SJV wrestlers producing a season like no other in program history

February 29, 2024 at 10:16 p.m.
The St. John Vianney wrestling team proudly displays its Shore Conference Tournament championship banner, which is its first since 2018 and second in program history. Courtesy photo
The St. John Vianney wrestling team proudly displays its Shore Conference Tournament championship banner, which is its first since 2018 and second in program history. Courtesy photo

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

It’s a question that can reasonably be asked: Is this the greatest wrestling “team” in St. John Vianney, Holmdel history?

“As the head coach, I would certainly like to believe that,” fifth-year coach Chris Notte said. “Statistically speaking, one can make that argument.”

Granted, individually the Lancers sent a record eight wrestlers to the NJSIAA State Championships in 2022 and had four-place winners. They have six qualifiers at this year’s states, which run from Feb. 29-March 2, and it remains to be seen how many place-winners SJV will have.


SJV state title -- The St. John Vianney wrestling team was all smiles after winning its first state tournament title since 1995. Courtesy photo

 But when it comes to team success, no previous group can match this one.

The Lancers won their first state title (second overall) since 1995 after beating Camden Catholic, 33-24, in the NJSIAA Non-Public B championship final Feb. 11. They won their first Shore Conference Tournament championship (second overall) since 2018 on Jan. 6. It was the first time SJV ever won both crowns in the same year. That was followed by team championships in the District 26 and Region 7 tournaments, to go along with a 14-1 overall record and A Central Division championship. 

Notte noted his wrestlers are avid participants in Catholic Athletes for Christ and thanked the Lord for watching over them on their unprecedented run.

“God allowed my guys to grow a certain way, gain weight accordingly to fall into the right slots for this team as a whole to be successful,” the fifth-year coach said. “We earned the right to be champions through our training, but we got a little lucky. We had bumps and bruises along the way, but we didn’t sustain any serious injuries. We had God’s help on that one.”

A great team must be prepared to take advantage of that luck, which St. John Vianney was. 

The state final was a rematch from last season when Camden Catholic took a 33-29 victory. The Lancers reversed the outcome this year with a 33-24 win as Cole Stangle bumped up to 175 pounds to clinch the title with a decision to end the match.

“We have a lot of great attitudes, a lot of team players who bumped up,” Notte said. “Cole Stangle is a selfless guy, and he sealed the deal for us. Danny Breen, was battling a bum ankle, he bumped up to 190 in that match and came through (with a 10-7 decision). We knew what the big picture was, we knew what our goal was as a team.”

The goals were to win both the conference and state titles. And while Notte admits “the elephant in the room” is that powerhouse teams Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, and Southern Regional, Manahawkin, were not at the SCT, he added that “If they were in it my guys would have still been there and ready to battle.”

Once individual tournaments began, SJV continued to excel. It had 10 regional qualifiers and four district champions in Matt Gould (113 pounds), Knox (120), Patrick O’Keefe (132) and Jake Zaltsman (138). Knox and Zaltsman each won regional titles while Gould, O’Keefe, Dezmond Lenaghan (144) and Stangle (165) also advanced to states. Other district place-winners were Bubba Gavrish (150), Tom Foley (190), Julian Zargo (106) and John Saraiva (157).  


Anthony Knox shows the form that allowed him to steamroll to a third straight Region 7 title. Courtesy photo 

Knox, who notched his 100th career win in the regionals, is gunning for his third straight state title. The junior’s goal entering high school was to be a four-time state champ so he’s still on target 

“This is very, very important to him,” Notte said. “The kid’s always locked in, but when you see him in the postseason, it’s really fun to watch. You see an elite athlete in the way he carries himself, the way he prepares for and conducts himself during a match. He’s very dominant and he keeps coming. He’s always looking to score.”

 Knox’s attitude helps not only himself, but also his teammates.

“It starts with the way he prepares and carries himself throughout a week of competition,” Notte said. “Guys who are not too familiar with having a winning nature are able to conceive that idea and maybe apply it to themselves and their training, apply it to their mental perception toward competing. Anthony is contagious.”

SJV’s other five state qualifiers are seeded anywhere from fourth to 14th and Notte feels each one has a chance to reach the podium if they get the right match-ups. “I have faith in my guys,” he said, “and I believe in miracles.”


