Brearley’s Balboni, Cranford’s Murray have a lot to be proud of; Wrestlers place 2nd in state

Balboni, at 182 with a record of 40-2; and Murray, at 138 with a record of 40-1

Everything to be proud about.
Nothing to be shamed of.
Man, they came so close!
Union County’s two best wrestlers this season – Brearley senior Joe Balboni and Cranford junior Gavin Murray – represented their schools and Union County wrestling to the very best of their ability last weekend at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Both with the goal of winning a state championship, each came about as close as you can without doing so.
Murray reached Sunday’s 138-pound final undefeated and lost a 7-6 decision to top-seeded Ronnie Gentile of Paulsboro to conclude at 40-1.
No doubt Murray will be one of the top-ranked wrestlers in New Jersey once again for his senior season of 2014-2015.
Balboni made it to Sunday’s 182 title match and was thwarted by top-seeded Johnny Sebastian of Bergen Catholic 6-4 in overtime. Balboni finished 40-2, with both of his losses coming to Sebastian. He first loss to the Bergen County grappler by a 13-5 score in December’s Beast of the East competition held in Newark, Del.
Gentile, a junior who captured his first state title, became Paulsboro’s 26th state champion and finished his season at 41-1.
Sebastian, a senior, became New Jersey’s 25th three-time state champion and finished the year at 33-2. He also won the 182 crown in 2013 as a junior and the 160 title in 2012 as a sophomore.
Murray and Balboni were the¬†grapplers who were named the Outstanding Wrestlers of this year’s Union County Tournament at Union.
Murray won his first UCT title this year and was named the OW for the lower weights at the UCT. Balboni won his third UCT crown and was named the OW for the upper weights at the UCT.
Both stellar grapplers were seeking their first state championships.
Cranford’s last state champion was senior Pat Hogan at 171 in 2006, while Brearley’s last state champ was senior Jesse Boyden at 215 in 2008.
After Boyden won, the only state champion from a Union County high school in the past six seasons has been Westfield senior Christian Barber capturing the 152 crown in 2011.
Brenden Calas of Clark, who wrestled for Seton Hall Prep, won the 103 title as a sophomore in 2011 and the 113 crown as a junior in 2012. Calas placed second at 120 as a senior in 2013.
Murray pinned Joe Trovato of Paramus in 5:08 in the 138 quarterfinals and then defeated Connor Burkert 9-5 in the semifinals, which both took place Saturday.
Sebastian won a 14-7 decision over Roselle Park senior Phil Woods in the 182 semifinals. Woods finished 32-2, with his only other loss coming to Balboni in the Region 3 finals at Union. Woods did not compete in the UCT because of an injury.
Also on Saturday, Balboni won major decisions over Christopher Morgan of West Orange 15-3 in the quarterfinals and over Nicholas Costa of Brick Memorial 16-7 in the semifinals.
Brearley junior Jeff Velez was the only other Union County grappler to reach the quarterfinals where he was blanked by Michael Oxley of Christian Brothers Academy 5-0.
For the second straight season, 14 wrestlers from Union County high schools advanced to the NJSIAA Tournament out of Region 3.