The Somerset County Tournament finally has some intrigue and numbers in a weight historically thin on both, pardon the pun. That would be at 285.
The 38th annual county tournament is today in Hillsborough High School’s main gymnasium. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. with finals planned to start at 5:30.
Two-time defending champ Bound Brook is a heavy favorite to join Ridge and Somerville as the only teams to win at least three straight Somerset crowns. The tournament, which will crown its 500th champion, will be seeded this morning.
Individuals like three-time champ and last year’s OW Mike Magaldo of Watchung Hills leads a talented field. Magaldo, who’s won at titles at 128, 120 and 112, is a heavy favorite to become the event’s eighth four-timer and his school’s first.
The unbeaten senior 132-pound Magaldo (11-0) and Bound Brook junior 126-pounder and two- time county champ Craig De La Cruz (11-1) have also won state titles and unbeaten Franklin senior and defending county 195-pound champ Ralph Normandia (13-0) could win one this year after placing third at 220 last season. Normandia has been at 195 for 10 of his bouts this season with the last three at 220.
Bound Brook senior 285-pounder Michael Johnson is the intrigue at the weight. Johnson, a fifth-place state tournament winner and District 18 and Region V champ last season, has been out with a knee injury. He re-injured the knee in Bound Brook’s season opening football game at Manville and missed the season. Coach Shaun Cleary said its likely Johnson — who missed last year’s county tournament with an injury — will make his season debut at the county tournament.
The weight won’t be a walk-through.
Watchung Hills’ athletic senior Anthony Carbajal, third in the county last season at 220, is 9-3 at 285. He pinned Bridgewater-Raritan senior Jaleen Harrington in Wednesday night’s dual meet. Harrington, 8-1, missed Franklin’s Jaelin Harvin (12-3) in last Saturday’s dual meet since Harvin was at 220. Last year, Harvin pinned Harrington for third at District 18. Harvin beat Harrington 5-1 in a county consolation last season and finished fourth. Harvin’s last three bouts have been at 285 after starting the season at 220.
THE UNHERALDED: Montgomery’s unbeaten senior 170-pounder Anthony Cassar (11-0) is definitely somebody to watch. He was beaten 4-3 by Watchung Hills’ graduated two-time Somerset champ Mike Carroccia in the county final last year. Cassar went on to win the District 18 title and place fourth at Region V. Cassar was third at the counties as a 160-pound sophomore and third in the district.
Watchung Hills senior 126-pounder Alex Pollera (7-2) is another with a fine résumé and likely to be in contention once again. Pollera has been third (113), fourth (106) and third (103) at the county and second (113), first (113) and third (103) at District 12.
The county tournament hasn’t been a fruitful place for Franklin senior 170-pounder Mike Fagg-Daves (11-2). Daves, a Region V champ and OW as a freshman 130-pounder after placing third in the district, was a region runner-up last season at 160. He was second in the county last year — avenging his loss to Hillsborough’s graduated Tyler Workman in the district final — and fourth as a freshman. Daves’ losses have been to Bound Brook junior Josh Ugalde 2-1 in sudden victory and a third period technical fall loss to Roxbury’s defending state 160-pound state champ Dillon Artigliere. Ugalde was sixth in the state last season at 152.
Another standout looking for his first county title is Bridgewater-Raritan senior 120-pounder Gianni Calo (11-1), a Region V runner-up and District 18 champ last season at 106. Calo, now at 120, has been third (106), second (106) and fourth (103). Calo has 94 career wins.