The incredible high school wrestling journey for Seton Hall Prep’s Brenden Calas came to an end on Sunday afternoon as the Pirates’ two-time state champ was edged 3-1 in overtime by Bound Brook’s Craig De La Cruz, who scored a takedown in the first extra session to cop the 2013 state title at 120 pounds during the finals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Cruz finished 37-2 and Calas 29-3.
Calas concludes his memorable SHP mat career with a record of 112-12 which was highlighted by the pair of NJSIAA state titles, two Region 3 championships – including Outstanding Wrestler honors this season – four District 10 crowns and three Essex County Tournament championships.
The North Carolina State University-bound senior from Clark again headed the efforts of Essex in the 2013 state tourney, finishing higher than any other wrestler from the county for the third straight season.
Livingston’s Jason Estevez, who finished 40-2 at 132 was the next best finisher from Essex with a third place.
SHP’s fourth-year head coach Jack Decker has described his star senior as “a smart wrestler who can simply figure out a way to get the job done.”
Calas won a 3-1 overtime decision vs. Cherokee’s Alex Baider in last Saturday’s semis.
Essex County’s other hope for a run at a state title entering Saturday’s semis was Livingston’s Estevez; however, the Lancer senior absorbed an 11-7 loss following a late reversal and back points tacked on by Ronald Gentile of Paulsboro in the 132-pound semis.
Just as was the case in 2012, SHP’s Calas needed a huge overtime win in the semis to secure a berth in this year’s finals. Last year, after trailing North Bergen strongman Luiz Gonzalez, 2-0, early on, the Pirate standout battled back to win, 4-2, in overtime, proceeding to decision David McFadden of DePaul, 3-0, in the 113-pound championship bout the next afternoon.
Calas began his latest Saturday surge with a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Joe Travato of Paramus, scoring a late reversal with 25 seconds remaining in order to move into the 120-semis where he earned the hard-fought OT win over Baider of Cherokee.
De La Cruz battled from behind to edge Delbarton’s Christian Innarella, 4-3, in their semifinal bout on Saturday.
Looking back in their respective careers, Calas had quite a history with Innarella since the Green Wave grappler had defeated the Pirate twice last winter, including in the Region 3 finals.
That loss by Calas meant the SHP standout had to wrestle twice on Friday night in the 2012 state tourney in A.C., winning in both his preliminary and pre-quarters matches in order to advance to Saturday.
This season, Calas overcame a elbow injury which sidelined him for two weeks to be in what turned out to be a better position going into the individual tournament portion of the late season as he won both District 10 and then Region 3, defeating Governor Livingston’s Jon Mele, 3-1 with a sudden victory while also earning Outstanding Wrestler honors in Region 3 at Union.
Calas joined a former Pirate great Lou Mascola, who continued at the University of Maryland, as SHP’s only 4-time qualifiers for the state tourney.
In this past Friday night’s pre-quarters, Calas worked hard as usual to edge D.J. Tirelli of River Dell, 2-1.
Then, following another pair of hard-earned victories on Saturday in the quarters and semis, it was on to championship bout on Sunday for Calas where was De La Cruz, the exciting sophomore from Bound Brook in the 120-pound final.
In a match where each wrestler made his own calculated moves where defense came first, De La Cruz was finally able to register the takedown in the one minute first overtime period to earn the 3-1 sudden victory.
Still, it was the conclusion of quite a historic career for SHP’s Calas who will go down as one of the county’s top grapplers in its rich mat history.
Another SHP senior standout, Casey Egan at 106, went 0-2 in A.C. but finished a fine season by placing third in Region 3, first in District 10 and third in the ECT while putting together a 29-10 record.
This story was filed by correspondent Steve Tober.