After a transition period that saw – for a number of years – Union wrestlers working hard and trying to keep up with the Brearleys, Roselle Parks, Governor Livingstons and Cranfords, the Farmers are on their way back.
They’re on their way back to being among the elite teams again in Union County; North 2, Group 5; and District 10.
Union just completed as fine a regular season as the program has ever produced, compiling an impressive 23-4 record. The Farmers also reached the North 2, Group 5 semifinals for a second consecutive season.
Under the guidance of seventh-year head coach Dino DeBellonia, host Union finished fourth in the Union County Tournament, improving a great deal from last year’s 10th-place finish.
The Farmers seek to continue their upgrade in this weekend’s District 10 competition at Millburn as well. Union finished ninth in 2014 and then third last year behind four-peat champion Roselle Park and the school DeBellonia used to coach at, second-place Seton Hall Prep.
DeBellonia was named last year’s District 10 Coach of the Year and this year’s Union County Coach of the Year.
Union had one wrestler, present senior David Brown, advance all the way to last year’s NJSIAA Tournament, which is the final competition of the season.
In addition to its fine regular season record this year, Union also sported a 6-0 league mark to capture the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division title.
Union went 16-10 last year and the past two years has a combined winning record of 39-14.
To say Union is back among the top teams in Union County; North 2, Group 5; and District 10 would – indeed – be very accurate.
“We felt we had a lot of potential coming into this season after the way we performed last year,” DeBellonia said. “We’re starting to show others how far we’ve come. It comes from getting the kids out and training them properly.”
Union finished fourth in the county this year – Cranford repeated as champion, GL was second and Roselle Park third – without a champion, showing it has many quality wrestlers producing team points.
Union’s third-place finish in last year’s District 10 Tournament was also without a champion. Union did have six grapplers advance to Region 3 at Union, with two second-place finishers – Kyjuan Hutchins at 113 and Brown at heavyweight – and four third-place finishers – Vincent Simonetti at 126, Yadley Marcelus at 145, Nick Zuena at 152 and Victor Azeredo at 170.
“We’ve been talking about the importance of District 10 since the beginning of the season,” DeBellonia said. “There are a lot of good teams, so it’s going to be very challenging.”
Zuena (29-7) is the top seed at 145 and one of the top junior grapplers in Union County. Brown (30-5) is the second seed at heavyweight and once again among the top wrestlers in the area in his weight class.
Simonetti, another senior, is 30-4 and the second seed at 132. Hutchins, a junior, is the second seed at 120 and sports a 24-10 mark.
Jacob McNight, a senior, is the second seed at 22-14.
“Jacob has really done a good job for us this year,” DeBellonia said.
Azeredo is the third seed in a very challenging 152 weight class and the owner of a 29-4 record.
Back from knee surgery is senior Frank Weber, who is the third seed at 195 with a record of 11-4.
“We’re going to try to do better than we did last year,” DeBellonia said. “Some of our kids have pretty good records.
“This is the time of the year where you really have to battle, so we’ll see.”
Union’s only losses were to Westfield, GL and Cranford in the regular season and at Watchung Hills in the states.
Union defeated Millburn 57-15 on Feb. 12, which was Seniors Night at UHS.