Ken Theobold paced on the mat, watching his teammate, BJ Clagon, finishing off his victory in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Individual Wrestling Championships.
The two are friends and wrestling room partners, but in the state tournament in Atlantic City this weekend, they were semifinalists with very different roles. Clagon, a state finalist at the 2011 championships, came into the tournament as a favorite to win the title at 138 pounds.
Theobold, on the other hand, was the decided underdog in his semifinal at 145. He was wrestling the top seed in the bracket, T.J. Miller of Camden Catholic, who won a title last year and had just one loss all year -- none within New Jersey.
None of that mattered to Theobold, who went out and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend, beating Miller 7-6 to advance to Sunday's championship bout at 145, where he will face Alexander Richardson of St. Peter's Prep, a senior with 34 wins.
Theobold served notice early that he was not intimidated by Miller, scoring a thunderous takedown less than 15 seconds into the bout. The pair battled back and forth, with Theobold escaping late in the second period to take a 5-4 lead.
He started on defense for the third period and quickly added an escape to take a 6-4 lead. Miller scored a takedown with less than a minute left to tie it at 6, but Theobold demonstrated how strong he is, escaping again for a 7-6 lead.
Theobold then kept Miller at bay for the final seconds before he and his coaches exploded with joy.
"I think that first takedown broke him a little bit," said Theobold, who credited his sessions in the wrestling room with Clagon as a key piece of his success this year.
"I wasn't good on my feet at the beginning of the year," he said. "He (B.J.) has made me better."
Clagon, who has won most of his matches by major decision or technical fall, earned a 6-1 decision over John Boyle of Rutherford at 138. But he got off to a slower start. Boyle, who wrestled defensively, keeping Clagon at bay. After Boyle was warned for stalling and then penalized, Clagon was finally able to take him down. Clagon will face Tyler Hunt of South Plainfield, a senior who's 43-0, one of four South Plainfield wrestlers in the finals.
"He's a strong kid with a nasty Russian," Clagon said. "You can't just shoot in on him."
The stalling warning forced Boyle to push a bit, Clagon said.
"When he got the warning, I felt safe," he said.
"We wrestled state finals in the room all week," Toms River South coach Ron Laycock said of Clagon and Theobold's workouts. "They were wars."
But all that work prepared both, putting both wrestlers in a position to wrestle for a state title.
In other results:
Lex Knapp of Lacey advanced to the championship bout at 220 with a 2-1 overtime decision over Roy Lucas of St. Joseph-Hammonton, becoming the first state finalist for Lacey since 1997, when Russ Witt, now the coach at CBA, reached the final. He will wrestle Brandon Hull of Phillipsburg for the title on Sunday afternoon.
Toms River South's Kevin Corrigan (113) will be wrestling for fifth place after falling to Kyle Brady of Bishop Ahr in the consolation semifinals by a 6-0 decision.
Toms River East's Richard Lewis will be facing Manchester's Jesse Meaney in the fifth-place bout at 132. Lewis lost to Jason Estevez of Livingston, 5-3 in the tiebreaker, while Meaney fell to Bergen Catholic's Connor Melde, 3-1.
Central Regional's Jalen Ramos will be wrestling for seventh place after he was pinned in the third round of consolations by Justin Colon of Belleville.
Joe Ghione of Brick Memorial will be wrestling for fifth place at 106 and his teammate, Matt Moore, will wrestle for seventh at 195. Ghione lost to Craig De La Cruz of Bound Brook in the consolation semifinals while Moore fell in the third round of consolations to Bryan Dobzanski of Delsea.