Bound Brook wrestling program on the rise

Bound Brook wrestling program on the rise

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Bound Brook wrestling program on the rise

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Bound Brook has gone from being a steady contender in district and county tournaments to one that runs with the state’s elite.

Bound Brook is now ranked among Don Bosco Prep, Bergen Catholic and St. Peter Prep. The Crusaders are ranked No. 2 behind Bergen Catholic in the preseason New Jersey Wrestling Writers poll and not many who follow the sport closely have much argument with it. They finished last season as the poll’s No. 5 team.

The Crusaders figure to be even better.

“We could be top five-ranked nationally, and we could have 12 going to the states, that’s what we’re looking forward to,” said defending state champ Craig De La Cruz, who’ll be at 126 after last year’s 120-pound title.

Like Bergen Catholic, Bound Brook has benefitted from transfers. Not because of being a non-public school, but because of Gov. Chris Christie’s school of choice program.

While former Lenape Valley star Peter Lipari (seventh in the state at 120 last season), and East Brusnwick standout Jordan Pagano (Region V champ at 152 last year) have transferred to Bergen Catholic, Bound Brook has welcomed Region V champ Sean Glasgow, who transferred from East Brunswick along with his promising freshman brother Stephan. Others have come too.

Bound Brook, the two-time NJSIAA Group I, Somerset County and District 18 champion is not apologizing. The Glasgow family did actually move to Bound Brook, but that doesn’t change the opinion of the program’s dissenters, who now see the Crusaders as a New York Yankees type of operation.

That doesn’t have a speck of reaction in the Crusaders’ drill room where it is crowded with talented drill partners.

Almost-forgotten district champions such as senior Ronald Picado can drill with a number of talented teammates and visitors who may have won multiple state championships.

“I think we have improved, we have a lot of young and new guys who will make an immediate impact, but we will go as far as we want to go,” said Bound Brook coach Shaun Cleary. “Naturally our goal is to be the No. 1 team in the state. That was our goal last year, we fell a little short, but our expectation is that we will do it this year.

“The only people who will stop us is us.” he added.

Injuries last season may have cost the Crusaders losses to Bergen Catholic (39-18) and Don Bosco Prep (32-31 by criteria) in a span of a few days. The other loss was to Apple Valley (Mn.) 30-27 last December when the Crusaders went 5-1 at the Clash Tournament in Rochester (Mn.) where Bound Brook will return for Jan. 3-4.

“We have a good team this year, a good solid team from start to finish in our lineup,” said Ugalde.

The team will wrestle Delbarton, Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco. They will open the season with this weekend’s Neptune Tournament, then the Bethlehem Holiday Classic at Liberty High School (Pa.).

That’s something Bound Brook has never shied away from, long before the school of choice, the Crusaders wrestled Blair and Brick Memorial. In the match against Blair in the winter of 1999, the Crusaders were held to one takedown, then there was a 69-3 loss to Brick. The idea was to wrestle the best no matter where or what size the opponent.

Bound Brook will be spending its last season in the Skyland Conference Valley Division. Next year, the Crusaders will be in the upper division with Hunterdon Central, North Hunterdon and Phillipsburg.

“We have loaded up our schedule, so we can see through all the challenges, that’s the way it’s always been,” Cleary said.

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