Union wrestlers look forward to a new season — they hope

Trophies from the last Union County Tournament at Union High School two years ago. There was no UCT last year, and this year’s, which was to be Jan. 15 at Elizabeth, has been postponed.

UNION, NJ — To say that the Union Farmer wrestlers are anxious to get on the mat and rock and roll would be an understatement.
If all worked out according to plan after press time, Union was to host Kenilworth’s David Brearley High School, for its first match of the season, at its smaller gym on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

COVID-19 pinned Union’s earlier matches.

“The only thing we can do is take things day by day and hope for the best,” Union wrestling head coach Dino DeBellonia said.
Union is also scheduled to wrestle at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark on Friday, Jan. 7, at 5 p.m. and then take part in the annual Paul Finn dual meets at Millburn High School on Saturday, Jan. 8, beginning at 9 a.m.

“As of now,” DeBellonia said on Sunday, Jan. 2, “Saturday’s matches at Millburn are a go, but that could change at any minute.”

Union split 12 matches in last year’s unique spring season, which commenced in March and ran through April. Three of the matches took place outdoors, at football fields at Millburn, Linden and Elizabeth.

“It was a complete success,” DeBellonia said. “Ideally, we wanted to get in 15 matches, but some were canceled due to COVID. The season turned out better than anticipated, because of the experience our wrestlers gained and our seniors being able to get matches in.”

Two prominent four-year wrestlers seeking to make the most of their senior seasons this year are Darius Quarshie at heavyweight and 215-pounder Xavier Walton.

“Darius is a hard worker and shows great leadership in the room,” DeBellonia said. “He’s mobile on the mat and a really good wrestler.

“Xavier and Darius train together. Xavier also works hard and shows great leadership. They are both program kids who have become more skilled in the sport the longer they’ve stayed in it.”

Because of the damage done by Tropical Storm Ida to the main gym, Union’s home matches, for now, will take place at the school’s smaller recreation gymnasium.

“To say the least, this has been a very strange season,” DeBellonia said. “It seems like last year’s spring season was a lot easier.

“We, like a lot of schools, are going through a lot of adversity. We just have to adapt to it and take the season one match at a time.

“We have to be prepared for surprising news at any moment. It’s really not even surprising anymore. We need to be prepared for changes at a moment’s notice.”

Union is scheduled to host Cranford on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 5 p.m. and Westfield on Friday, Jan. 21, at 5 p.m.

NOTES: DeBellonia said that the Union County Tournament, originally scheduled to take place Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth, has been postponed.

There was no UCT last year, during the abbreviated spring season.

“We’ve been told that it’s been suspended, not canceled,” DeBellonia said. “It’s on hold for now. We’ve not been told that it’s completely canceled.

“I think the athletic directors are going to discuss a new date at some point.”

The UCT has been at Union High School’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium for some time. Before that, it was contested at the Dunn Center.

File Photo