UNION – What did it come down to for the Cranford Cougars to capture a sixth consecutive county championship?
“We had all 13 wrestlers place, so we all showed up,” ninth-year head coach Pat Gorman said. “Those extra points you get along the way really become important.”
Most expected Cranford and Westfield to battle for the team title at Saturday’s 45th annual Wrestling Union County Tournament at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium. That’s exactly what transpired.
The Cougars came out on top again with 244 points, while Westfield placed second for the second straight season with 233.5. No doubt the loss of Westfield standout senior CJ Composto to injury had somewhat of an effect on how the Blue Devils finished. Composto was second at 126 a year ago.
Westfield last won the crown in 1990.
Cranford and Westfield both had two champions, the Cougars with seniors Justin Alpaugh-McLean winning at 182 and Evan Kanterman at 195 and the Blue Devils with seniors Luke Hoerle placing first at 126 and Luke Scanlan at 160.
Third-place Rahway, guided by Union County Coach of the Year Dan Garay, had the most champions with four. Winning for the Indians were Amajuwan Murray at 106, Kaelan Francois at 113, Corey Boss at 132 and Joshua Darisme at 220.
Murray, Francois and Darisme were three of 10 top seeds that won championships. The list of top seeds is below.
“Rahway really had an outstanding tournament with those kids winning,” Gorman said.
Francois and Hoerle were returning champions that won again. Francois, a junior, captured his second crown. He won last year at 106.
Hoerle became just the ninth wrestler to win four championships and the first from Westfield. Hoerle is the first wrestler to achieve the feat in three years since Tom DiGiovanni became Cranford’s first four-time winner in 2017.
Hoerle also became just the second four-time champion to win in consecutive weight classes, those being 106, 113, 120 and 126. Dan Appello of Roselle Park, Class of 2002, was the first. Appello won at 103, 112, 119 and 125.
The nine four-time champions are: Larry Guarino (1988) and Dave Bubnowski (1996) of Union; Craig Frost (1999) and Dan Appello (2002) of Roselle Park; Darrion Caldwell (2006) of Rahway; Jesse Boyden (2008) and Kenny Knapp (2009) of Brearley, Tom DiGiovanni (2017) of Cranford and Luke Hoerle (2020) of Westfield.
Next year Cranford will attempt to become the first team to win seven titles in a row since Brearley achieved the feat from 2006-2012. Roselle Park also won seven straight championships from 1997-2003.
“We have a whole new lineup with freshmen and JV wrestlers from last year, but the program continues to accelerate,” Gorman said of Cranford’s continued success.
Cranford also had Pat Kalnins at 120, Luke DiGiovanni at 138, Shane Kanterman at 160 and Kevin Shriner at heavyweight place second. Finishing third for the Cougars were Mason Hooey at 113, Jimmy Gluck at 132 and Colin Murray at 145.
“It was a tight race all day,” Gorman said. “It’s really a roller coaster, with some wins and some losses you don’t expect.”
Alpaugh-McLean’s father, Jason McLean, is the head coach at Muhlenberg, where he was the first wrestler in the program to earn All-America honors. McLean was previously a successful coach at New Brunswick after building up the program there. He wrestled in high school at Scotch Plains.
Evan Kanterman placed second at 170 in last year’s UCT finals.
“Like always we hope this tournament is a good stepping stone for the rest of the year,” Gorman said.
Cranford, with a record of 6-2 and both losses out of county to Wall and Brick Township, are scheduled to wrestle at Linden Wednesday and at Roselle Park Friday. The Cougars are then scheduled to compete Saturday with multiple opponents at Middletown South.
Cranford is scheduled to wrestle Westfield on Jan. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Westfield. The Blue Devils have defeated the Cougars the past two seasons.
Elizabeth and Brearley also had two champions. For Elizabeth it was Jasiah Queen at 120 and Moses Olowoopejo at heavyweight. Queen, whose father Amin was also a standout grappler at Elizabeth, was named the Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights.
Hoerle was the first four-time champion not to be named the OW or one of the two OWs when the tournament went to OWs for lower weights and upper weights.
For Brearley it was Nick Stampoulos at 138 and Jonathan Braun at 170. Stampoulos won as a top seed, while Braun defeated top-seeded Ki’zurian Casey of Plainfield by fall in 1:23 in the 170 final. For his outstanding efforts Braun was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler for the upper weights.
