UNION – Gavin Murray came oh so close last year.
The talented Cranford grappler met Governor Livingston’s Ryan Hoy in the county championship bout at 132 and was edged by the defending champion 9-8.
That was the last of the 14 finals matchups.
Murray, a junior, and Hoy, a senior, were destined to meet again in this year’s 138 final. When it was announced that the finals would begin at 145, again, Murray and Hoy would have to wait until the first 13 finals matches were completed before they would tangle once more.
“Last year I was nervous,” Murray said. “This year I was excited.
“It didn’t matter to me that we were the last match again. I love the pressure.”
Murray rose to the pressure quite adequately as he defeated his first two foes by fall and then avenged last year’s loss to Hoy by beating the two-time champion convincingly by a 13-3 score.
After his first two takedowns, Murray led 4-1 after the first two minutes. His advantage was 7-1 going into the bout’s final two minutes.
“I knew I could take him down,” Murray said. “I worked real hard on moving my feet.”
Murray was one of two Cranford champions – freshman Tom DiGiovanni was the other – as the first-time winners led the Cougars to a second-place finish of 137 points.
RosellePark repeated as champions at Saturday’s 39th annual Union County Interscholastic Athletic Conference wrestling tournament at the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium at UnionHigh School. The Panthers – sparked by champions Brian Matthews at 160, Steve Loevsky at 170 and Mike Figueredo at 132 – finished with 160 points and won consecutive titles for the first time since winning a record seven straight from 1997-2003. Brearley also won seven titles in a row from 2006-2012.
2015 UCT RETURNING CHAMPIONS:
Jeff Velez, Brearley, junior, won at 195.
David Tobe, Elizabeth, junior, won at 220.
Ray Wetzel, Brearley, freshman, won at 106.
Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, freshman, won at 113.
Tyler Gazaway, New Providence, sophomore, won at 126.
Mike Figueredo, RosellePark, junior, won at 132.
Gavin Murray, Cranford, junior, won at 138.
Brearley, which finished tied for third with Westfield with 125 points each, had the most champions with four, including senior Joe Balboni at 182, junior Jeff Velez at 195, freshman Ray Wetzel at 106 and senior Nick DeMarco at 120. Balboni and DeMarco finished with three championships each, while Wetzel and Velez garnered their first.
Westfield’s two champions – the first of the finals – were seniors Matt Barber at 145 and Nick Velez at 152, each gaining their first crown. Velez defeated RosellePark senior Pete Hilburn 8-2 in the 152 final, which was the third time in three tries Velez defeated Hilburn this year. Hilburn was one of eight returning champions, winning last year at 145.
Rahway had one champion in first-time winner, senior Stephan Watkis-Davis at heavyweight. The lone Elizabeth champion was first-time winner, Dave Tobe, a junior, at 220. New Providence also had a first-time winner in sophomore Tyler Gazaway, who like Murray lost by one point in last year’s finals, which was a 7-6 setback to RosellePark’s Hugo Parraga at 106.
Parraga, the champion last year at 106, and teammate Phil Woods, second last year at 170 and highly-ranked this year at 182, did not wrestle.
Matthews, a senior, won his second title after winning at 152 a year ago. Loevsky and Figueredo won their first championships.
After receiving a bye, the top-seeded Murray first pinned ninth-seeded Vin DiFilippo of Westfield in 1:23. He then downed fourth-seeded Dave Winter of Rahway in 34 seconds in the semifinals.
Murray was named the Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights (106-145).
“Since my freshman year I’ve wanted this,” Murray said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
Balboni, the OW for the upper weights (152-HWT), was the only wrestler to win all three of his matches by fall. The three-time champion and top seed at 182 first pinned eighth-seeded Mike Basso of Johnson in 56 seconds before halting fourth-seeded Rohan Phillip of Plainfield in 2:43 in the semifinals.
Balboni then, with a lead of 10-4, pinned second-seeded Matt Ridge of Scotch Plains in 1:14 in the final.
Balboni also received the award for the most pins in the least amount of time, registering his three in a combined time of 4:53.
Last year, Balboni’s older brother John was the OW for the upper weights after repeating as the champion at 160. John Balboni won two UCT titles and is now wrestling in college at Kutztown.
RosellePark mentor John Ranieri was named Union County Coach of the Year for the second time. He was first honored in 2008.
LINDEN SENIOR TEKULA UNABLE TO COMPETE
Linden senior Nick Tekula, undefeated at 13-0 and originally the top seed at 126, was unable to compete. Coaches Anthony Reinoso and Allen Hay reported that Tekula was ill and too under the weather to give it a go.
