First Cranford doubles up challenging South Jersey foe Wall 48-24 on Jan. 3.
One day later Rahway has an historic 36-23 win at Roselle Park.
Then Rahway, at 5-0, and Cranford, at 3-0, clash at Cranford last Friday night, with Union County’s top team – the host Cougars – coming out on top by a convincing 60-11 count.
Move ahead 24 hours to the same Cranford gym where the Cougars this time hosted perennial state power Phillipsburg last Saturday night before a packed house.
With the match in the balance and just one more bout to go, Cranford senior Anthony Capece – injured earlier in the season – managed an 11-5 victory at 113 pounds to cement a thrilling 36-32 Cougar victory.
That sets up this Saturday’s UCT quite well.
The 42nd annual wrestling Union County Tournament is scheduled to take place this Saturday – Jan. 14 – at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
Competition will go from – roughly – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cranford senior Tom DiGiovanni, now wrestling at 138, will have the opportunity to become the UCT’s eighth 4-time champion and first from his school.
Cranford, which began the week 5-0 after stunning previously undefeated Phillipsburg 36-32 at home this past Saturday night, is the prohibitive favorite to capture its third straight UCT championship.
Last Wednesday at Roselle Park, Rahway defeated the host Panthers 36-23 for either its first win over Roselle Park or its first win in some time. Rahway improved to 5-0, while handing Roselle Park its first loss after the Panthers were 2-0. Roselle Park began the week 3-2 after beating Linden and falling to Watchung Hills.
Rahway fell to 5-1 Friday night after falling at Cranford 60-11.
Union, which placed fourth in the UCT last year for its best finish in some time (the Farmers did so without a single champion), began the week at 3-3, including a 48-34 win vs. North Plainfield last Saturday.
There are eight returning champions, including Rahway junior Sabri Murray at 120, Cranford senior Anthony Capece at 113, Cranford senior Tom DiGiovanni at 138, Johnson junior Chris Fuschetto at 132, Cranford senior Chris Scorese at 132, Cranford senior Brian McGovern at 160, Cranford senior Alex Esposito at heavyweight and last year’s heavyweight champion, Governor Livingston senior Dan Tomlinson.
Scorese is state-ranked at 132 as is senior teammate Vince Concina at 182.
Last year’s top five teams in the scoring were Cranford first with 270 points, GL second with 194, Roselle Park third with 156, Union fourth with 113, and Johnson fifth with 92.
Rahway was eighth with 74.
Cranford had six champions last year, GL two and six other schools one each.
When Cranford won the team title in 2015 the Cougars had four champions.
Cranford finished second in 2014.
Union had eight wrestlers place a year ago, including junior Mike Matullo fourth at 113, junior Kyjuan Hutchins fifth at 120, senior Vincent Simonetti fourth at 132, junior Nick Zuena third at 145, senior Victor Azeredo third at 152, senior Jacob McKnight sixth at 160, senior Dennis Gaglione fifth at 182 and senior David Brown second at heavyweight.
DiGiovanni won at 113 his freshman year in 2014 and at 120 his sophomore season in 2015.
The last four-time winner was Brearley senior Kenny Knapp in 2009.
The first six four-time winners were Union’ s Larry Guarino in 1988, Union’s Dave Bubnowski in 1996, Roselle Park’s Craig Frost in 1999, Roselle Park’s Dan Appello in 2002, Rahway’s Darrion Caldwell in 2006, and Brearley’s Jesse Boyden in 2008.
Cranford is the only Union County team ranked among the state’s top 20 school.
Last year the Cougars finished 15-4-1 after falling at perennial Middlesex County power South Plainfield 35-18 in the Central Jersey, Group 3 semifinals.
HERE IS AN ACCOUNT OF RAHWAY’S WIN AT ROSELLE PARK THAT A READER SENT IN:
Rahway Wrestlers Roll Past Roselle Park Panthers
ROSELLE PARK – The Rahway High School Wrestling Team beat Roselle Park for the first time in its nearly 70-year history. Last night’s bout sheet is testament to the fact that almost every match was tightly contested, and it seemed every point scored by either team had to be tenaciously fought for. A young Rahway team appeared to have brought its best game to Roselle Park last night, and it was needed. The Indians were cautious and judicious for the most part, but junior Brian Diaz’ dramatic headlock and subsequent pin in the third-to-last bout clinched the victory for Rahway.
