UNION – There was no surprise at all at the way Cranford dominated the 41st annual wrestling Union County Tournament that was contested all day Saturday at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
The Cougars, as expected, repeated as champions, producing the most individual champs for the second straight season. Cranford won the UCT last year for the first time since the 1980s and did so with four champions.
On Saturday the Cougars – who totaled 270 points – had six champs, with five of them juniors.
That makes Cranford the heavy favorite to win again next year, with a three-peat a very strong possibility.
However, what was considered to be a bit surprising was the effort put forth by the host school. The Union Farmers, who have not won the crown since 1994, had their highest finish in some time, placing fourth – and without a single champion.
Union finished with 113 points and was one of only four schools to have at least 100. Union was 10th last year with 75.5, so Saturday’s performance was some kind of improvement
Although the Farmers did not have a champion, Union did have eight of their 14 wrestlers place – which meant they finished among the top six in their weight classes – including senior David Brown coming in second at heavyweight.
Union seventh-year head coach Dino DeBellonia was very proud of his grapplers.
“Finishing fourth was a nice little accolade for the program,” DeBellonia said. “Having eight wrestlers place really helped us tremendously.”
Right before the finals were contested, DeBellonia was named the 2016 Union County Coach of the Year. Before becoming the head coach at Union for the 2009-2010 season, DeBellonia was an assistant coach for 10 years and then the head coach for six at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange.
This was his first coach of the year award.
“The most important thing is that it brings recognition to the athletic program, the school and the community,” DeBellonia said of the award. “That’s what matters most.”
Brown, who placed sixth at heavyweight last year as the fifth seed and then went on to place third at Region 3 and compete in the NJSIAA Tournament in Atlantic City, was the second seed Saturday.
After receiving a bye, Brown pinned seventh seed Danage Oliver of Elizabeth in 5:39 and then pinned third-seeded Kevin Doran of Cranford in 3:14.
That put Brown, a senior, up against top-seeded Dan Tomlinson of Governor Livingston. A junior, Tomlinson placed second at heavyweight a year ago.
The two tangled for the first time this season at Union, with Brown losing a low-scoring, one-point, triple-overtime decision according to DeBellonia.
Here was DeBellonia’s strategy for Brown going into Saturday’s UCT final vs. Tomlinson: “He’ll have to be on offense and try to create a point of attack, to try and attack the legs and score. It will be hard fighting, with David just trying to score more points.”
Saturday’s UCT final turned out to be another one-point match, but unfortunately for Brown the decision went Tomlinson’s way again, this time 3-2. Brown came so close to being Union’s first UCT champion in some time.
“David still had a very good showing,” DeBellonia said.
Placing third for Union were junior Nick Zuena at 145 and senior Victor Azeredo at 152.
Coming in fourth were senior Vincent Simonetti at 132 and junior Mike Matullo at 113.
Fifth for the Farmers were senior Dennis Gaglione at 182 and junior Kyjuan Hutchins at 120 and sixth was senior Jacob McKnight at 160.
UNION WRESTLERS WHO PLACED (8):
113: Mike Matullo, junior, 4th
120: Kyjuan Hutchins, junior, 5th
132: Vincent Simonetti, senior, 4th
145: Nick Zuena, junior, 3rd
152: Victor Azeredo, senior, 3rd
160: Jacob McKnight, senior, 6th
182: Dennis Gaglione, senior, 5th
HWT: David Brown, senior, 2nd
“One of my goals was to reach firsts, with one of them being double digit wins,” DeBellonia said. “Finishing fourth in the county is a great stepping stone. We want to carry that over into the districts and regions.”
DeBellonia said that Union has a team record of 7-3, but still has a long road ahead this season.
NOTES: The T. “Ralph” Pug Williams award was presented to Gary Bremer of New Providence.
Governor Livingston was second for the second straight season, while Roselle Park was third for the second year in a row after the Panthers won their last two titles in 2013 and 2014.
GL was the only other school with more than one champion. In addition to Tomlinson winning at heavyweight, senior Tyler Gazaway won his third crown and first at 145.
Cranford champions included juniors Anthony Capece, Tom DiGiovanni, Chris Scorese, Brian McGovern and Alex Esposito. DiGiovanni, who also became a three-time winner, has the chance to become Cranford’s first 4-time champ next year.
Senior Niko Cappello, also a member of Cranford’s 12-0 North 2, Group 3 state championship football team this past fall, finished with two UCT championships, both at 182. Cappello placed second at 160 as a sophomore in 2014.
2016 UCT FINALS
TEAMS: 1-Cranford 270. 2-Gov. Livingston 194. 3-Roselle Park 156.
4-Union 113. 5-Johnson 92. 6-Scotch Plains and Westfield 90.
8-Rahway 74. 9-New Providence 68.5. 10-Brearley 62. 11-Elizabeth 56.
12-Plainfield 44. 13-Linden 28. 14-Summit 26.5.
106: 1-Sabri Murray, Rahway, dec. 2-Mark Montgomery, Roselle Park, 5-1.
113: 2-Anthony Capece, Cranford, dec. 1-Chris Gural, Roselle Park, 2-1.
