Voorhees High School Wrestling

When other good wrestlers tried to wrestle John Brienza conservatively, Voorhees fans had the privilege of watching a wonderful blend of strength, technique, and balance.  In matches like that, John would gain control quickly and work methodically for the fall, giving up virtually no points in the process.  When other good wrestlers tried to attack John Brienza off the opening whistle, Voorhees fans were treated to an explosion of intensity, creativity, and an unbelievable blend of flexibility and leverage.  In those matches, John would pummel his opponents before they could realize what happened to them; he would give up two points to get five and sometimes go to his own back only to end up locking up a pinning combination of his own seconds later.  He was a great wrestling technician, but he was down-right phenomenal in scramble situations; exciting flurries where it appears as though either wrestler could score.  Assistant Coach Tom Heilman witnessed this first-hand when he was in John’s corner at a Christmas Tournament in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  “In the finals, John was wrestling this guy Miller of Tri-Valley who was coming into the tournament as a two-time PA state runner-up and had been ripping apart his earlier opponents all day.  After a tight-sparring scoreless first period, Miller started to get aggressive on top.  John threw that guy off-balance with a reversal and near fall and never stopped.  He trounced Miller 16-4, and it was that kid’s worst high school loss ever.  John went on to being named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler by a unanimous vote of the coaches . . . and there were 27 teams there.”

John had one of the most successful careers in Voorhees Wrestling history.  From the moment he stepped onto the mat as a freshman, he began turning heads.  John came up with wins in all the big matches his freshman year and helped the program earn its fourth state group championship.  He finished the year by becoming only the second wrestler in Voorhees history to win a district championship as a freshman.  John continued to dominate as a sophomore and junior, again earning district championships and placing second in the regions.  After a frustrating loss in the first round of the state tournament as a junior, John battled back furiously at the Atlantic City Convention Center with five straight wins en route to a third-place finish at 130 pounds.  Two out of John’s three losses in the year were on the same podium that year in first and second place.

As a senior, John was pivotal in the Vikings’ surprising state championship run.  His leadership and dominance on the mat helped Voorhees win its thirteenth sectional title and make it all the way to the Group II Championship Finals where they lost a tight match to Kingsway.  When it came to the individual postseason, there is probably no wrestler in Voorhees history who had more of a storybook run.  After a workmanlike win in the district finals, John became only the second wrestler in Voorhees history to win four district titles.  What made that evening even more special was that both his younger brothers, Kenny and Matt, won district titles as well.  In the regions and super-regions, John was able to exorcise his demons; he secured his first Region 5 title and went on to win his super-region.  He entered the state tournament as the second seed; the top-seed, Dave Santamaria of Christian Brothers Academy, edged John the year before in a thrilling match.  The two went through the rest of the field untouched and met in a much anticipated final.  John sealed the deal in just sixty-seven seconds with an exhilarating pin and became the fourth state champion in Voorhees Wrestling history.

John’s 115 wins put him second on the all-time list.  He won 89.8% of his matches, which is fourth all-time.  His total of 50 pins is the fourth best in school history, and he is one of only six wrestlers in Voorhees history to qualify for the state tournament three times.  In addition to being one of Voorhees’s four state champions, he joins Glenn Hall and Dan Moody as the only Voorhees wrestlers ever to place in the top three in the state twice.  John will certainly go down as one of the most gifted and exciting wrestlers ever to grace the mat at Voorhees High School.  Despite the fact that John Brienza’s final match lasted only a little over a minute, Coach Heilman remembers it as the perfect end to his wrestling career.  “He got attacked right from the first whistle and put right to his back.  John’s strength and leverage allowed him to cradle his opponent while on his back, turning the tables and pinning him in little more than a minute.  It was the most exciting state final match any of us had ever experienced.”  John reacted to his big win in a more unassuming manner.  He didn’t jump around like crazy when he won the state title like other kids do, it just wasn’t his style, he was very humble.  You would have never known he just wrestled and won the most exciting match of the day.

After graduating Voorhees, John entered the United States Naval Academy where he graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United State Navy.  LT John Brienza is currently serving at the Naval Satellite Operations Center in Point Mugu, CA where he makes command decisions for seventeen on-orbit satellites that support vital communications for military forces deployed worldwide and is valued at over thirty billion dollars.  He married his high school sweetheart, Tara Juntilla, in May of 2007.