Southern’s Matt Henrich ends Rams’ drought, caps championship season with 150-pound state title
ATLANTIC CITY -- As the Southern Regional coaches bounced joyfully from the mat to the warm-up area following the 150-pound state final, head coach Dan Roy was ecstatic. He yelled out three words that succinctly summed up the Rams' glorious season.
"We did everything!", Roy shouted.
They certainly did, and Matt Henrich was the one to put the finishing touches on a historic season.
A takedown on the edge of the circle with 20 seconds left in the second period gave Henrich a three-point lead and that cushion was enough for him to defeat St. Augustine Prep's Brady Conlin, 3-1, and lock up the NJSIAA 150-pound championship on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall. The standout junior's victory snapped a 14-year drought since Glenn Carson won the 215-pound title in 2009.
"It felt great," Henrich said. "Last 10 seconds I just knew I had to stay away and play defense. I couldn't let him get to my legs. He's funky, and he's really long and can reach to my legs without even shooting. I just kept circling until time ran out."
When the clock hit triple zeroes, the celebration was on. Henrich jumped into the arms of Roy and assistant coach Luke Lanno and the trio walked off the arena floor with smiles as wide as the curved roof of the iconic building.
Southern's 2022-2023 season will go down as one of the best in program history, maybe No. 1 when all factors are considered. The Rams won the Class A South division title, the South Jersey Group 5 sectional title, and the overall Group 5 championship. Southern finished with a 19-1 record, its only defeat coming to Delbarton, which was No. 1 in the state until St. Joseph (Montvale) scored a stunning 28-24 upset in the Non-Public A state final. Along the way, the Rams stacked up dominant wins over Group 4 finalist Jackson Memorial, Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Brick Memorial, Group 4 semifinalist Mount Olive, Group 2 state champion High Point, Group 2 semifinalist South Plainfield, plus Kingsway and Phillipsburg (twice), and an epic victory over Christian Brothers Academy in a Shore Conference No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
At the District 25 Tournament, Southern had a Shore Conference record 11 champions and won its 24th district team title. Southern then set program records with seven region champions and 12 state qualifiers at the Region 7 Tournament. Their success continued at Boardwalk Hall with a program-record six state medalists and an individual state champion.
"Overall, the team was just crazy good," Henrich said. "We wrestled our best all season and we accomplished everything we wanted to get done. This was the icing on the cake. We had a very good run as a team and our coaches wanted at least one state champ. I was able to get it done."
Stoic and steady most of the time, Henrich had to win three consecutive bouts decided by two points or less to win a state championship. A takedown in the final minute gave him a 3-2 win over Delran's Drew Roskos in the quarterfinals, a rematch of the Region 7 final Henrich won in ultimate tiebreaker. In the semifinals, he eked out a 2-1 win in tiebreaker over Bergen Catholic's Christopher Bacchioni and then defeated Conlin in a one-score bout to become a state champion.
"I felt very good, wrestled smart," Henrich said. "(Conlin) didn't come close to scoring once and I wrestled very technical and how I had planned it."
Six years ago Henrich won a youth state title and it was a harbinger of things to come at the high school level. His freshman season came during the Covid-altered 2021 season that was shortened and took place in the spring. He went 11-6, finished fourth in the South Super Region at 126 pounds, and finished one win short of a state medal. He broke out as a sophomore with a 32-5 record, District 25 and Region 7 titles, and a seventh-place finish in the state at 138 pounds. He continued to jump levels in the offseason, posted a 40-3 record, and can now call himself a New Jersey state champion, joining Bryan Stout, Rich Gildner, Frank Molinaro, and Glenn Carson in the pantheon of Southern state champions.
"Our coaches were going crazy, I was going crazy, my family, everyone," Henrich said. "I just want to thank all of them for coming out to support me."