Dan Hedden of South Plainfield wrestling moves past setback

Dan Hedden of South Plainfield wrestling moves past setback

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Dan Hedden of South Plainfield wrestling moves past setback

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Want to find a accurate way to test a wrestler’s character?

Watch his performance in a wrestleback round bout about 45 minutes after a crushing defeat.

South Plainfield sophomore 126-pounder Dan Hedden gave a clinic on readjusting in the aftermath of disappointment Saturday afternoon at the Region III Tournament at Union High School. He was beaten 4-3 in the region semifinals by New Providence sophomore and second seeded Tyler Gazaway, who also beat Hedden 7-6 in double overtime for a District 12 title.

Gazaway lost 12-2 in the region final to Delbarton’s Christian Innarella, not long after Hedden completed his rally to third.

“I was pretty upset (about the semifinal loss), but I knew that tough wrestlers are made in those positions, what makes tough wrestlers is what they go through,” said Hedden, a region runner-up last year at 113 to Delbarton’s Nick Farro. “I wasn’t going to fold. I’m a tough kid.”

Hedden recovered with two wrestleback wins for third, earning his second NJSIAA State Tournament qualification. The tournament begins at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City Friday night with prelims and prequarter bouts, reconvenes Saturday morning with quarterfinals and wrestlebacks and is capped by more wrestle backs and semifinals later in the day. Consolation finals for places three through eight are Sunday morning, followed by championship finals.

Hedden, just one win away from placing in the state’s top eight at 113 last year, going 2-2, will join teammates Ray Jazikoff (145), Ryan Walsh (120) and Inan Sikel (152) in A.C. Watchung Hills will be represented by senior and three-time state place winner Mike Magaldo (third last year, a state champ as a sophomore, runner-up as a freshman), junior Max Meyers (106), junior Alex Murray (138) and senior Anthony Carbajal. Junior John Fuller (113) and seniors Matt Barber (145) and Nick Velez (152) qualified for Westfield, the most coach Glen Kurz has ever had. North Plainfield junior J.T. Valley (195) is the other area qualifier.

South Plainfield coach Kevin McCann and Hedden believed Hedden scored a winning takedown against Gazaway as time expired in a region semifinal, But that didn’t happen.

“I had to get a shot here,” recalled Hedden, who has dedicated his post season to his dad, who’s been ill. “I said ‘I have to get a takedown here.’ I got a deep double near the edge of the mat, I thought I had hooked a leg and I looked up at the ref. I thought I was going to get my two.

“But he didn’t give it to me and then Gazaway took my leg, kind of funked out of it, I readjusted to another position where I thought maybe it was two again. I looked at the clock again, there was four seconds left, and the ref didn’t give it to me and that was the match.”

Hedden said he rated his level of disappointment between a nine and 10.

“I thought I had to really come up big now in the loser’s bracket; I could have locked it up (a state qualification) right there, it was so close,” Hedden said.

He recovered by pinning Linden’s District 11 champ Nick Tekula, then outlasting Parsippany junior Stephen Persaud 2-1 in an ultimate tiebreaker for third. Persaud chose top and Hedden got out at about the 15 second mark.

“I was set, I knew it could punch my ticket to A.C.,” said Hedden, who calls former South Plainfield great Troy Heilmann as his mentor. “I see me placing. I have been working hard since last June from after states on. I have to get on that podium as either a state champ or state place winner. This year I know what I’m fighting for.”

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