As special a season as it could be for Nick Zuena will continue this weekend as he will proudly represent the Union High School wrestling program.
The talented 152-pound standout senior grappler will be competing in the 84th annual NJSIAA Tournament that commences Friday, continues Saturday and concludes Sunday at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Zuena (34-3) performed quite well in front of a home audience to place second at 152 in this past weekend’s challenging Region 4 competition held at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium.
Zuena, a four-year varsity wrestler who heads to the states with a record this year of 34-3, won consecutive quarterfinal and semifinal round bouts past the regulation time of six minutes before falling in the final for only his third loss this year.
“Nick had a very exciting semifinal match, winning in an ultimate tiebreaker, and Friday night he won in sudden victory,” Union head coach Dino DeBellonia said. “He didn’t have an easy road to the finals.”
Union now has a wrestler that reached the states for a third straight year after David Brown at heavyweight qualified as a junior and senior in 2015 and 2016.
“After David the last two years, Nick is our torchbearer this year,” DeBellonia said.
Zuena, who earlier this year became Union’s first Union County Tournament champion since 2005 and then won his 100th career match, first went up against Alex Mastronardi of Bernards in Friday night’s quarterfinal round after receiving a first-round bye. There he defeated Mastronardi 3-1 in overtime described as sudden victory.
In Saturday’s semifinals vs. Cole Marra of North Hunterdon the score was tied 1-1 after the six minutes of regulation time.
Here’s what transpired in overtime according to DeBellonia: “Nick was put in the down position. Not only was he able to reverse, but he caught the kid on his back. The next thing we saw was the ref slapping for the pin.”
Zuena’s victory over Marra came by fall at the 8:07 mark.
“It was very exciting for Nick to be able to win that kind of match in his own gym in front of his own fans,” DeBellonia said.
Zuena also captured the 152 title in District 16 at Millburn and was the first grappler under DeBellonia’s tenure at Union to win two holiday tournaments, placing first in Dover and then at Parsippany.
“Nick is having a very honorable year,” DeBellonia said. “He surpassed 100 wins, was a county and district champ, finished second in his region and won two holiday tournaments.
“Nick has done a lot to make our program proud.”
Fellow senior teammate Kyjuan Hutchins placed fifth at 126, with his final victory being career No. 100.
“It was also nice to see Kyjuan get his 100th win in front of the home crowd,” DeBellonia said.
A total of 20 wrestlers from 10 Union County high schools advanced to the NJSIAA Tournament, with six champions, five second place, six third place and three fourth place.
For the first time fourth-place finishers also qualified.
REGION 4 AT UNION HIGH SCHOOL
UNION COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLERS
THAT ADVANCED TO NJSIAA TOURNAMENT:
106: CJ Composto, Westfield
113: Mark Montgomery, Roselle Park
126: Rhise Royster, Rahway
132: Chris Scorese, Cranford
182: Sam Wustefeld, Scotch Plains
HWT: Alex Esposito, Cranford
113: Anthony Capece, Cranford
132: Chris Fuschetto, Johnson
138: Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford
152: Nick Zuena, Union
182: Turner Haddad, Gov. Livingston
120: Sabri Murray, Rahway
138: Philip Angelo, Summit
160: Brian McGovern, Cranford
170: Vince Concina, Cranford
195: Jake Miller, Westfield
HWT: Danny Petrela, Summit
152: Charlie Buckley, Brearley
170: Quinn Haddad, Gov. Livingston
220: Phil Ricca, Westfield
Of Union County schools, Cranford has the most representation with six grapplers headed to AC, including senior champions Chris Scorese at 132 and Alex Esposito at heavyweight.
Scorese and Espostio were also UCT at Union and District 14 at Woodbridge champions.
Cranford’s other wrestlers who advanced are Anthony Capece, Tom DiGiovanni, Brian McGovern and Vince Concina.
Cranford head coach Pat Gorman was named Region 4 Coach of the Year.
Cranford captured the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship at 6-0 and then finished 21-1 overall, with its only loss to Delsea in the Group 3 semifinals at Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School in Toms River.
Cranford also won a third straight UCT championship, captured the North 2, Group 3 title and then reached the Group 3 semifinals. At District 14 in Woodbridge, Cranford finished second to South Plainfield.
Other Region 4 winners from Union County high schools included: CJ Composto of Westfield at 106, Mark Montgomery of Roselle Park at 113, Rhise Royster of Rahway at 126 and Sam Wustefeld of Scotch Plains at 182.
Montgomery, the second seed, blanked top-seeded Anthony Capece of Cranford 1-0 in the 113 final.
Westfield’s three qualifiers include CJ Composto, Jack Miller and Phil Ricca.
Rahway, Summit and Governor Livingston had two qualifiers each, with Rhise Royster and Sabri Murray making it for Rahway, Philip Angelo and Danny Petrela for Summit and Turner Haddad and Quinn Haddad for GL.
