UNION – One grappler wore a T-shirt that on the back read: “second place is not an option!”
You got the intense feeling that was Cranford’s philosophy Saturday at the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
After finishing second last year, this time the Cougars would not be denied.
Cranford had the most champions, four, and led by those winners – repeat champions Gavin Murray and Tom DiGiovanni and also Niko Cappello and Chris Scorese – went on to capture the 40th annual wrestling Union County Tournament championship Saturday at Union High School.
Cranford head coach Pat Gorman, named the 2015 Union County Coach of the Year, said a banner in the gym lists the year of 1981 as the last time Cranford won the team title.
However, he explained it this way: “I’ve been getting some grief from the alumni who say that the 1986 team was the last one to win it.”
After finishing fourth in 2011, sixth in 2012, fourth again in 2013 and second in 2014, Cranford ascended to the top on Saturday, with four wrestlers placing first, three second, two third and one fifth.
Standout junior Niko Cappello, second at 160 last year, edged Plainfield’s Rohan Phillip 4-3 in the 195 final to capture his first championship.
“We knew we had a good shot to win after all the wrestlers we pushed to the semifinals,” Cappello said.
Repeat champion Roselle Park outscored Cranford 160-137 to win last year’s team title.
“We fell a little short in the semifinals last year,” Cappello said. “That gave us more fire to do better this year.”
Cappello and Phillip faced each other for the first time. Phillip did not place in the top three in his weight class a year ago.
“I tried to stay away from his elusiveness, his speed,” Cappello said. “I thought I wrestled well on my feet.”
Cranford had both Outstanding Wrestlers, including first-time champion Chris Scorese – the 126 winner – for the weight classes 106-145 and repeat champion Gavin Murray – the 152 winner – for the weight classes 152-heavyweight.
Murray, who won his first title at 138 a year ago – was last year’s OW for the weight classes 106-145.
In college he will continue wrestling in the Big 10 Conference for Purdue.
“Gavin, who was a state finalist last year, had a great tournament again,” Gorman said. “We have eight sophomores in our lineup and 10 placed, so we pretty much achieved everything we wanted to.”
Cranford is also in place to be the favorite to repeat next year. Sophomore Tom DiGiovanni – the champion at 113 last year and at 120 this year – is on pace to become Cranford’s first four-time winner. There are seven total, with Brearley’s Kenny Knapp the last to accomplish the feat in 2009.
“We have many second-place trophies tucked away,” Gorman said. “We needed to get over the hump and win the championship.
“Hopefully, this will be the first of many.”
Governor Livingston, seventh last year, was second for the first time since 2011.
2016 UCT RETURNING CHAMPIONS:
Niko Cappello, Cranford, junior, won at 182.
Saviero Salcfas, Brearley, junior, won at 220.
Chris Gural, Roselle Park, junior, won at 106.
Nic Mele, Gov. Livingston, junior, won at 113.
Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, sophomore, won at 120.
Chris Scorese, Cranford, sophomore, won at 126.
Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, junior, won at 138.
Repeat champions included Cranford senior Gavin Murray, who won Saturday at 152 and last year at 138; Cranford sophomore Tom DiGiovanni, who won Saturday at 120 and last year at 113; and New Providence junior Tyler Gazaway, who won Saturday at 138 and last year at 126.
Wrestlers from nine schools won championships. Here is the team champions breakdown: Cranford (4), Scotch Plains (2), New Providence (2), Rahway (1), Brearley (1), Elizabeth (1), Roselle Park (1), Governor Livingston (1), Summit (1).
Eleven top seeds won, two others placed second and one finished third.
All top-seeded and second-seeded wrestlers received first-round byes. The 11 top seeds that went on to win championships finished 3-0 for the day, winning all three of their matches.
The top two seeds met in the final in 12 of the 14 weight classes, with the top seed winning 10 times. The second seed won at 106 – Roselle Park’s Chris Gural – and at 126 – Cranford’s Chris Scorese.
Brearley’s Tim Murphy was the lowest seeded wrestler to reach a final, placing second at 132. After receiving a bye, Murphy first defeated third-seeded Mike Figueredo of Roselle Park 5-4. Figueredo was the 132 champion in 2014. Murphy then defeated second-seeded Devin Jefferson of Rahway by the same 5-4 score to reach the final.