Reinoso said he expects Tekula to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Tekula, nine wins shy of becoming only the third Linden grappler to reach 100 career victories, would have attempted to become Linden’s first county champion in 17 years.
According to Reinoso the two-time District 11 champion can still become Linden’s first three-time district champ later on this season. Tekula will also attempt to become Linden’s first Region 3 champion in 17 years.
Linden’s last UCT and second-to-last Region 3 champion was Hay during his senior season of 1997.
Also a coach at PeakWrestlingSchool in Newark, Hay was named the T. Ralph “Pug” Williams award winner for his contributions to the sport of wrestling.
In the 1997 UCT at the DunnSportCenter in Elizabeth, Hay defeated Mike Baly of Westfield 5-4 in the 160 final. No Linden wrestler has won a county championship since.
In the 1997 Region 3 Tournament at Union, Hay won a major decision by the score of 16-3 over Rahway’s Jason Crutchfield in the 160 final. Three bouts later, Linden’s Simon Ziobro won a 4-2 decision over Rahway’s William Colbert to capture the 215 crown. No Linden wrestler has won a Region 3 championship since.
“I think Nick will have a good shot,” Hay said of his chances of winning a Region 3 crown. “He’s more mentally focused this year.”
Tekula is a two-time UCT finalist, reaching the 106 championship bout in 2012 and the 120 final in 2013.
Linden’s first two wrestlers that reached and passed 100 victories were Austin Frank in 2011 and Travis Foster in 2012.
Hay and Ziobro were both Super Regions champions in 1997 and then reached the NJSIAA Tournament’s quarterfinals at their weight classes. Hay concluded with a 20-3 record that season and Ziobro with a 22-4 mark.
NOTES: Roselle Park is 10-0 and ranked 14th in The Star-Ledger’s statewide Top 20 poll.
Woods, fell to Joe Balboni in last year’s 170 final by the score of 22-7 (tech. fall 4:33).
Cranford, which is 8-2, also placed second out of 35 teams in last month’s WRAL Tournament in Raleigh, N.C.
Cranford’s already heralded freshman class of DiGiovanni, Anthony Capece, Anthony Scorcese, Michael Nigro and Brian McGovern, saw Capece place second at 106 and McGovern third at 132.
McGovern, Brearley’s Saverio Salcfas at 220 and Rahway’s Devin Jefferson at 126 were the only top seeds not to reach the finals. While McGovern and Salcfas placed third in their respective weight classes, Jefferson finished below the top four in his. Jefferson was edged by Cranford’s Dave Busch, the eighth seed, by a score of 5-4 in the 126 quarterfinals.
All 11 top seeds that advanced to the finals came away champions.
There were nine 1 vs. 2 finals matchups and five of the eight returning champions reached the finals again, with three winning, those grapplers being Matthews, Balboni and DeMarco.
2014 UCT FINALS AT UNION:
TEAMS: 1-Roselle Park 160. 2-Cranford 137. 3-Brearley and Westfield 125. 5-Scotch Plains 101. 6-Elizabeth 72. 7-Gov. Livingston 70. 8-Rahway 65. 9-New Providence 61. 10-Linden 52. 11-Summit 49.5. 12-Johnson 38. 13-Plainfield 29. 14-Union 21.
145: 1-Matt Barber, Westfield, dec. 2-Brian Lapham, Scotch Plains, 5-2.
Barber, a senior, captured his first championship.
152: 1-Nick Velez, Westfield, dec. 2-Pete Hilburn, RosellePark, 8-2.
Velez, a senior, captured his first championship.
160: 1-Brian Matthews, R. Park, dec. 2-Niko Cappello, Cranford, 7-3.
Matthews, a senior, captured his second championship.
Matthews also won at 152 in 2013.
170: 1-Steve Loevsky, RP, dec. 3-Derrick Washington, Plain., 5-4 (TB).
Loevsky, a senior, captured his first championship.
182: 1-Joe Balboni, Brearley, pin 2-Matt Ridge, Scotch Plains, 1:14.
Balboni, a senior, captured his third championship.
Balboni also won at 170 in 2013 and 2012.
195: 1-Jeff Velez, Brearley, maj. dec. 2-Danny Van Brunt, S. Plains, 11-2.
Velez, a junior, captured his first championship.
220: 2-David Tobe, Elizabeth, dec. 4-Cotter Spurlock, Westfield, 5-2.
Tobe, a junior, captured his first championship.
HWT: 1-Stephan Watkis-Davis, Rah., dec. 2-Lloyd Jackson, Eliz., 3-2.
Watkis-Davis, a senior, captured his first championship.
106: 1-Ray Wetzel, Brearley, dec. 2-Anthony Capece, Cranford, 3-0.
Wetzel, a freshman, captured his first championship.