Patrick Nevins of Roselle Park, a junior, was second at 138 for Summit last year as a sophomore. This time he captured the 152 title by beating top-seeded Connor Vill of Gov. Livingston in the final by the score of 9-3.
The other school with one champion was Gov. Livingston, with top-seeded Harrison Kelly capturing the 145 crown.
HOST UNION FARMERS MADE QUITE A ONE-YEAR JUMP
Last year host Union placed 13th out of 14 schools with just 29 points.
Although the Farmers did not have a wrestler reach the finals again, that didn’t deter Union from making great strides.
The Farmers came in fifth this time with 117 points and were led by senior Quamek Fearon, who placed third at 182.
“I think we probably could have done even better,” Union head coach Dino DeBellonia said. “Overall we had a really good day.”
Finishing fourth for the Farmers were junior Mike Cross at 132, Christian Rodriguez at 152 and Giovanni Zuena at 170.
Coming in fifth were freshman Qadir Branch at 106, senior Liam Grahl at 120, senior Jabari-Basden-Slue at 138 and junior Deirilson DaRosa at 145. Grahl was sixth at 120 last year after suffering an injury in the 5th-6th-place bout.
DaRosa was 10-3 going into the tournament. Basden-Slue, Rodriguez and Fearon all reached the semifinals.
“We had a lot of pins in the beginning of the tournament,” DeBellonia said. “We did well to wrestle back and have wrestlers place third, fourth and fifth.
“The team represented the program well.”
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER LOWER WEIGHTS (106-145):
Jasiah Queen, Elizabeth, freshman, 120 champion
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER UPPER WEIGHTS (152-HWT):
Jonathan Braun, Brearley, senior, 170 champion
UNION COUNTY COACH OF THE YEAR
Dan Garay, Rahway
45TH ANNUAL UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT AT UNON HIGH SCHOOL
TEAMS: 1-Cranford 244. 2-Westfield 233.5. 3-Rahway 198. 4-Roselle Park 136.
5-Union 117. 6-Scotch Plains 113. 7-Elizabeth 106.5. 8-Gov. Livingston 90.
9-Brearley 52.2 10-Plainfield 50. 11-Linden 41. 12-Summit 30.
13-New Providence 13. 14-Johnson 10.
106: Amajuwan Murray, Rahway, pin Christian Luzua, Elizabeth, 5:50.
113: Kaelan Francois, Rahway, dec. Luke Jacob, Westfield, 12-8.
120: Jasiah Queen, Elizabeth, tech. fall Pat Kalnins, Cranford, 17-2.
126: Luke Hoerle, Westfield, dec. Brandon Bowles, Scotch Plains, 8-5.
132: Corey Boss, Rahway, pin. Jeremy Silber, Westfield, 1:11.
138: Nick Stampoulos, Brearley, dec. Luke DiGiovanni, Cranford, 9-2.
145: Harrison Kelly, Gov. Livingston, dec. Michael Murphy, Westfield, 10-6.
152: Patrick Nevins, Roselle Park, dec. Connor Vill, Gov. Livingston, 9-3.
160: Luke Scanlan, Westfield, pin Shane Kanterman, Cranford, 3:24.
170: Jonathan Braun, Brearley, pin Ki’zurian Casey, Plainfield, 1:23.
182: Justin Alpaugh-McLean, Cranford, pin Jon Estivene, Roselle Park, 2:48.
195: Evan Kanterman, Cranford, maj. dec. Ibn Hall, Linden, 11-3.
220: Joshua Darisme, Rahway, dec. Johnny Heard, Westfield, 6-1.
HWT: Moses Olowoopejo, Elizabeth, pin. Kevin Shriner, Cranford, 1:48.
106: Amajuwan Murray, Rahway
113: Kaelan Francois, Rahway
120: Mason Harms, Roselle Park
126: Luke Hoerle, Westfield
132: Jeremy Silber, Westfield
138: Nick Stampoulos, Brearley
145: Harrison Kelly, Gov. Livingston
152: Connor Vill, Gov. Livingston
160: Luke Scanlan, Westfield
170: Ki’zurian Casey, Plainfield
182: Justin Alpaugh-McLean, Cranford
195: Evan Kanterman, Cranford
220: Joshua Darisme, Rahway
HWT: Moses Olowoopejo, Elizabeth
LUKE HOERLE OF WESTFIELD – HIS 4 CHAMPIONSHIP WINS:
SENIOR YEAR OF 2020 at 126:
Luke Hoerle, Westfield, dec. Brandon Bowles, Scotch Plains, 8-5.