At 170 was the only weight class where the top two seeds did not reach the final. Third-seeded Evan Goodridge of Rahway defeated fourth-seeded Eoghan Savona of Brearley by fall in 6:26, with Goodridge capturing his first championship. Top-seeded Brad Carle of Roselle Park placed third and second-seeded Maslin Pierre of Linden fourth.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER 103-145:
Chris Scorese, Cranford, sophomore, 126 champion
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER 152-HWT:
Gavin Murray, Cranford, senior, 152 champion
MOST PINS LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME:
Craig De La Cruz, Summit, senior, 3 in 9:02.
He was the 132 champion.
T. RALPH “PUG” WILLIAMS AWARD:
Kevin Murray of Cranford.
UNION COUNTY COACH OF THE YEAR:
Patrick Gorman, Cranford.
106: Anthony Capece, Cranford
113: Nic Mele, Gov. Livingston
120: Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford
126: John Fuller, Westfield
132: Craig De La Cruz, Summit
138: Tyler Gazaway, New Providence
145: Brian Lapham, Scotch Plains
152: Gavin Murray, Cranford
160: Dan Kourakos, New Providence
170: Brad Carle, Roselle Park
182: Niko Cappello, Cranford
195: Alex Mirabella, Scotch Plains
220: Saverio Salcfas, Brearley
HWT: Lloyd Jackson, Elizabeth
2015 UCT RETURNING CHAMPIONS:
Jeff Velez, Brearley, senior – won at 195 last year
Transferred to Queen of Peace.
David Tobe, Elizabeth, senior – won at 220 last year
Ray Wetzel, Brearley, sophomore – won at 106 last year
Transferred to Queen of Peace.
Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, sophomore – won at 113 last year
Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, junior – won at 126 last year
Mike Figueredo, Roselle Park, senior – won at 132 last year
Gavin Murray, Cranford, senior – won at 138 last year
2015 UCT FINALS AT UNION
TEAMS: 1-Cranford 192.5. 2-Gov. Livingston 159. 3-Roselle Park 129.
4-New Providence 121. 5-Scotch Plains 105. 6-Rahway 101.7-Elizabeth 88.
8-Brearley 84. 9-Linden 78. 10-Union 75.5. 11-Summit 71. 12-Johnson 56.
13-Westfield and Plainfield 52.
145: 1-Brian Lapham, S. Plains, dec. 2-Brian McGovern, Cranford, 3-2.
Lapham, a senior, captured his first championship.
Lapham placed second at 145 in 2014.
152: 1-Gavin Murray, Cranford, pin 2-Neojoe Lughas, Plainfield, 1:51.
Murray, a senior, captured his second championship.
Murray also won at 138 in 2014 and was second at 132 in 2013.
He was a top seed the last three years.
160: 1-Dan Kourakos, New Prov., dec. 2-Andrew Tompkins, Cranford, 4-0.
Kourakos, a senior, captured his first championship.
Kourakos placed third at 152 in 2014 and second at 138 in 2013.
170: 3-Evan Goodridge, Rahway, pin 4-Eoghan Savona, Brearley, 6:26.
Goodridge, a senior, captured his first championship.
182: 1-Niko Cappello, Cranford, dec. 2-Rohan Phillip, Plainfield, 4-3.
Cappello, a junior, captured his first championship.
Cappello placed second at 160 in 2014.
195: 1-Alex Mirabella, S. Plains, pin 2-Will Ferdinando, Roselle Park, 3:05.
Mirabella, a senior, captured his first championship.
220: 1-Saverio Salcfas, Brearley, dec. 2-David Tobe, Elizabeth, 4-0.
Salcfas, a junior, captured his first championship.
Salcfas placed third at 220 in 2014 and Tobe first.
HWT: 1-Lloyd Jackson, Elizabeth, dec. 2-Sean Tomlinson, GL, 5-3.
Jackson, a senior, captured his first championship.
Jackson placed second at heavyweight in 2014.
106: 2-Chris Gural, Roselle Park, pin 1-Anthony Capece, Cranford, 1:04.
Gural, a junior, captured his first championship.
Gural placed third at 106 in 2014 and Capece second.