113: 1-Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, dec. 3-Phillip Angelo, Summit, 2-1.
DiGiovanni, a freshman, captured his first championship.
120: 1-Nick DeMarco, Brearley, dec. 2-Joe Colder, Gov. Livingston, 2-0.
DeMarco, a senior, captured his third championship.
DeMarco also won at 113 in 2013 and at 106 in 2012.
126: 3-Tyler Gazaway, New Prov., dec. 8-Dave Busch, Cranford, 1-0.
Gazaway, a sophomore, captured his first championship.
132: 4-Mike Figueredo, RosellePark, dec. 3-Nick Testa, Summit, 14-10.
Figueredo, a junior, captured his first championship.
138: 1-Gavin Murray, Cranford, maj. dec. 2-Ryan Hoy, GL, 13-3.
Murray, a junior, captured his first championship.
145: 3-John Coler, Johnson
152: 4-Dan Kourakos, New Providence
160: 5-Jarek Gozdieski, Westfield
170: 4-Lester Dwah, Linden
182: 7-Will Ferdinando, RosellePark
195: 3- Allan Nunez, RosellePark
220: 1-Saverio Salcfas, Brearley
HWT: 7-Jon El-Khoury, Cranford
106: 6-Chris Gural, Roselle Park
113: 4-John Fuller, Westfield
120: 4-Carmine Boccellari, New Providence
126: 2-JT Beirne, Scotch Plains
132: 1-Brian McGovern, Cranford
138: 9-Vin DiFilippo, Westfield
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER 103-145:
Gavin Murray, Cranford, junior, 138 champion.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER 152-HWT:
Joe Balboni, Brearley, senior, 182 champion.
MOST PINS LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME:
Joe Balboni, Brearley, senior, 3 in 4:53.
It was reported by the scorer’s table that Balboni
was the only wrestler to produce three falls.
Balboni also had the only fall of the finals.
T. RALPH “PUG” WILLIAMS AWARD:
Linden assistant coach Allen Hay.
UNION COUNTY COACH OF THE YEAR:
John Ranieri, RosellePark.
106: Ray Wetzel, Brearley
113: Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford
120: Nick DeMarco, Brearley
126: Devin Jefferson, Rahway
132: Brian McGovern, Cranford
138: Gavin Murray, Cranford
145: Matt Barber, Westfield
152: Nick Velez, Westfield
160: Brian Matthews, RosellePark
170: Steve Loevsky, Roselle Park
182: Joe Balboni, Brearley
195: Jeff Velez, Brearley
220: Saverio Salcfas, Brearley
HWT: Stephan Watkis-Davis, Rahway
TEAM CHAMPIONS BREAKDOWN:
Brearley (4), RosellePark (3), Cranford (2), Westfield (2),
Elizabeth (1), Rahway (1), New Providence (1).
Joe Balboni, Brearley, senior: 170-2012, 170-2013, 182-2014.
Nick DeMarco, Brearley, senior: 106-2012, 113-2013, 120-2014.
Brian Matthews, RosellePark, senior: 152-2013, 160-2014.
Those were the only UCTs Matthews competed in.
2014 UCT RETURNING CHAMPIONS:
Joe Balboni, Brearley, senior – won at 170 last year
and also at 170 in 2012
Pete Hilburn, RosellePark, senior – won at 145 last year
Brian Matthews, RosellePark, senior – won at 152 last year
Nick DeMarco, Brearley, senior – won at 113 last year
and also at 106 in 2012
Ryan Hoy, Gov. Livingston, senior – won at 132 last year
and also at 132 in 2012
John Coler, Johnson, senior – won at 138 last year
Charlie Hudak, Johnson, junior – won at 126 last year
Hugo Parraga, RosellePark, senior – won at 106 last year
2013 UCT FINALS AT UNION:
TEAMS: 1-Roselle Park 172.5. 2-Brearley 149.5. 3-Westfield 139.5.
4-Cranford 119. 5-Gov. Livingston 114.5. 6-Scotch Plains 99.
7-New Providence 97. 8-Johnson 90. 9-Rahway 87. 10-Elizabeth 73.
11-Union 65. 12-Linden 53. 13-Plainfield 50. 14-Summit 47.
138: 1-John Coler, Johnson dec. 2-Daniel Kourakos, New Prov., 9-5.
145: 1-Pete Hilburn, RosellePark dec. 2-Dan Smith, New Prov., 3-0.
152: 4-Brian Matthews, R. Park pin 3-Jonniel Bazan, Elizabeth, 3:55.
160: 1-John Balboni, Brearley dec. 2-Colin Barber, Westfield, 6-1.
170: 1-Joe Balboni, Brearley tech. fall 3-Phil Woods, RP, 22-7 (4:33).
