After what Union standout David Brown went through on the mat last weekend he needed plenty of rest to be prepared for his first trip to Atlantic City.
Just getting out of Region 3 and qualifying for the NJSIAA Tournament was – perhaps – the ultimate challenge for this highly-competitive junior grappler.
Following a win that took nine seconds less than the maximum (regulation) six minutes with a win by fall in the preliminaries, Brown then had to go the overtime route against his next four opponents before a winner could be declared.
Brown, the seventh seed, followed up his pin of 10th-seeded Jake Maciejewski of Delbarton in 5:51 last Wednesday night with a win by ultimate tiebreaker over second-seeded Danny Petrela of Summit in Friday night’s quarterfinals.
That put Brown in Saturday’s semifinals against third-seeded Victor Rivera of Barringer. This bout went to OT as well, with Rivera coming out on top 2-1.
That put Rivera in the final against top-seeded Lloyd Jackson of Elizabeth – Jackson won 2-1 – while Brown moved on to the consolation semifinals. Brown defeated Kyle McGinley of Parsippany Hills in another ultimate tiebreaker situation to advance to the third place bout for the final heavyweight slot out of Region 3 that was to qualify for the states.
So after three straight matches that went to overtime – with Brown winning two of them – here was Brown in overtime again – this time against Edison Flores of Middlesex, the sixth seed.
At stake was a trip to Atlantic City, a place where Brown had never wrestled before.
Neither grappler could score against the other in the first overtime. In the two 30 second periods that followed, both produced escape points.
One again – for the third time to be exact – it was ultimate tiebreaker time for Brown.
This time Brown was able to ride-out Flores in the final 30 second session and as a result earned his first trip to the states.
Brown was also buoyed by a home crowd in the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium that was ecstatic to see one of its own reach Atlantic City.
While Union improved a great deal this year under head coach and Region 3 co-Coach of the Year Dino DeBellonia – the Farmers fashioned a winning 16-9-1 mark – it has been some time since a UHS grappler advanced to the NJSIAA Tournament.
Brown is the first Union wrestler in exactly 10 years to qualify for the NJSIAA Tournament. The last Farmer grappler to compete in Atlantic City was Pete Jacangelo in 2005. He was defeated by Jack Barrett of Metuchen 7-3 in a preliminary round bout at 145.
Jacangelo is also Union’s last Union County Tournament champion. He won the 145 division in 2005.
Union’s winningest wrestler this year – Brown heads to AC with a 33-11 record – he did well to bounce back from finishing sixth in the UCT.
Brown advanced to Region 3 after placing second in District 10 at Millburn, falling to Petrela 5-3 in the final.
This is Brown’s first year wrestling varsity from beginning to end. Also a football player, Brown was a sub-varsity grappler as a freshman and sophomore.
“There were a lot of qualify wrestlers in the region and David was among them,” said Union head coach Dino DeBellonia, at the helm of the Farmers since the 2009-2010 season after coaching at Seton Hall Prep.
Seeing Brown do what he did was quite memorable for DeBellonia.
“I was certainly just happy for the young man,” DeBellonia said. “Then I was happy for the program, for the kids involved and the coaching staff.”
Brown – after such determination – became the first Union wrestler to reach the states in a decade.
“Fans of Union wrestling, they’ve been really waiting for something like this,” DeBellonia said. “Union is one of the original programs in the state.
“For many years Union was a very strong program. It’s taken some time to get some quality kids out – athletes.
“From the numbers we found quality and now we’re getting more kids to be on the team and good at the sport, an accomplishment certainly.”
To do what Brown did against the competition last weekend – compete in four consecutive overtime matches and win three of them – is one for the record books.
“In the situations that he was in, it takes a lot of things,” DeBellonia said. “It takes poise, the ability to listen to your corner, to your coaches, then it ultimately comes down to heart and he showed a lot of that. Those attributes helped him Friday and Saturday.
“He really wanted to do it for the team, the program and for the school. He knew that Union had not had a state participant in many years and he wanted to help stop that drought and make some history.”
Brown’s first match is scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. vs. Calen West of Delran. The NJSIAA Tournament is three days, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
“I believe there is one common opponent, which is Flores, so we are going to examine that more,” DeBellonia said.
“At this stage you just have to go out there and compete at your best. Mistake-free wrestling is what it comes down to at the states.
“If you wrestle mistake-free and out-condition your opponent, chances are you’re going to get your hand raised.”
Brown will go from the pressure of the third-place bout in Region 3 to qualify for the states to having to win his first match in Atlantic City to continue to wrestle. If Brown loses to West, his season will end. If he beats West, Brown will then face Andrew Pacheco of Watchung Hills Friday night at 7. That match will not be do or die. If Brown loses that match, he will still wrestle again on Saturday in the first wrestleback round.
