Cranford looks to win eighth straight UCT for wrestling

Cranford High School will attempt to win the UCT for the eighth straight time on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union. Pictured is the championship team from 2022.

CRANFORD, NJ — For the first time, the Union County Tournament for wrestling will take place at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union.

Also for the first time, when this competition is complete, a school may have won the team championship for the eighth straight year.

Seven-time defending champion Cranford High School, along with undefeated Westfield High School and last year’s second-place finisher, Governor Livingston High School, are the favorites to capture the 47th annual Union County Tournament for wrestling on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Cranford has won the last seven tournaments, winning from 2015 to 2020 and then again in 2022, after there was no tournament in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cougars are hungry to grab an eighth straight championship.

Westfield began the week at 10-0; the Blue Devils were to tangle at archrival Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School on Wednesday, Jan. 18, after press time, in their final tuneup before the UCT.

Governor Livingston, which began the week at 8-2, made the biggest jump from the 2020 UCT to the 2022 UCT, placing second last year after finishing eighth three years ago. The Highlanders were scheduled to wrestle at Rahway High School on Wednesday, Jan. 18, also after press time.

UCT wrestling at Kean on Saturday, Jan. 21, is set to commence at 9 a.m., with the finals slated to take place in the afternoon.

“We’re really excited about having the UCT at Kean,” said Cranford wrestling head coach Pat Gorman.

Cranford took a Union County–best 13-1 record and six-match winning streak into its match at Elizabeth High School on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Cranford’s only loss was a close 32-30 decision at home against Phillipsburg High School in the Cougar Classic Duals semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 7. The Cougars came back to beat Rumson–Fair Haven High School 48-18 in the third-place match.

“Kean is a great venue,” said Gorman, who has guided Cranford to its past seven UCT titles. “Kean is also trying to get a wrestling team. A lot of Union County kids could benefit from Kean having one.”

Returning wrestlers for Cranford include senior Conor Hoefling at 150, sophomore Jordan Chapman at 157, senior Lucas Esposito at 175 and senior Shane Kanterman at 190.

In regular season matches, Hoefling began the week at 8-2, Chapman at 12-0, Esposito at 13-1 and Kanterman at 13-1.

Cranford began the week leading the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division at 4-0, while Westfield was 2-0. Westfield is scheduled to host Cranford on Friday, Feb. 3, at 5 p.m.

Plainfield High School led the Mountain Division standings at 2-0, while Governor Livingston and David Brearley High School were each 1-0.

Westfield senior Michael Murphy, last year’s 157 UCT champion and the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler for the upper weights — 150 to heavyweight — has two wins at 165, both by fall, and two more at 175, both by forfeit, this season.

Fellow Westfield senior Ethan Composto, last year’s UCT champion at 126, has a record of 5-1 at 138.

Governor Livingston senior Dante Gioia, second in the UCT at 138 last year, is 10-0, with seven regular-season wins at 150 and three more at 157.

Seven UCT team championships in a row

Cranford Cougars 2015-2022
No tournament in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Head coach: Pat Gorman

David Brearley Bears 2006-2012
Head coach: Brian Luciani

Roselle Park Panthers 1997-2003
Head coach: Sam Appello

2022 UCT at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark

1. Cranford: 244.
2. Governor Livingston: 202.
3. Westfield: 200.5.
4. Roselle Park: 195.5.
5. Scotch Plains–Fanwood: 133.
6. Rahway: 94.5.
7. Linden: 72.
8. David Brearley: 70.
9. Elizabeth: 60.
10. Arthur L. Johnson: 50.
11. Plainfield: 40.
12. Hillside: 22.
13. Union: 21.
14. Summit: 17.5
15. New Providence: 13.

2022 UCT finals
106: Matthew Griffin, Roselle Park, pin Gavin Turnbull, David Brearley, 3:58.
113: Julian McGarry, David Brearley, pin Brandon Scott, Roselle Park, 3:32.
120: Scott Rayack, Governor Livingston, pin Eoghan O’Hara, Rahway, 4:15.
126: Ethan Composto, Westfield, pin Claudio Sanchez, Elizabeth, 1:06.
132: Mayson Harms, Roselle Park, dec. Aidan Harper, Westfield, 5-1.
138: Luke Jacobs, Westfield, dec. Dante Gioia, Governor Livingston, 7-1.
144: Angel Mejia, Roselle Park, dec. Joey Ortega, Arthur L. Johnson, 5-2.
150: Julian Alston, Roselle Park, pin Conor Hoefling, Cranford, 2:55.
157: Michael Murphy, Westfield, dec. Jordan Chapman, Cranford, 9-7.
165: Colin Murray, Cranford, forfeit over Anthony Robinson, Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
175: John James Ranieri, Roselle Park, pin Lucas Esposito, Cranford, 3:10.
190: Robert Lerner, Scotch Plains–Fanwood, pin Shane Kanterman, Cranford, 2:16.
215: Dylan McDonald, Cranford, dec. Sergio Cabrera, Westfield, 6-5.
HWT: Kevin Shriner, Cranford, dec. Mathew Ihemesie, Hillside, 3-2.