Assistant coach Jesse Campanelli captured the sentiment of many who have been involved in the Rahway program. “Although no opponent is more important than another, this was long-awaited victory for over three generations of Rahway wrestling.” Coach Campanelli continued: “We are especially proud of this young group of grapplers. It was a well-deserved win for Coach Fred Stueber after decades of dedication to this program.”
An animated Assistant Coach Dan Garay could hardly contain his pride. “The kids went out and wrestled tough – they won it for the team, they won it for Rahway, they won it for Stueb!”
Assistant coach Antonio Garay also praised this next generation of Rahway wrestlers: “Our kids handled themselves professionally and didn’t’ get caught up in the moment, which resulted in it being a great moment for Coach Stueber. They wrestled strategically and they wrestled for each other. No one individual was bigger than the team.”
A volunteer coach elaborated. “Roselle Park has many talented, tough, experienced wrestlers in their line-up. They did not yield an inch of territory. But Rahway has been working very hard, and studying the sport with some of the best coaches I know. I don’t know if it was magic or luck, but I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’ I think it’s time for these guys to start to really believe in what there capable of.”
The contest began at the 220-pound wright division. Junior Vladimir Lee helped set the tone for Rahway, who wrestled smart and aggressive against Panther Sean Matthews. An escape and a well-earned takedown was all he needed to secure the victory and put Rahway on the board first, 3-0. A forfeit at 285 pounds expanded the Rahway lead, 9-0.
Coming up against the heart of the Roselle Park line-up, the Panthers Gabriel Leo (106) and Mark Montgomery (113) took the next two bouts, momentarily giving the match lead to Roselle Park, 10-9.
However, junior Sabri Murray quickly put the Indian team back on top, 12-10, beating a talented Jon Mejia 4-0 in the 120-pound weight class.
Rahway also received a forfeit at the 126-pound weight class. The score then stood at 18-10, advantage Rahway.
The next three bouts, all hotly-contested chess matches, may have been the key to the Rahway victory. Determined wrestlers Antonio Dalmau and Antonio Santoni both edged their Roselle Park adversaries by a point, 1-0 and 2-1, respectively. A relentless Jason Winters outlasted Roselle Park’s Dylan Camilo, 7-4 in the 145-pound bout. Then, last week’s hero Daijaun Edwards dropped a major decision to perhaps the Panther’s most physical wrestler, Rene Perez, whose Panther record improved to 8-1. At this point, Rahway was leading 27-14, with four matches remaining.
For the second match in a row, Brian Diaz came through with a pin in 1:36 at 160 pounds and junior Emilio Cordova followed with a 4-1 victory.
Despite little experience, newcomers Sam Dorielan and Josh Darisme lost the next two bouts, but both wrestled well according to upper weights coach Dan Garay.
Rahway 36, Roselle Park 23 – at Roselle Park, Jan. 4, 2017
220: Vladimir Lee (RAHW) over Sean Matthews (ROPA) (Dec 3-0)
285: JYMIR ANDERSON (RAHW) over (ROPA) (For.)
106: Gabriel Leo (ROPA) over MANONGSONG RANDOLPH (RAHW) (MD 12-4)
113: Mark Montgomery (ROPA) over CHRIS DALMAU (RAHW) (Fall 1:30)
120: SABRI MURRAY (RAHW) over Jon A Mejia (ROPA) (Dec 4-0)
126: RHISE ROYSTER (RAHW) over (ROPA) (For.)
132: ANTONIO DALMAU (RAHW) over Joshua B Mejia (ROPA) (Dec 1-0)
138: ANTONIO SANTONI (RAHW) over Elvin Guerrero (ROPA) (Dec 2-1)
145: Jason Winters (RAHW) over Dylan Camilo (ROPA) (Dec 7-4)
152: Rene Perez (ROPA) over DAIJAUN EDWARDS (RAHW) (MD 11-3)
160: BRIAN DIAZ (RAHW) over Angelo Martin (ROPA) (Fall 1:36)
170: EMILIO CORDOVA (RAHW) over Abel Crespo (ROPA) (Dec 4-1)
182: Devin Hilburn (ROPA) over SAM DORIELAN (RAHW) (Dec 1-0)
195: Vincent Figueredo (ROPA) over DARISME JOSHUA (RAHW) (Fall 2:28)