CRANFORD, NJ — Making its presence felt right out of the gate, the Cranford High School wrestling team wasted no time as far as producing a dominating performance goes.
The Cougars opened their 2022-2023 season by capturing the Kearny Holiday Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 17. Cranford accomplished this without its two best wrestlers. Senior 190-pounder Shane Kanterman and sophomore Jordan Chapman at 157 were competing in the Beast of the East Tournament at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.
Not only did Cranford win the 12-team Kearny tournament with a final point total of 366, but the Cougars had winners in freshman Ryder Connors at 113, freshman Luke Scholz at 126, sophomore Dylan Jones at 144 and senior Dylan McDonald at 215.
Cranford was scheduled to host Wall High School on Tuesday, Dec. 20, and Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School on Wednesday, Dec. 21, after the publication deadline. The team will be at Woodstown High School on Wednesday, Dec. 28, with the competition set to commence at 9:30 a.m.
Chapman, 35-5 a year ago as a freshman at 157, finished sixth at the Beast at 157. After winning his first three matches, he lost to a wrestler from Pennsylvania in the semifinals and then lost to a state champion from Virginia. In the fifth/sixth place bout, he fell to a grappler from Bethlehem Catholic High School in Allentown, Pa.
Last year, Chapman finished second in the Union County Tournament, won District 13 and then placed second in Region 4. In the UCT and Region 4 finals, he was defeated by Michael Murphy of Westfield High School, who is now a senior.
At the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament in Atlantic City, Chapman just missed reaching the matches that determined the top eight in the state in each weight class. Chapman won three of his five matches at the states.
“Jordan finished fourth in Fargo, N.D., and wrestles all over the place,” Cranford wrestling head coach Pat Gorman said. “He still has his same loose style for him.
“We have our eyes set on the podium. How high he will go will be up to him.”
Gorman feels competition such as is offered at the Beast of the East is what will prepare Chapman the most for the really important matches that will come toward the end of the season.
“With these matches we find out what we need to work on,” Gorman said. “These losses can be a blessing in disguise.”
Kanterman, back at 190 pounds, won his first match at the Beast of the East and then lost his last two.
Kanterman also qualified for the states last year, which was for the second year in a row. Kanterman, looking to play football in college, went 28-10 in 2021-2022.
“Shane has no trouble staying at that weight, 190,” Gorman said.
Freshmen making an impact right away at the Kearny Holiday Tournament were Connors at 113 and Scholz at 126.
“Both wrestlers travel a lot to compete and we have high expectations for them,” Gorman said.
Jones was 25-14 last year and McDonald 21-6.
“The sky is the limit for Jones, who, last year, burst on the scene by making the regions as a freshman,” Gorman said. “McDonald, record-wise, had a fine season last year, but just missed qualifying for the regions. This year we expect to see him and our other returning wrestlers who made it to the regions last year go deeper this time.”
Other key returning wrestlers include senior Connor Hoefling at 150 — he was 28-9 at 150 last year — and senior Lucas Esposito at 175 — he was 25-9 at 175 a year ago.
McDonald is the only returning Cranford wrestler who won a UCT title in 2022.
Cranford fell to West Essex High School in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs last year. Both teams are in the same challenging section this season.
Notes: When 2023 begins, Cranford has home matches scheduled Wednesday, Jan. 4, vs. David Brearley High School and then Friday, Jan. 6, against Rahway High School, both 7 p.m. starts.
On Saturday, Jan. 7, Cranford will host a dual tournament that includes Phillipsburg, Rumson–Fair Haven, Middletown South, Governor Livingston, Livingston, Old Bridge and one other yet-to-be-announced high school.
The Union County Tournament, which was at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark last year because Union High School’s gym was not available, was moved to Kean University in Union for the first time. It will take place all day on Saturday, Jan. 21.
“We’re really excited about having the UCT at Kean,” Gorman said.
Cranford has won the last seven UCTs, a streak that began in 2015.
“Kean is a great venue,” Gorman said. “Kean is also trying to get a wrestling team. A lot of Union County kids could benefit from Kean having one.”
For the first time Cranford will host a district, which this year will be District 13 in February. Cranford wrestlers that advance out of that district will move on to District 4 at Union.
Cranford Cougars Wrestling 2022-2023
• 106: Joey Tona, sophomore
• 113: Ryder Connors, freshman
• 120: Michael Tona, senior
• 126: Luke Scholz, freshman
• 132: Michael Ramirez, junior
• 132: Ryan Kilbashian, senior
• 138: Alex Muller, junior
• 145: Dylan Jones, sophomore
• 150: Marcus Nock, junior
• 150: Connor Hoefling, senior
• 157: Jordan Chapman, sophomore
• 165: Russell Kozak, senior
• 165: Quentin Connolly, senior
• 175: Lucas Esposito, senior
• 190: Shane Kanterman, senior
• 215: Dylan McDonald, senior
• HWT: Louis Kruk, sophomore
Head coach: Pat Gorman
Photos Courtesy of Pat Gorman