UNION – Parsippany’s P.J. Gohn was at the NJSIAA Region 3 Wrestling Championships at Union High School last year, but he never got onto the mat.
He wasn’t good enough, so he sat in the bleachers. Gohn was not a competitor. He wasn’t even in the Red Hawks’ starting lineup.
This year, he is more than a starter. All year long, he has been one of their big winners – and he added another win at Region 3 on Wednesday night. Gohn (27-8) advanced with a 6-2 victory over Seton Hall Prep’s Maguire Pecci.
The 106-pound Gohn bumped up to 113 when Parsippany wrestled Seton Hall Prep earlier this year so he knew nothing about Pecci. But within the first period, Gohn knew that he liked his chances. The reason: Pecci was hit with a stalling warning and then hit for another. Two stalling calls in the first period is a rarity, especially at the regions.
“When he got the two stalls, I was like, ‘Okay, he’s stalling, so I’ll keep the pressure on,’ ” Gohn said. “It gave me confidence and I figured he was afraid of me.”
Last year at this time, no one was afraid of Gohn. He hurt his shoulder and, upon his return, he lost in a wrestle-off.
“I said, ‘I want to come back here next year,’ ” Gohn said.
And now he gets a crack at Cranford’s top-seeded Anthony Capece (22-9) in the Friday night quarterfinals at Union at 6 p.m. The 106-pound weight also includes state contenders such as Delbarton’s Pat Glory and Hanover Park’s Gerard Angelo.
“I came here to win it,” Gohn said. “The weight class is pretty good, but I think I can win it.”
Boonton’s Anthony Fajardo (126), who was fifth-sixth last year at the regions, came through with a 9-4 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Jashmar Phillippe.
“He was strong,” said Fajardo, who will face South Plainfield’s Ryan Walsh in the quarterfinals. “I wanted to be patient and not do something crazy and get caught. I wanted to be patient and finish my shots. I wanted to do what got me here and keep doing what I have been doing.”
Whippany Park’s Joe Prato already had a pin over Chatham’s Brian Weber in the Morris County Tournament after building up a 12-4 lead, so he liked his matchup going into the regions. Prato wound up building an 8-0 lead before pinning Weber in 2:14.
“At the county tournament, he took me down, so I had to watch for that,” said Prato, who will face Westfield’s Jared Gozdieski in the quarters. “He took low shots. So I watched for that, took him down and ran the bar on him.”
Prato got two sets of back points in the first period on the way to a big lead. It was a far cry from last year’s first night at the regions, when he lost to Hanover Park’s Gene Angelo, 2-1.
“The feeling now is amazing,” Prato said. “I’m just trying to get points whenever I can. I am a senior, so I am wrestling with no regrets. If I lose while trying to make a throw or something, so be it. I’m trying to win, I don’t want to stand around or take bad shots.”
Hanover Park’s Eric Boccard (220), one of Morris County’s most improved wrestlers, advanced with a 2-0 victory over Barringer’s Isiah Miller. After a scoreless first period, Boccard rode Miller out for the entire second period. Then in the third period, he was awarded a point for stalling and was cut free by Miller.
The win continued Boccard’s startling improvement. He was 9-20 and a District 9 fourth-placer last year. Now, he is 16-13 and helped Hanover Park win a state Group II title.
“I work hard in practice, I drill with the coaches, college kids who come back, anyone who can beat me up,” Boccard said. “If they do that to me in practice, then I can do that on the mat.”
Boccard was a nervous wreck before the Miller match, so he sprinted around the hallway before wrestling began in an effort to break a sweat.
“I think I can make a deep run here,” he said. “If I don’t make it to the finals, I think I can place third. I want to come back Friday night and wrestle the way I did tonight.”
Boccard will face Elizabeth’s David Tobe, who pinned Parsippany’s Carlos Huaman.