JUNIOR YEAR OF 2019 AT 120:
Luke Hoerle, Westfield, maj. dec. Chris Dalmau, Rahway, 8-1.
SOPHOMORE YEAR OF 2018 AT 113:
Luke Hoerle, Westfield, dec. John Ojeda, Linden, 9-4.
FRESHMAN YEAR OF 2017 AT 106:
Luke Hoerle, Westfield, maj. dec. Gabe Leo, Roselle Park, 10-3.
PLACES 1-6 IN THE 14 WEIGHT CLASSES:
1-Amajuwan Murray, Rahway
2-Christian Luzua, Elizabeth
3-Ethan Composto, Westfield
4-Will Fernandez, Cranford
5-Quadir Branch, Union
6-Matthew Griffen, Roselle Park
1-Kaelan Francois, Rahway
2-Luke Jacob, Westfield
3-Mason Hooey, Cranford
4-Joey Larmore, Scotch Plains
5-Justin Lizzo, Roselle Park
6-Liam Smith, New Providence
1-Jasiah Queen, Elizabeth
2-Pat Kalnins, Cranford
3-Mason Harms, Roselle Park
4-Quinn Gimgliette, Westfield
5-Liam Grahl, Union
6-Yeicob Martinez, Rahway
1-Luke Hoerle, Westfield
2-Brandon Bowles, Scotch Plains
3-Chris Dalmau, Rahway
4-Angel Mejia, Roselle Park
5-Pat Ganely, Cranford
6-Jose Gonzalez, Linden
1-Corey Boss, Rahway
2-Jeremy Silber, Westfield
3-Jimmy Gluck, Cranford
4-Mike Cross, Union
5-Tylik Epps, Plainfield
6-Jeff Stepien, Gov. Livingston
1-Nick Stampoulos, Brearley
2-Luke DiGiovanni, Cranford
3-Julian Colon, Roselle Park
4-Alex Argueta, Rahway
5-Jabari Basden-Slue, Union
6-Stefano Delvalle, Linden
1-Harrison Kelly, Gov. Livingston
2-Michael Murphy, Westfield
3-Colin Murray, Cranford
4-Noah Samms, Scotch Plains
5-Deirilson DaRosa, Union
6-Taevon McDuffie, Rahway
1-Patrick Nevins, Roselle Park
2-Connor Vill, Gov. Livingston
3-Anthony Ciotta, Westfield
4-Christian Rodriguez, Union
5-Christian Esposito, Cranford
6-Steve Acosta, Johnson
1-Luke Scanlan, Westfield
2-Shane Kanterman, Cranford
3-Donnell Doster, Rahway
4-Joe Scalora, Gov. Livingston
5-Fabrice Remy, Roselle Park
6-Fariq Thomas, Elizabeth
1-Jonathan Braun, Brearley
2-Ki’zurian Casey, Plainfield
3-Kyle Savino, Gov. Livingston
4-Giovanni Zuena, Union
5-Max Knock, Cranford
6-Jonathan Tilton, Rahway
1-Justin Alpaugh-McLean, Cranford
2-Jon Estivene, Roselle Park
3-Quamek Fearon, Union
4-Trey Richardson, Summit-Chatham
5-James McDermott, Westfield
6-Robert Mehorter, Scotch Plains
1-Evan Kanterman, Cranford
2-Ibn Hall, Linden
3-Larry Shoyoye, Scotch Plains
4-Jack Price, Westfield
5-Elijah Tenorio, Rahway
6-Dylan Stomato, Summit-Chatham
1-Joshua Darisme, Rahway
2-Johnny Heard, Westfield
3-Gerome Abad, Elizabeth
4-Robert Lerner, Scotch Plains
5-Emmanuel Sutton, Plainfield
6-Daniel Valente, Linden
1-Moses Olowoopejo, Elizabeth
2-Kevin Shriner, Cranford
3-Will Ricca, Westfield
4-CJ Estevez, Scotch Plains
5-Justin VanOostendorp, Gov. Livingston
6-Dametri Lee, Rahway