An important element of Hunterdon Central junior Gary Dinmore’s game is a fearless approach to any of his opponents. That trait was essential Sunday afternoon in the NJSIAA Wrestling Tournament at 138 pounds when Dinmore met South Plainfield senior great Anthony Ashnault.
Ashnault was out to become the third New Jersey wrestler to win four state championship and the first to be unbeaten doing it. Dinmore, beaten 5-2 by Ashnault in last year’s 126-pound final, didn’t want to be a footnote to Ashnault’s historic ride. The only thing Dinmore wanted was to stop history from being made.
Ashnault (40-0, 170-0) won a 4-2 battle, scoring the go-ahead takedown with 13 seconds left with a deep double leg shot and finish that brought what seemed like thousands of South Plainfield roaring fans in green T-shirts at Boardwalk Hall to their feet. Dinmore (38-1, 94-12), the Red Devil’s 39th finalist and 27th runner-up, landed on his head while somersaulting out of bounds to repel a single-leg Ashnault shot early in the third period. The fall injured his right shoulder. After the match, Dinmore – Central’s first back-to-back finalist since Todd Patton in 1983-84 – had an impressive bruise above his left eye.
“I was a little anxious in the first period trying to get that first takedown,” Dinmore said. “It didn’t work out in my favor.”
Ashnault scored his first takedown off a single-leg in the first period. But Dinmore rode Ashnault out for the entire second period, and the score was 2-2 after Ashnault gave up an escape with 1:41 left in the third.
“Everyone thinks I had a game plan (to beat Ashnault), but my game plan was to just wrestle,” said Dinmore, who wanted to be Central’s first state champ since Alex Shaffer won at 119 in 2011. “I think I could’ve made (the score) closer, but there’s no point if you’re not going to win.”