“I don’t know if I can take many more overtime bouts,” DeBellonia said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my coaching career.
“It says a lot about determination and it also says a lot about poise.
“Can you maintain more poise than other guy amidst those kinds of circumstances? That’s what wrestling really is.
“We’re just going to take it one match at a time. This is a new tournament as far as we’re concerned.
“We want David to wrestle his best and represent his school, his team and his community well. To me that is the most important thing.”
DeBellonia honored to receive coaching award
DeBellonia shared the Region 3 Coach of the Year award with Pat Gorman of Cranford, who earlier this year was named Union County Coach of the Year for the first time.
“I was honored,” DeBellonia said. “For my peers to vote for me and Pat was truly an honor. Pat has a great program.
“For us I think it was a matter of a lot of people noticing a big difference in the program, the competitiveness of the kids and we also qualified for the North 2, Group 5 tournament, making it to the semifinals after an exciting win against Bridgewater-Raritan.
“Union had not made it to a sectional semifinal in probably 20 years. Then we advanced seven kids to the regional tournament.
“That says a lot about where we have been, where we’re at and, hopefully, where we are headed.”
DAVID BROWN AT REGION 3 AT UNION:
7TH SEED AT HEAVYWEIGHT
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25
PINNED 10-Jake Maciejewski, Delbarton, 5:51
FRIDAY, FEB. 27
DEFEATED 2-Danny Petrela, Summit, 2-1,
SATURDAY, FEB. 28
LOST TO 3-Victor Rivera, Barringer, 2-1 (OT).
DEFEATED 9-Kyle McGinley, Parsippany Hills, 2-1,
in ultimate tiebreaker.
CONSOLATION FINALS (for 3rd place):
DEFEATED 6-Edison Flores, Middlesex, 3-2,
REGION 3 FINALS AT UNION:
126 – Anthony Cefolo, Hanover Park, pin Chris Scorese, Cranford, 3:04.
132 – Nick Farro, Delbarton, dec. Craig De La Cruz, Summit, 6-5
138 – Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, dec. JT Beirne, Scotch Plains, 2-1.
145 – Travis Vasquez, Delbarton, dec. Alex Murray, Watchung Hills, 5-0.
152 – Joe Tavoso, Delbarton, dec. Gavin Murray, Cranford, 6-4.
160 – Anthony Oliveri, Han. Park, dec. Daniel Kourakos, New Prov., 5-1.
170 – Evan Goodridge, Rahway, dec. Luke Anselmi, Delbarton, 7-3.
182 – Niko Cappello, Cranford, dec. Rohan Phillip, Plainfield, 7-5.
195 – Andrew Massefski, Parsipp., dec. James Valley, North Plain. 5-4 (OT).
220 – David Tobe, Eliz., dec. Saverio Salcfas, Brearley, 3-2 (ultimate tie).
HWT – Lloyd Jackson, Elizabeth, dec. Victor Rivera, Barringer, 2-1.
106 – Pat Glory, Delbarton, dec. Gerard Angelo, Hanover Park, 1-0.
113 – Sean Conley, Hanover Park, dec. Kevin Jones, Parsippany, 4-1.
120 – Ty Agaisse, Delbarton, maj. dec. Lou Raimo, Hanover Park, 15-5.
106 – PJ Gohn, Parsippany
113 – Chris Gural, Roselle Park
120 – Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford
126 – Val Miele, Delbarton
132 – Austin Nash, Hanover Park
138 – Dan Hedden, South Plainfield
145 – Christian Bassolino, Hanover Park
152 – Sam Champi, Morristown
160 – Joe Prato, Whippany Park
170 – Aarin Feliz, Parsippany
182 – LJ Castellano, Delbarton
195 – Alex Mirabella, Scotch Plains
220 – Alexis Villegas, Morristown
HWT – David Brown, Union
MORRIS COUNTY – 9 champions:
Delbarton (5), Hanover Park (3), Parsippany.
UNION COUNTY – 5 champions:
Elizabeth (2), New Providence, Rahway, Cranford.
UNION COUNTY NJSIAA TOURNAMENT
QUALIFIERS OUT OF REGION 3 (16):
138-Tyler Gazaway, New Providence
170-Evan Goodridge, Rahway
182-Niko Cappello, Cranford
220-David Tobe, Elizabeth
HWT-Lloyd Jackson, Elizabeth
126-Chris Scorese, Cranford
132-Craig De La Cruz, Summit
138-JT Beirne, Scotch Plains
152-Gavin Murray, Cranford
160-Daniel Kourakos, New Providence
182-Rohan Phillip, Plainfield
220-Saverio Salcfas, Brearley
113-Chris Gural, Roselle Park
120-Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford
195-Alex Mirabella, Scotch Plains
HWT-David Brown, Union