113: 1-Nic Mele, GL, dec. 2-Dominick Robinson, Linden, 6-1.
Mele, a junior, captured his first championship.
120: 1-Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, dec. 2-Carmine Boccellari, NP, 5-0.
DiGiovanni, a sophomore, captured his second championship.
DiGiovanni also won at 113 in 2014 and has been a top seed twice.
Boccellari was third at 120 in 2014 and second at 113 in 2013.
126: 2-Chris Scorese, Cranford, dec. 1-John Fuller, Westfield, 7-1.
Scorese, a sophomore, captured his first championship.
132: 1-Craig De La Cruz, Summit, pin 6-Tim Murphy, Brearley, 4:32.
De La Cruz, a senior, captured his first championship in his only UCT.
De La Cruz, the NJSIAA Tournament champion in 2014 at 126 and in 2013 at 120, wrestled his first three years at Bound Brook.
138: 1-Tyler Gazaway, New Prov., dec. 2-JT Beirne, S. Plains, 6-1.
Gazaway, a junior, captured his second championship.
Gazaway also won at 126 in 2014 and was second at 106 in 2013.
106: 4-Sabri Murray, Rahway
113: 4-Kyjuan Hutchins, Union
120: 3-Chris Fuschetto, Johnson
126: 4-Mike Actelli, Summit
132: 4-Vince Concina, Cranford
138: 3-Dave Busch, Cranford
145: 4-Turner Haddad, Gov. Livingston
152: 3-Dave Forstenhausler, Roselle Park
160: 3-Jarek Gozdieski, Westfield
170: 1-Brad Carle, Roselle Park
182: 6-Jack Blasch, Gov. Livingston
195: 3-Quincy McCallon, Elizabeth
220: 6-Spencer Marke, Gov. Livingston
HWT: 4-Danny Petrela, Summit
106: 5-Emanuel Montero, Brearley
113: 3-Jon Mejia, Roselle Park
120: 7-Jack Cannon, Scotch Plains
126: 3-Kyle Gregorio, Johnson
132: 2-Devin Jefferson, Rahway
138: 5-Wyatt Bohm, Johnson
145: 3-Josh Gergich, Roselle Park
152: 6-Connor Morang, New Providence
160: 4-Joe DeVito, Roselle Park
170: 2-Maslin Pierre, Linden
182: 4-Klaudio Bardhoku, New Providence
195: 4-Khalil Burns, Linden
220: 3-Justin Drake, Rahway
HWT: 3-Max Burgos, Linden
106: 6-Owen Smith, New Providence
113: 9-Nadim Korkmaz, Scotch Plains
120: 4-Ancyto Valcin, Elizabeth
126: 6-Vincent Simonetti, Union
132: 7-Austin Senkarik, Gov. Livingston
138: 5-Phillip Lovensky, Rahway
145: 5-David Winters, Rahway
152: 4-Nick DeLuca, Gov. Livingston
160: 5-Mike Rhodes, Gov. Livingston
170: 6-Devin Anderson, Westfield
182: 3-Frank Weber, Union
195: 5-Nick Ballas, Cranford
220: 8-Andrew Lameria, Johnson
HWT: 7-Antwan Wilson, Plainfield
106: 7-Jake Pecorelli, Gov. Livingston
113: 7-Matt Supran, Summit
120: 8-Ibrahim Elbenna, Union
126: 5-Tony Stuckey, Elizabeth
132: 5-Tommy Cunningham, Scotch Plains
138: 8-Quinn Haddad, Gov. Livingston
145: 6-Yadley Marcalus, Union
152: 5-Gerson Gonzalez, Linden
160: 6-Rasheem Paige, Rahway
170: 5-Sam Burke, Gov. Livingston
182: 8-Carry Mimy, Roselle Park
195: 6-Abdus Slater, Plainfield
220: 4-Patrick Morris, New Providence
HWT: 5-David Brown, Union
FROM 2015 TO 1990:
2014: Roselle Park
2013: Roselle Park
2004: Scotch Plains
2003: Roselle Park
2002: Roselle Park
2001: Roselle Park
2000: Roselle Park
1999: Roselle Park
1998: Roselle Park
1997: Roselle Park
1993: Roselle Park
1992: Roselle Park