St. John Vianney's Anthony Knox is joined by coaches and family members to celebrate his 100th victory, which came during the Region 7 tournament. The junior 120-pounder has a 102-1 lifetime record in high school and has never lost to a New Jersey wrestler. Courtesy photo 

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It’s a question that can reasonably be asked: Is this the greatest wrestling “team” in St. John Vianney, Holmdel history?

“As the head coach, I would certainly like to believe that,” fifth-year coach Chris Notte said. “Statistically speaking, one can make that argument.”

Granted, individually the Lancers sent a record eight wrestlers to the NJSIAA State Championships in 2022 and had four-place winners. They have six qualifiers at this year’s states, which run from Feb. 29-March 2, and it remains to be seen how many place-winners SJV will have.


SJV state title -- The St. John Vianney wrestling team was all smiles after winning its first state tournament title since 1995. Courtesy photo

 But when it comes to team success, no previous group can match this one.

The Lancers won their first state title (second overall) since 1995 after beating Camden Catholic, 33-24, in the NJSIAA Non-Public B championship final Feb. 11. They won their first Shore Conference Tournament championship (second overall) since 2018 on Jan. 6. It was the first time SJV ever won both crowns in the same year. That was followed by team championships in the District 26 and Region 7 tournaments, to go along with a 14-1 overall record and A Central Division championship. 

Notte noted his wrestlers are avid participants in Catholic Athletes for Christ and thanked the Lord for watching over them on their unprecedented run.

“God allowed my guys to grow a certain way, gain weight accordingly to fall into the right slots for this team as a whole to be successful,” the fifth-year coach said. “We earned the right to be champions through our training, but we got a little lucky. We had bumps and bruises along the way, but we didn’t sustain any serious injuries. We had God’s help on that one.”

A great team must be prepared to take advantage of that luck, which St. John Vianney was. 

The state final was a rematch from last season when Camden Catholic took a 33-29 victory. The Lancers reversed the outcome this year with a 33-24 win as Cole Stangle bumped up to 175 pounds to clinch the title with a decision to end the match.

“We have a lot of great attitudes, a lot of team players who bumped up,” Notte said. “Cole Stangle is a selfless guy, and he sealed the deal for us. Danny Breen, was battling a bum ankle, he bumped up to 190 in that match and came through (with a 10-7 decision). We knew what the big picture was, we knew what our goal was as a team.”

The goals were to win both the conference and state titles. And while Notte admits “the elephant in the room” is that powerhouse teams Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, and Southern Regional, Manahawkin, were not at the SCT, he added that “If they were in it my guys would have still been there and ready to battle.”

Once individual tournaments began, SJV continued to excel. It had 10 regional qualifiers and four district champions in Matt Gould (113 pounds), Knox (120), Patrick O’Keefe (132) and Jake Zaltsman (138). Knox and Zaltsman each won regional titles while Gould, O’Keefe, Dezmond Lenaghan (144) and Stangle (165) also advanced to states. Other district place-winners were Bubba Gavrish (150), Tom Foley (190), Julian Zargo (106) and John Saraiva (157).  


Anthony Knox shows the form that allowed him to steamroll to a third straight Region 7 title. Courtesy photo 

Knox, who notched his 100th career win in the regionals, is gunning for his third straight state title. The junior’s goal entering high school was to be a four-time state champ so he’s still on target 

“This is very, very important to him,” Notte said. “The kid’s always locked in, but when you see him in the postseason, it’s really fun to watch. You see an elite athlete in the way he carries himself, the way he prepares for and conducts himself during a match. He’s very dominant and he keeps coming. He’s always looking to score.”

 Knox’s attitude helps not only himself, but also his teammates.

“It starts with the way he prepares and carries himself throughout a week of competition,” Notte said. “Guys who are not too familiar with having a winning nature are able to conceive that idea and maybe apply it to themselves and their training, apply it to their mental perception toward competing. Anthony is contagious.”

SJV’s other five state qualifiers are seeded anywhere from fourth to 14th and Notte feels each one has a chance to reach the podium if they get the right match-ups. “I have faith in my guys,” he said, “and I believe in miracles.”


St. John Vianney's Anthony Knox is joined by coaches and family members to celebrate his 100th victory, which came during the Region 7 tournament. The junior 120-pounder has a 102-1 lifetime record in high school and has never lost to a New Jersey wrestler. Courtesy photo 

 The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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