182: 1-Brian Bulger, Westfield dec. 2-Jeff Velez, Brearley, 10-3.
195: 1-Shane Haddad, GL pin 2-Nick Arnold, Westfield, 5:29.
220: 1-A.J. Iarussi, Summit pin 2-Jeff Weiss, Cranford, 4:24.
HWT: 1-Anthony Tufaro, S. Plains, maj. dec. 6-Kris Lewis, Union, 12-4.
106: 1-Hugo Parraga, R. Park dec. 2-Tyler Gazaway, New Prov., 7-6.
113: 1-Nick DeMarco, Brearley pin 6-Carmine Boccellari, New P., 3:43.
120: 1-Jon Mele, Gov. Livingston maj. dec. 2-Nick Tekula, Linden, 12-0.
126: 1-Charlie Hudak, Johnson pin 2-Isaac Valentin, Rahway, 4:25.
132: 3-Ryan Hoy, Gov. Livingston dec. 1-Gavin Murray, Cranford, 9-8.
2012 UCT FINALS AT UNION:
TEAMS: 1-Brearley 180. 2-Westfield 153. 3-Roselle Park 146.5.
4-Scotch Plains 139. 5-Gov. Livingston 129.5. 6-Cranford 107.5.
7-Linden 86.5. 8-Rahway 65. 9-Elizabeth 55. 10-Plainfield 52.
11-Union 50. 12-Johnson 49. 13-Summit 46.
14-New Providence 35.
182: Vic Pozsonyi, RosellePark, dec. Zach Heissler, GL, 7-1.
195: Anthony Tancs, Brearley, dec. A.J. Iarussi, Summit, 1-0.
220: Andrew Jacobs, Scotch Plains, pin Jeff Weiss, Cranford, 5:19.
HWT: Anthony Tufaro, S. Plains, dec. Mike Christian, Brearley, 3-0.
106: Nick DeMarco, Brearley, dec. Nick Tekula, Linden, 5-3.
113: Jon Mele, Gov. Livingston, pin Gabe Magalhaes, Linden, 1:25.
120: Mike Kalimtzis, Westfield, dec. Ryne Morrison, GL, 2-1.
126: Nick Abbott, Summit, dec. Isaac Valentin, Rahway, 3-0.
132: Ryan Hoy, GL, pin Brendan Leary, RosellePark, 5:34.
138: D’ondre Floyd, Elizabeth, dec. Nick Rotondo, Westfield, 8-3.
145: Nick Lospinoso, Brearley, dec. Justin Becker, Rahway, 6-1.
152: Sean Cannon, S. Plains, dec. Brian Merkle, RosellePark, 10-9.
160: John Balboni, Brearley, dec. Shane Haddad, GL, 8-6.
170: Joe Balboni, Brearley, dec. J.P. Christiano, Cranford, 5-2.
2011 UCT FINALS AT UNION:
TEAMS: 1-Brearley 232. 2-Gov. Livingston 230.5. 3-Roselle Park 187. 4-Cranford 143.5. 5-Rahway, Westfield 130.5. 7-Linden 103. 8-New Providence, Plainfield 55. 10-Scotch Plains 42. 11-Elizabeth 37. 12-Summit 33. 13-Johnson 31. 14-Union 30.
160: JP Christiano, Cranford, dec. Travis Foster, Linden, 7-6.
171: Vic Pozsonyi, RosellePark, dec. Dillon Geoghegan, Brearley, 1-0.
189: Dawud Hicks, Plainfield, maj. dec. Connor Gabriel, R. Park, 18-6.
215: Urayoan Garcia, Rahway, dec. Greg Rice, Brearley, 5-4.
HWT: Zach Troutman, New Providence, dec. Austin Frank, Linden, 2-1.
103: Jon Mele, Gov. Livingston, dec. Mike Kalimtzis, Westfield, 9-6.
112: Ryne Morrison, GL, pin Jovanni Ramirez, RosellePark, 2:34.
119: Joe Giaccio, Cranford, pin Anthony Madonia, Brearley, 3:18.
125: Anthony Rice, Brearley, dec. Dan Pisauro, RosellePark, 6-2.
130: Kyle Markovitz, Cranford, pin Brendan Leary, RosellePark, 1:19.
135: Mike Stepien, Gov. Livingston, dec. Nick Longo, RosellePark, 3-0.
140: Nick Lospinoso, Brearley, maj. dec. Joe Hoy, Gov. Livingston, 11-3.
145: Dan Ries, Brearley, pin Matt DiGiovanni, Cranford, 4:35.
152: Christian Barber, Westfield, dec. Diego Chavez, Rahway, 5-2.