s a big week going into Lima, where we will see all of those D-III teams. It’s really nice to get back in the swing of things after having an off week to work out some of the kinks.”
With Halenar out of the lineup, NC senior Tanner Wert bumped up to heavyweight. He made a couple aggressive shot attempts, but Ridgewood sophomore Logan Sesser used his size advantage to counter to take down Wert and get the pin.
“My coach says, ‘When you wrestle a small guy, wrestle big, and when you are against a big guy, wrestle small.’ I was just trying to be big with him,” said Sesser, who took runner-up at Heath.
Wert was slow getting up to speed after missing several games with injury during football. He then missed all of last week’s practices because of illness.
The good news for Wert is he still has time to reach his peak. At either 190 or 215, he also has the added advantage of drilling in the practice room with Halenar, one of the state’s best in the upperweights.
“There’s no other way to put it: Griffin’s a stud,” Wert said. “He is a great drill partner and actually one of my closest buddies since he came into our room. He is great on and off the mat.”
Richards, Meza and junior Nate Willis later won exhibition matches for the Green Wave against the remaining Generals, who were not in the varsity lineup.
Despite Maple being the lone senior, Ridgewood took 10 wrestlers to Heath, and all won at least one match. Sophomore Wyatt Lockard upset the third seed and later beat the competitor, who had beaten the second seed, to eventually take runner-up at 138.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Maple said. “I am just trying to get them to realize what high school wrestling is all about.”