The North 2, Group 3 champion Cranford wrestling team did not get another shot at South Plainfield Sunday at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River after falling to South Jersey, Group 3 champion Delsea 39-25 in the Group 3 semifinals.
Repeat Central Jersey, Group 3 champion South Plainfield, which last year defeated visiting Cranford 35-18 in the CJ, G3 semifinals and the year before edged the Cougars by one point in a sectional final, went on to repeat as Group 3 champions, garnering their 10th state title by beating Delsea 38-23 in Sunday’s Group 3 final. South Plainfield also beat Delsea in last year’s Group 3 final.
With the team state tournament now complete, it’s time to move on to the districts, with all of them re-aligned in the pre-season for the first time in a long time.
The re-alignment took Cranford out of District 11 at Westfield and South Plainfield out of District 12 at South Plainfield and put both powers in District 14 at Woodbridge, which is scheduled to be contested this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17 and 18.
Cranford, after placing third in District 11 in 2013, captured the District 11 championship the last three years in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Perhaps the most dominant district team in the state, South Plainfield captured District 12 last year for the 32nd straight season (every year from 1985-2016).
It’s been reported that Woodbridge and South Plainfield will rotate as District 14 hosts moving forward, with South Plainfield set to host the field in 2018.
The schools competing in District 14 this weekend include: South Plainfield, Christ the King, Cranford, J.P. Stevens, Gov. Livingston, Bayonne, Woodbridge, Middlesex-Dunellen, Brearley-Dayton and North Plainfield.
All individual qualifiers – places 1-3 in the 14 weight classes – will advance to Region 4 at Union the final weekend in February.
Cranford, guided by head coach Pat Gorman, finished 21-1 this year and was the only team to defeat Group 4 state champion Phillipsburg, topping the Stateliners 36-32 on a January Friday night in Cranford.
South Plainfield, guided by first-year head coach Bill Pavlik, finished 30-1. South Plainfield head coach Kevin McCann was named last year’s District 12 Coach of the Year.
Cranford’s lineup heading into Sunday’s group semifinals and finals included senior Tom DiGiovanni 20-1 at 138, Chris Scorese ranked No. 3 in the state at 132, Vince Concina ranked No. 8 in the state at 170 and previous state qualifier Anthony Capece 16-1 at 113.
DiGiovanni became Cranford’s first 4-time UCT champion last month.
Last year, senior Niko Cappello became a 4-time district champion for the Cougars.
Having a chance to join Cappello as 4-time district champs this year for Cranford are seniors DiGiovanni, Scorese and Concina.
South Plainfield is led by senior co-captain Jake Giordano at 120 and fellow seniors Jacob Painton at 132 and Kyle Bythell at 145.
Here’s a look at how Cranford won District 11 at Westfield the last three years:
2016: Cranford won easily with a team total of 254.5 points. The Cougars produced a school-record eight individual champions for the first time since 1962, had 10 wrestlers reach the finals and ultimately had 13 qualifiy for Region 3 competition at Union.
Senior Kevin Doran was the Oustanding Wrestler, winning the heavyweight title, while fellow senior Niko Cappello became a 4-time champion, winning at 182 for the second straight season. Juniors Tom DiGiovanni, Chris Scorese and Vince Concina captured their third district titles.
2015: Cranford won with 203 points, finishing ahead of second-pace Scotch Plains with 169. Scotch Plains was also second in the team standings in 2016. Scotch Plains had the Outstanding Wrestler this time, with J.T. Bierne winning all of his matches by pin to win his weight class.
Cranford had a school-record six champions, including senior Gavin Murray, the 152 winner, capturing his third district crown.
2014: Cranford won the team title with 189.5 points, while Scotch Plains was second for the second time of four straight seasons (2013, 2014, 2015,2016) with 157.
Chris Scorese, a freshman at the time, was the Outstanding Wrestler, capturing the 120 championship.
Gavin Murray, the 138 champ, and Niko Cappello, the 160 winner, were repeat champions for Cranford.
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When Cranford captured its third straight Union County Tournament championship in January at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium, the Cougars prodiced five champions – all seniors: Tom DiGiovanni (138), Chris Scorese (132), Brian McGovern (160), Vince Concina (170) and Alex Esposito (heavyweight).
The Cougars won the team title with 248.5 points, with second-place Roselle Park coming in with 183.5.
Cranford, which also captured the Union County Conference’s seven-team Watchung Division title with a perfect 6-0 record, won all but three of its regular season matches by double-digit margins.
Cranford’s closest wins were 36-32 at home vs. Phillipsburg, 36-28 at Hanover Park and 36-28 at High Point.
In capturing the North 2, Group 3 championship last week, Cranford defeated Irvington 64-9, Nutley 60-10 and Warren Hills 33-22, all at home.
Cranford previously defeated Warren Hills 48-21 at home back on Jan. 28.
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CRANFORD STATE CHAMPIONS:
2006: Pat Hogan (171)
1990: Willie Carpenter (112)
1961: Dick Prior (123)
1959: George Craft (178)
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at Scotch Plains
Seton Hall Prep
St. Peter’s Prep
Christ The King (Newark)
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UNION TO HOST REGION 4
Farmer senior Zuena
reaches 100 wins
Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium will be the host for the Region 4 Tournament Feb. 24 and 25.
In the past Union as the site for Region 3 wrestlers.
Region 4 consists of wrestlers qualifying out of districts 13-16.
Union senior Nick Zuena, who recently produced his 100th career victory, will seek to win the 152-pound title at District 16 at Millburn.
Millburn was previously the annual site of District 10.
This season Zuena became Union’s first UCT winner since 2005.