CRANFORD, NJ — Jordan Chapman got to the podium. Only two more names were announced after his. He’s that close to obtaining his No. 1 high school athletic goal, which is winning a state wrestling championship.
The Cranford High School sophomore could become his program’s fifth state champion and first since 2006. With two years to go, Chapman still has the opportunity to become Cranford’s first two-time state champion.
It’s all right there in front of him.
After Chapman advanced to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament for the first time last year and just missed placing at 157 pounds, this past weekend, he went all the way to finishing third, this time at the same weight, to cap an outstanding 42-4 sophomore season, which included a 5-1 mark in Atlantic City.
Chapman went 35-5 last year and will take a 77-9 record into his junior year campaign. The school record for wins is 144 by 2015 graduate Gavin Murray and it’s within reach.
“Jordan had a good path,” Cranford head coach Pat Gorman said.
After winning his first-round and pre-quarterfinal-round matches on Thursday, March 2, Chapman, the seventh seed, pinned second-seeded senior Aidan Wallace of Bergen Catholic High School in 4:47 on Friday, March 3, to advance to the semifinals. That same day, Chapman was edged by third-seeded Christian Brothers Academy senior Zander Silver 5-4.
On Saturday, March 4, Chapman wrestled back to get to the third-place bout, winning his only wrestleback match by forfeit in the wrestleback semifinals against top-seeded Paramus Catholic high School sophomore Zach Ballante. Chapman then pinned eighth-seeded Old Bridge High School senior Tyler Sagi in 1:35 to take the match to finish third.
“It was nice to see that Jordan was able to bounce back after losing a close one in the semifinals,” Gorman said. “His future is bright.”
Ballante had to forfeit again in the match to finish fifth and ended up placing sixth.
Fourth-seeded Delbarton High School sophomore Alessio Perentin defeated Silva 5-2 in the championship match.
Chapman won his first Union County Tournament title this year, repeated as a District 13 champion and then captured his first Region 4 crown before getting back to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall for a second straight NJSIAA Tournament appearance.
“Mentally, Jordan was more mature,” Gorman said. “What he did at the Beast — Chapman placed sixth at the Beast of the East in Delaware back in December — helped him mentally.”
Jordan was one of three Region 4 champions from Union County high schools that advanced to the states. The other two, Roselle Park High School senior Matthew Griffin at 120 pounds and Westfield High School senior Michael Murphy at 165 pounds, also reached the quarterfinals.
Griffin did not place and, after going 2-2 in AC, finished a fine season at 33-8.
Murphy, like Chapman, reached the semifinals before he was defeated for the first time. The two-time Region 4 champion lost in the wrestleback semifinals, which put him in the bout for fifth place. There, Murphy blanked eighth-seeded St. Augustine Preparatory School senior Jake Slotnick 6-0 to finish fifth at 165 pounds.
Murphy, who, including his 4-2 record at AC, finished 42-6 this year, will continue wrestling in college at the University of Virginia.
Chapman was one win away from becoming Cranford’s first wrestler to reach an NJSIAA Tournament final since Gavin Murray did so as a junior in 2014. Murray was defeated in the 138-pound final in 2014 by Ronnie Gentile of Paulsboro High School 7-6. Murray then moved up two weight classes for his senior season of 2015, wrestling that year at 152 pounds. Murray qualified for the states again and finished fifth.
Murray is Cranford’s all-time leader with 144 wins, 77 pins and 40 consecutive wins. Murray also held the school record for wins in a season with 40, until Chapman broke that last weekend in AC.
“As a freshman last year at AC, Jordan was just thrown into a bunch,” Gorman said. Chapman was the 16th seed and went 3-2, first falling in the pre-quarterfinals.
“This year, staying at 157 was a bit of a struggle for him,” Gorman said. “He has a big frame, so I would say that he’s not going to stay at 157. He could be moving up a couple of weight classes.”
Cranford had three other wrestlers compete in AC, including freshman Ryder Connors at 113 pounds, senior Lucas Esposito at 175 pounds and senior Shane Kanterman at 190 pounds. Connors went 0-1 to finish 32-9, Esposito also went 0-1 to come in at 30-10 and Kanterman was 1-2 to close at 36-8.
The last Union County state champion continues to be Christian Barber of Westfield, winning the 152-pound crown his senior year in 2011. Union County has not had a state champion for 12 straight seasons, from 2012 to 2023. Since Jesse Boyden won the 215-pound title in 2008, Union County has been shut out 14 of the past 15 years.
Kanterman, who qualified for the NJSIAA Tournament three times, ended up with 102 career victories. Kanterman will play football in college at Southern Connecticut.
This was a special year for the Cranford Cougars, who went 23-4 overall and won another Union County Conference-Watchung Division title at 6-0. The Cougars also captured a record eighth straight Union County Tournament championship and at District 13 in their own gym finished with the most points of any team. Cranford was fourth in the team standings for Region 4.
Also, Cranford set a program record for a season with 23 dual wins and 217 pins or wins by fall.
Cranford has Connors and Chapman back from the NJSIAA Tournament and a total of four grapplers who placed among the top six at Region 4, including freshman Luke Scholz, fifth at 126 pounds, and freshman Michael Daly, sixth at 106 pounds. Scholz finished 36-5 and Daley 28-8.
Photos Courtesy of Pat Gorman