Former top Brearley wrestler dies at age 33

Jesse Boyden, pictured wrestling at Rutgers University, died July 6 at age 33.

KENILWORTH, NJ — Jesse Boyden was one of the nicest, coolest, respectful and well-spoken athletes with whom I ever had the privilege of conversing. To hear of his death last week was a shock.

One of the best athletes ever to come out of Union County and one of the all-time greatest student-athletes that David Brearley High School in Kenilworth produced, Boyden died on July 6 at age 33.
As of Monday, July 11, the cause of death had not been disclosed.

The only two state champion wrestlers that Brearley produced, Tony Siragusa in 1985 at heavyweight and Jesse Boyden in 2008 at 215 pounds, died two weeks apart. Siragusa, 55, died on June 22.

On Sunday, March 9, 2008, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Boyden, then a senior, defeated Southern Regional junior Glen Carson, 3-1, in the NJSIAA Tournament’s 215-pound final to become Brearley’s second state champion. He talked to me that night about how special that victory was and the influence Siragusa had on it.

Boyden, who was a National Honor Society student, is the only athlete from Brearley to be a state champion in football and wrestling. He was a key two-way junior lineman on Brearley’s 2006 North 2, Group 1 state championship football team. The Bears, on a Saturday morning in East Rutherford, held on to defeat Verona 21-20 at the old Giants Stadium. Boyden, as a sophomore, was also a starter on the Brearley football team that reached the Central Jersey, Group 1 state championship game in 2005, with the Bears falling to defending champion Florence, 19-6, at Rutgers. Boyden earned all-state honors in football during his junior and senior seasons.

Boyden also won seven wrestling championships at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium. He became only the sixth of nine wrestlers, and the first from Brearley, to win four Union County Tournament titles there; then, in the same gym, he won three straight Region 3 wrestling crowns, his sophomore, junior and senior seasons of 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In Boyden’s three years of qualifying for the NJSIAA Tournament, all at 215 pounds, he finished sixth as a sophomore in 2006, sixth again as a junior in 2007 and first as a senior in 2008.

Union County has produced only one state champion since Boyden, which was Westfield senior Christian Barber, who won the 152-pound crown in 2011.
To say that Boyden performed like a champion on the biggest stages — whether it was football at Giants Stadium, state tournament wrestling in Atlantic City, or wrestling at Union High School against the best wrestlers from Union County and then the best from this region of the state — would be a gross understatement. Boyden’s wrestling record at Brearley of 149-16 includes the school mark for most total victories.
His wrestling helped lead him to Rutgers University. Boyden and three other state champion wrestlers from 2008 — Joey Langel, of Howell, at 112; Nick Menditto, of Ocean Township, at 152; and Scott Winston, of Jackson, at 160 — were part of head coach Scott Goodale’s first recruiting class at Rutgers.

Boyden acquired his diploma from Rutgers in 2013 and was employed at Pro Tapes & Specialties, working in the advertising division.
Under the leadership of head coach Brian Luciani and assistant coach Joe Lospinoso, Brearley Bears wrestling became a dynasty in Union County and the state from the mid-2000s to the early-2010s. Brearley captured seven straight UCT championships from 2006 through 2012, starting with Boyden’s sophomore year.

The Bears also won sectional state championships every year from 2006 to 2012. Brearley won Central Jersey, Group 1 titles in 2006 and 2007 and then captured the North 2, Group 2 crown every year from 2008 to 2012. Brearley reached the Group 2 state championship match for the first time in 2008, Boyden’s senior year, and then again in 2009, falling to Long Branch both years. The Bears finally won a group state championship in 2011, defeating West Essex in the final. Brearley and Dayton combined teams beginning in 2010.

Here’s a look at who Boyden defeated in his four UCT championship matches at Union High School at 215 pounds: in 2005, dec. Julio Loperena, of Linden, 10-4; in 2006, pin Trevor Martin of New Providence in :43; in 2007, major dec. Richard Tabor, of Elizabeth, 12-3; and in 2008, dec. Mike Lefano, of Roselle Park, 5-2. The very next year in 2009, Boyden’s former teammate Kenny Knapp became the second Brearley wrestler and just the seventh of nine to win four UCT crowns.

Boyden is survived by his parents, Carol and George; sister and brother-in-law, Dawn and Blaze Horling, and their two children; grandfather Frederick Rabey and wife; and all of his loving aunts, uncles and cousins.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, located at 582 Springfield Ave. in Westfield.