Five Union County schools had one wrestler each make it with Chris Fuschetto representing Johnson, Zuena-Union, Montgomery-Roselle Park, Sam Wustefeld-Scotch Plains and Charlie Buckley-Brearley.
South Plainfield had the most wrestlers advance to the NJSIAA Tournament out of Region 4 with seven. Woodbridge was the only other school to have two Region 4 champions.
NOTES: Union County has only produced one state champion in the past eight NJSIAA Tournaments. That was Westfield senior Christian Barber winning at 152 in 2011.
Union County did not produce a state champion in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Union County high school wrestlers who have won state championships since the first year in 1934 total 128.
Union grapplers Leon Moorman winning at 95 pounds and then Norman Hansen winning at 175 were Union County’s first state champions in 1935.
Union County’s third state champion was Roselle Park’s first, that wrestler being Herb Farrell winning at 95 in 1936.
REGION 4 AT UNION
106: CJ Composto, Westfield, pin Larry Melchionda, SHP, 1:16.
113: Mark Montgomery, Roselle Park, dec. Anthony Capece, Cranford, 1-0
120: Michael Kelly, St. Peter’s Prep, dec. Joe Heilmann, South Plainfield, 3-0.
126: Rhise Royster, Rahway, dec. Jake Giordano, South Plainfield, 3-2.
132: Chris Scorese, Cranford, dec. Chris Fuschetto, Johnson, 3-1.
138: Bob Dinger, Middlesex, maj. dec. Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, 11-3.
145: Nick Santos, St. Peter’s Prep dec. Jeff Johnson, Middlesex, 4-2 (OT).
152: TJ Calas, Seton Hall Prep, dec. Nick Zuena, Union, 5-0.
160: Marquan Payne, Woodbridge, dec. Michael Fernandes, Voorhees, 4-3.
170: Bryan McLaughlin, Woodbridge, maj. dec. Aidan Monteverdi, SHP, 9-1.
182: Sam Wustefeld, Scotch Plains, dec. Turner Haddad, Gov. Livingston, 7-4.
195: Van Miller, Bridgewater-Raritan, dec. Lewis Fernandes, Voorhees, 4-2 (OT).
220: Zach DelVecchio, South Plainfield, dec. Farhan Khan, Carteret, 2-1 (OT).
HWT: Alex Esposito, Cranford, dec. Alexander LaGruppo, Woodbridge, 3-0.
THIRD-, FOURTH-PLACE QUALIFIERS:
106: Xavier Pena, North Plainfield, maj. dec. Aidan Taylor, Voorhees, 15-2.
113: Brock Laggini, Somerville, dec. Alex Amato, South Plainfield, 5-1
120: Sabri Murray, Rahway, dec. Maguire Pecci, Seton Hall Prep, 4-3 (OT)
126: Charles Cunningham, SHP, pin Matt Sacco, Bridgewater-Raritan, 3:18.
132: Aaron Coleman, I. Kennedy, dec. Andrew Gapas, North Hunterdon, 14-10.
138: Philip Angelo, Summit, dec. Joe Sacco, South Plainfield 9-1.
145: John Poznanski, Colonia, dec. Kyle Bythell, South Plainfield, 11-5.
152: Cole Marra, North Hunterdon, dec. Charlie Buckley, Brearley, 10-2
160: Brian McGovern, Cranford, dec. Justin Hayward, Watchung Hills, 10-1.
170: Vince Concina, Cranford, dec. Quinn Haddad, Gov. Livingston, 7-6.
182: Sean Astin, Iselin Kennedy pin Scott Fernandes, Voorhees, 1:26.
195: Jack Miller, Westfield, dec. Luke Niemeyer, South Plainfield, 7-0.
220: Jake Raboy, Bridgewater-Raritan, dec. Phil Ricca, Westfield, 7-3.
HWT: Danny Petrela, Summit, pin Charles Tordik, North Hunterdon, 0:13.
QUALIFIERS FROM 10 UNION COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLS:
Cranford (6): 2-Anthony Capece, 113; 1-Chris Scorese 132; 2-Tom DiGiovanni 138;
1-Alex Esposito, HWT; 3-Brian McGovern, 160; 3-Vince Concina, 170.
Westfield (3): 1-CJ Composto 106; 3-Jack Miller; 195; 4-Phil Ricca, 220.
Rahway: (2): 1-Rhise Royster 126; 3-Sabri Murray, 120.
Summit (2): 3-Philip Angelo 138; 3-Danny Petrela, HWT.
Gov. Livingston (2): 2-Turner Haddad 182; 4-Quinn Haddad, 170.
Johnson (1): 2-Chris Fuschetto, 132.
Union (1): 2-Nick Zuena, 152.
Roselle Park (1): 1-Mark Montgomery, 113.
Scotch Plains (1): 1-Sam Wustefeld, 182.
Brearley (1): 4-Charlie Buckley, 152.