UCT wrestling team champions
2022: Cranford
2021: No tournament, COVID-19 pandemic
2020: Cranford
2019: Cranford
2018: Cranford
2017: Cranford
2016: Cranford
2015: Cranford
2014: Roselle Park
2013: Roselle Park
2012: David Brearley
2011: David Brearley
2010: David Brearley
2009: David Brearley
2008: David Brearley
2007: David Brearley
2006: David Brearley
2005: Rahway
2004: Scotch Plains–Fanwood
2003: Roselle Park
2002: Roselle Park
2001: Roselle Park
2000: Roselle Park
1999: Roselle Park
1998: Roselle Park
1997: Roselle Park
1996: Rahway
1995: Rahway
1994: Union
1993: Roselle Park
1992: Roselle Park
1991: Union
1990: Westfield

Four-time UCT champions
Two from Union, two from Roselle Park, one from Rahway, two from David Brearley,
one from Cranford, one from Westfield

Larry Guarino, Union, Class of 1988
1985, 158 final: maj. dec. Ken Weeks of Summit 13-2.
1986, 158 final: defeated Tony Coleman of Westfield.
1987, 170 final: dec. Jim O’Donnell of Cranford 4-0.
1988, 171 final: defeated Randy Wojcik of Westfield.

Dave Bubnowski, Union, Class of 1996
1993, 103 final: championship.
1994, 103 final: championship.
1995, 121 final: dec. Bill Crecca of Roselle Park 5-4.
1996, 135 final: championship.

Craig Frost, Roselle Park, Class of 1999
1996, 103 final: dec. Shawn Stueber of Rahway 10-4.
1997, 112 final: maj. dec. Rich Sachsel of New Providence, 21-8.
1998, 130 final: dec. Shawn Stueber of Rahway, 6-0.
1999, 135 final: pinned Jeff Bubnowski of Union in 2:48.

Dan Appello, Roselle Park, Class of 2002
1999, 103 final: dec. Dare Ajibade of Union, 8-3.
2000, 112 final: tech. fall Tom McDermott of Johnson 21-6 (3:08).
2001, 119 final: maj. dec. William Banks of Elizabeth, 17-5.
2002, 125 final: dec. William Banks of Elizabeth 11-4.

Darrion Caldwell, Rahway, Class of 2006
2003, 103 final: pin Rob Mench of Westfield in 1:05.
2004, 119 final: pin Ross Baldwin of New Providence in 2:44.
2005, 135 final: pin Steve Mineo of Scotch Plains in :54.
2006, 160 final: pin Hany Elshiekh of Brearley in 1:26.

Jesse Boyden, David Brearley, Class of 2008
2005, 215 final: dec. Julio Loperena of Linden, 10-4.
2006, 215 final: pin Trevor Martin of New Providence in :43.
2007, 215 final: major dec. Richard Tabor of Elizabeth, 12-3.
2008, 215 final: dec. Mike Lefano of Roselle Park, 5-2.

Kenny Knapp, David Brearley, Class of 2009
2006, 103 final: pin Juan Herrera of Rahway, 3:46.
2007, 103 final: pin Anthony Casselli of Roselle Park, 4:23.
2008, 119 final: pin Anthony Zangari of Roselle Park, 3:40.
2009, 130 final: maj. dec. John Barnes of Westfield, 9-1.

Tom DiGiovanni, Cranford, Class of 2017
2014, 113 final: dec. Philip Angelo, Summit, 2-1.
2015, 120 final: dec. Carmine Boccellari, New Providence, 5-0.
2016, 120 final: dec. Nic Mele, Governor Livingston, 4-3
(3-3 Ultimate Tiebreaker).
2017, 138 final: dec. Philip Angelo, Summit, 2-1.

Luke Hoerle, Westfield, Class of 2020
2017, 106 final: maj. dec. Gabe Leo, Roselle Park, 10-3.
2018, 113 final: dec. John Ojeda, Linden, 9-4.
2019, 120 final: maj. dec. Chris Dalmau, Rahway, 8-1.
2020, 126 final: dec. Brandon Bowles, Scotch Plains–Fanwood, 8-5.

File Photo