120: 1-Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, dec. 3-Nic Mele, Gov. Livingston, 4-3
(3-3 UTB – Ultimate Tie Breaker)
126: 1-Chris Fuschetto, Johnson, won by injury default over 2-Kevin Bazan, Elizabeth.
132: 1-Chris Scorese, Cranford, dec. 2-Phillip Angelo, Summit, 8-2.
138: 4-Austin Senkarik, GL, dec. 2-Timmy Murray, Brearley, 1-0.
145: 1-Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, maj. dec. 2-Vince Concina, Cranford, 13-0.
152: 1-Brian McGovern, Cranford, dec. 2-Joe Devito, Roselle Park, 1-0.
160: 1-Jarek Gozdieski, Westfield, maj. dec. 3-Quinn Haddad, GL, 13-0.
171: 2-Will Ferdinando, Roselle Park, dec. 1-Andrew Tompkins, Cranford, 3-1 (OT).
182: 1-Niko Cappello, Cranford, dec. 7-Chris Bottone, GL, 6-1.
195: 1-Saverio Salcfas, Brearley, dec. 2-Jack Blasch, GL, 8-2.
220: 4-Alex Esposito, Cranford, pin 2-Phil Ricca, Westfield, 2:14.
HWT: 1-Dan Tomlinson, GL, dec. 2-David Brown, Union, 3-2.
TEAMS WITH CHAMPIONS (8):
Cranford (6): Anthony Capece 113, Tom DiGiovanni 120,
Chris Scorese 132, Brian McGovern 152, Niko Cappello 182,
Alex Esposito 220.
Gov. Livingston (2): Austin Senkarik 138, Dan Tomlinson HWT.
Rahway (1): Sabri Murray 106.
Johnson (1): Chris Fuschetto 126.
New Providence (1): Tyler Gazaway 145.
Westfield (1): Jarek Gozdieski 160.
Roselle Park (1): Will Ferdinando 171.
Brearley (1): Saverio Salcfas 220.
REPEAT CHAMPIONS (5):
Niko Cappello, Cranford, 182 – also won at 182 last year
Saverio Salcfas, Brearley 220 – also won at 220 last year
Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford 120 – also won at 120 last year
and at 113 two years ago
Chris Scorese, Cranford 132 – won at 126 last year
Tyler Gazaway, New Providence 145 – won at 138 last year
and at 126 two years ago
2017 RETURNING CHAMPIONS (8):
106: Sabri Murray, Rahway, sophomore
113: Anthony Capece, Cranford, junior
120: Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, junior
126: Chris Fuschetto, Johnson, sophomore
132: Chris Scorese, Cranford, junior
152: Brian McGovern, Cranford, junior
220: Alex Esposito, Cranford, junior
HWT: Dan Tomlinson, Gov. Livingston, junior
Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, junior
Won at 113 in 2014 and at 120 in 2015 and 2016.
DiGiovanni next year will have the opportunity to become
Cranford’s first 4-time winner and the UCT’s first since
Kenny Knapp of Brearley became the seventh in 2009.
Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, senior
Gazaway won at 126 in 2014, at 138 in 2015 and at 145 in 2016.
FROM 2016 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
4-TIME CHAMPIONS (7):
Larry Guarino, Union, class of 1988
1985 – won championship at 158
1986 – won championship at 158
1987 – won championship at 170
1988 – won championship at 171
Dave Bubnowski, Union, class of 1996
1993 – won championship at 103
1994 – won championship at 103
1995 – won championship at 121
1996 – won championship at 135
Craig Frost, Roselle Park, class of 1999
1996: 103 final: dec. Shawn Stueber of Rahway 10-4.
1997: 112 final: maj. dec. Rich Sachsel of New Providence, 21-8.
1998: 130 final: dec. Shawn Stueber of Rahway, 6-0.
1999: 135 final: pinned Jeff Bubnowski of Union in 2:48.
Dan Appello, Roselle Park, class of 2002
1999: 103 final: dec. Dare Ajibade of Union , 8-3
2000: 112 final: tech. fall Tom McDermott of Johnson 21-6 (3:08).
2001: 119 final: maj. dec. William Banks of Elizabeth, 17-5.
2002: 125 final: dec. William Banks of Elizabeth 11-4.
Darrion Caldwell, Rahway, class of 2006
2003: 103 final: pin Rob Mench of Westfield in 1:05.
2004: 119 final: pin Ross Baldwin of New Providence in 2:44.
2005: 135 final: pin Steve Mineo of Scotch Plains in :54.
2006: 160 final: pin Hany Elshiekh of Brearley in 1:26.
Jesse Boyden, Brearley, class of 2008
2005: 215 final: dec. Julio Loperena of Linden, 10-4.
2006: 215 final: pin Trevor Martin of New Providence in :43.
2007: 215 final: major dec. Richard Tabor of Elizabeth, 12-3.
2008: 215 final: dec. Mike Lefano of Roselle Park, 5-2.
Kenny Knapp, Brearley, class of 2009
2006: 103 final: pin Juan Herrera of Rahway, 3:46.
2007: 103 final: pin Anthony Casselli of Roselle Park, 4:23.
2008: 119 final: pin Anthony Zangari of Roselle Park, 3:40.
2009: 130 final: maj. dec. John Barnes of Westfield, 9-1.