Unfortunate circumstances have made Morris Knolls senior Michael Burns the undisputed leader of the Golden Eagles wrestling team.
Yesterday, the 182-pounder lived up to his leadership role.
Burns scored two third-period back points and wound up taking a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Perth Amboy’s Joshua Batista in the finals of the season-opening Morris Knolls Christmas Tournament.
Burns was slated to be one of the Golden Eagles leaders this year along with standout Mike Rettino – but that was before Rettino injured his knee during football and was forced to miss all of wrestling season. Rettino was a Morris County champion last year.
“Michael has done everything a leader should do,” Morris Knolls coach Larry Rizzo said. “He went to Sir Wrestling (in Sussex County and Mount Olive) in the offseason and worked very hard and he’s gotten better. Plus, he’d take the younger guys with him and give them rides. He misses Mike as a workout partner, but I have some college kids coming back home who wrestled for me. I’ll recruit them to come work out with Mike.”
One teammate who won’t work out with Burns is 106-pound freshman Garrett O’Shea, who captured his weight class with a 2-0 win over Matthew Deehan of the Blair “B” team.
“Garrett comes from good bloodlines,” Rizzo said, alluding to O’Shea’s father John, who has returned to Morris Knolls as an assistant coach after being the head coach at Butler for many years. “John was a college wrestler. You can tell that Garrett is a coach’s kid by the way he does things. He works hard, is a great student, he works out with others and makes them better. Garrett doesn’t talk about making weight and working hard, he just does it. He’ll be a leader for us, but in a way, he already is.”
Dean Drugac, Morris Knolls’ 152-pound freshman, made the finals but was pinned by South Plainfield’s Dylan Painton in 1:04.
“Dena is part of our great freshman class with his twin brother Luke,” Rizzo said, also mentioning O’Shea and 120-pound freshman Jayson Parisi. “He loves to work out and he has put a lot of time in. They both train with Mike Kennedy’s strength training and that helps them. They’ll help us.”
Morris Hills’ Steve Acevedo placed second at 160, losing in the finals to South Plainfield’s Iman Sikel, 7-1.
“He’s done really well,” Scarlet Knights coach Joe Barchetto said. “He did a lot in the offseason and I’m really happy with that. He’s grown up in the last couple of years. Two years ago, he’d make a critical mistake, but not anymore. I think the fact that he was named a team captain despite him being a junior says a lot about him.”
Montville’s Parker Meytrott was the other local wrestler to make it to the finals but he lost to Watchung Hills’ Mike Carroccia, 3-2.
“Parker is a great kid,” Mustangs coach John Krip said. “He is a true team player that I can count on every day to work hard. He pushed everybody and he is a good captain. He hates losing. His losing today is tough, but I told him that this is the beginning of the year and we have a long way to go to get to where we want to be.”
Team scores: 1. South Plainfield (279); 2. Blair B (143); 3. Perth Amboy (134); 4. Watchung Hills (117); 5. Gov. Livingston (116); 6. Morris Knolls 87; 7. Seton Hall Prep 81; 8. Montville 64; 9. Morris Hills 35; 10. Rutherford 6.
103 — Garrett O’Shea (Morris Knolls) dec. Matthew Deehan (Blair), 2-0.
113 — Daniel Hedden (South Plainfield) pin. Angelo Mascola (Seton Hall Prep), :55.
120 — Jon Mele (Gov. Livingston) dec. Ray Jazikoff (South Plainfield), 5-2.
126 — Mike Magaldo (Watchung Hills) dec. Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield), 8-5.
132 — Scott Delvecchio (South Plainfield) dec. Michael Monico (Blair), 6-3.
138 — Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield) maj. Dec. Walker Dempsey (Blair), 12-4.
145 — Troy Heilman (South Plainfield) pin. Anthony DiRosa (Watchung Hills), 1:57.
152 — Dylan Painton (South Plainfield) pin. Dean Drugac (Morris Knolls), 1:04.
160 — Iman Sikel (South Plainfield) dec. Steve Acevedo (Morris Hills), 7-1.
170 — Mike Carroccia (Watchung Hills) dec. Parker Meytrott (Montville), 3-2.
182 — Michael Burns (Morris Knolls) dec. Joshua Batista (Perth Amboy), 3-2.
195 — Shane Haddad (Gov. Livingston) pin. Hashaun Fullwood (Perth Amboy), 3:08.
220 — Mike Chaykivsky (Perth Amboy) dec. Troy Russell (South Plainfield), 5-2.
285 — Anthony Rizzolo (Watchung Hills) dec. Tyler Calderone (South Plainfield), 1-0.