Cranford wrestling reaches special milestones of 700 wins, coach’s 207th win

Cranford won its 700th match on Friday, Jan. 12, at home and then, on Saturday, Jan. 13, with two wins at St. Thomas Aquinas High School; head coach Pat Gorman became the program’s winningest head coach with his 207th win.

CRANFORD, NJ — First came Cranford’s 700th win on Friday, Jan. 12.
“That was a big deal,” said Cranford High School 13-year head wrestling coach Pat Gorman.

Alumni Night was the previous Friday, Jan. 5, at home vs. Roselle Park High School, as the Cougars won 81-0. Roselle Park became only the second program in state history to reach 1,000 wins six years ago, joining Paulsboro High School, which was the first in 2011.

Then two more Cranford victories later, on Saturday, Jan. 13, made Gorman the winningest head coach in program history at 207-61. He surpassed Herb Farrell, who finished with 206. Farrell, a two-time state champion at Roselle Park at 95 pounds in 1936 as a freshman and then at 115 pounds in 1939 as a senior, was Cranford’s first head coach, going back to 1956.

Next up for the Cougars is trying to capture a record ninth straight Union County Tournament championship on Saturday, Jan. 20. Governor Livingston High School, second the last two years, and Rahway High School appear to be Cranford’s biggest threats.

The tournament returns to Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium at Union High School for the first time since 2020. There was no UCT in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the event was at Arthur L. Johnson High School in 2022 and at Kean University in 2023.

“We’re going for nine in a row,” Gorman said.

Things are going quite well at the moment for the Cranford Cougars, who began the week at 9-1 and are coming off a 23-6 season in which they reached last year’s North 2, Group 3 championship match and then had 157-pound sophomore Jordan Chapman place third at the season-ending NJSIAA Tournament in Atlantic City.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Cranford was scheduled to wrestle at Wall High School, weather permitting. Wall began the week with a record of 5-3.

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, Cranford was set to tangle with Rahway, which began the week with a perfect 12-0 mark. Cranford was 3-0 in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division and Rahway is 2-0. The other team that began the week undefeated in the Watchung Division was Governor Livingston at 3-0. The Highlanders were 13-2 overall as of Monday, Jan. 15.

Cranford’s last scheduled regular season match is at Governor Livingston on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Last year, Cranford defeated Rahway 57-15 at home and then pinned down Governor Livingston by the score of 46-18, also at home.
Cranford’s historic 700th victory in program history was a 78-3 triumph at home on Friday, Jan. 12, vs. New Providence High School, with the Cougars winning four of the five bouts that were contested, all of them by fall.

Even more impressive was Cranford’s two wins at St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Saturday, Jan. 13, including victories against Brick Memorial High School, 37-30, and host St. Thomas, 54-24. Brick Memorial entered with a 5-1 record and St. Thomas was at 9-2.
Against Brick Memorial, Cranford junior Louis Kruk had a big pin for the Cougars at heavyweight, as he halted Steven Gobraiel in 1:22.

The match started at 175 pounds, with Cranford first-year varsity sophomore Joey Acinapura pinning Trey Tallmadge in just 44 seconds.

“Their kid was a state qualifier last year, so that was quite a performance by Joey,” Gorman said.

With the Cougars down 30-25 and just two bouts to go, Cranford junior Dylan Jones came through in the clutch at 157 pounds by pinning Rocco Iacullo in 2:50 to give the Cougars a 31-30 edge.

Fellow standout junior Jordan Chapman then sealed the deal for Cranford at 165 pounds by pinning Malachi Saint-Vil in 1:32 to give Cranford a thrilling 37-30 triumph.

“Those two wins were good for our guys,” Gorman said.
Cougar grapplers who won by fall against St. Thomas Aquinas included James Delfino at 120 pounds, Eoghan O’Hara at 144 pounds and Acinapura again at 175 pounds. Michael Daly defeated Nikolas Rivas 4-1 at 106 pounds.

Gorman on program win No. 700: “We’re very proud to be able to accomplish something like that over the years.” Gorman, 44, is also part of this milestone as a wrestler. He graduated from Cranford in 1997, after wrestling varsity his last three years. Gorman started at 106 pounds as a freshman and then wrestled at 112 pounds and in the 120-pound weights at the end. Gorman wrestled for head coaches Jamie Shriner and Mike Artigliere.

Gorman, on becoming the winningest head wrestling coach at Cranford: “I’m not a big records guy. I’m happy for all of our guys and all the kids that are a part of it. I still talk to them. It’s the culture we’ve developed that has now made Cranford wrestling the program it is, which is most important.”

That includes, during Gorman’s tenure, 44 district champions, 42 state qualifiers and one state finalist – Jordan Chapman last year placing third at 157 pounds in the NJSIAA Tournament at Atlantic City. This is Gorman’s 13th season as the head coach at Cranford. His first year was the 2011-2012 campaign. Gorman succeeded Darren Torsone as Cranford’s head wrestling coach, with Torsone moving on to become Cranford’s athletic director. With Gorman as an assistant coach during his entire tenure as head coach has been Steve Van Dam, 54, who wrestled at Cranford in the 1980s.

Gorman, on the UCT being back at Union on Saturday, Jan. 20: “I think it helps all wrestlers who will qualify to wrestle at Union later in the season in the regions (Region 4). Having it at Kean last year was fine, but it wasn’t possible to have it there this year. I also love the Sinatra music they play at Union.”

Gorman says he feels the top three teams in the county this year are Cranford, Governor Livingston and Rahway.

Chapman closing in on win No. 100: Cranford standout junior Chapman, ranked No. 2 in the state at 165 pounds, began the week at 95-10 lifetime and 18-1 this year, his only setback by one point in a match he was winning against a Pennsylvania state champion in last month’s Beast of the East at the University of Delaware. Chapman went 35-5 as a freshman two years ago and 42-4 last year, including placing third in the state at 157 pounds. The top-two ranked wrestlers in the state at 165 pounds this year are Delbarton High School junior Alessio Perentin and Chapman. Perentin, also from Union County, as he is a resident of Clark, was the state champion last year at 157 pounds.

“Jordan continues to be a buzzsaw,” Gorman said. “He’s so fast and so strong and has a lot of weapons.” If Chapman was to get victories at Wall and at Rahway, then he would be in line to win his 100th match on Saturday, Jan. 20, at the UCT at Union.

The best Union County records at the start of the week included:

• Rahway High School (12-0).

• Governor Livingston High School (13-2), only losses home vs. Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 45-33, on Saturday, Dec. 23, and vs. Paulsboro High School, 36-34, in the Boresch Duals semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 6.

• Cranford High School (9-1), only loss at Phillipsburg High School, 53-16, on Saturday, Jan. 6.

• Union High School (9-4), only losses to Rahway, 48-28, and to New Providence High School, 42-30, on Saturday, Dec. 23; home vs. Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, 39-38, on Wednesday, Jan. 3; and to Bayonne High School, 39-34, in the Paul Finn Duals on Saturday, Jan. 6.

• Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (7-1), only loss at Cranford, 71-0, on Friday, Dec. 22.

Other notable records include Elizabeth High School (9-7), New Providence (8-9), David Brearley High School (6-3), Summit High School (6-5) and Westfield High School (5-5).

Photo Courtesy of Cranford Sports Twitter Account Cougar