Four years after school administrators contemplated shutting down the North Brunswick High School wrestling program due to declining numbers, the Raiders are enjoying a remarkable turnaround.
Matt Mueller’s pin at 170 pounds in the final bout of the entire tournament lifted the Raiders to a thrilling one-point victory over Colts Neck for the team title of the Buc Classic at Red Bank Regional on Saturday.
North Brunswick bested the field with 185 points and was followed by Colts Neck (184) and Freehold Boro (150) in the team standings. The one-point margin marked the closest finish in tournament history.
Rumson Fair-Haven 138-pounder Marcus Iwama, who became the first four-time champion in tournament history, was named Outstanding Wrestler.
Metuchen’s Joe Maloney (285) and Carteret’s Elias Vega (160) also won individual titles.
Mueller pinned New Brunswick’s Algenis Nunez in 1:26 to seal the team title. Teammate Kenny Abode, who upset Colts Neck’s Ian Pearson in the semifinals, also upset Metuchen standout Kevin Coleman in the finals with a 7-6 decision.
Abode, whose weakness is legs, has been working to strengthen that aspect with assistant coach Matt Salge, who taught Abodea move he used to pin Pearson, who was leading by four points at the time of the fall.
Mario Castellano, a 120-pounder who posted an 0-17 record a year ago but advanced to Saturday’s final, epitomizes the offseason commitment that has led to North Brunswick’s vast improvement. He worked tirelessly in the weight room and joined a club.
“They were thinking about closing the program down,” North Brunswick coach Mark Salge said of the situation the Raider senior faced as freshmen, when Salge was able to fill only half of the weight classes. “We just had no kids coming out. These guys have worked their butts off and it paid off. I’m just so proud of them.”
The Raiders own a 2-6 record but Salge said he believes that mark could easily be reversed if the Raiders had been at full strength all season. North Brunswick has been competing without a key middle weight, who just returned to the lineup, and is expected to get a key lower weight wrestler back in the lineup at the end of the month.
“When Mr. (Pete) Clark, our principal, asked me to come back with (assistant) William Ojeda to help revitalize the team we started with seven guys four years ago,” Salge said. “It’s been tough. They took their lumps and they just kept on working. This is the first group I’ve had for four straight years. Now they are seniors and they know how to wrestle.”
Team scores: 1. North Brunswick 185; 2. Colts Neck 184; 3. Freehold Boro 150; 4. Red Bank Regional 146; 5. Pinelands 137.
106: Joey King (Colts Neck) d. Juan Gonzalez (North Brunswick) 6-0
113: Colin Monahan (Freehold Boro) md. Tim Klemser (Shore) 13-4
120: Danny Walsh (Shore) md. Mario Castellano (North Brunswick) 18-8
126: Steven Kramer (Colts Neck) d. Jake Feldman (Freehold Boro) 4-2
132: Liam Hoagland (Colts Neck) d. Yoscar Diaz (New Brunswick) 4-2
138: Marcus Iwama (Rumson-Fair Haven) p. Jack McMahon (Red Bank Regional) 3:10
145: Thomas Pakilkhua (Pinelands) p. Tom Hinz (Red Bank Regional) 3:22
152: Kenny Aboda (North Brunswick) d. Kevin Coleman (Metuchen) 7-6
160: Elias Vega (Carteret) d. Theo Addison (Rumson-Fair Haven) 6-0
170: Matt Mueller (North Brunswick) p. Algeniz Nunez (New Brunswick) 1:26
182: Dylan Alt (Keansburg) p. Chris Nielson (Pinelands) :34
195: Tyree Sutton (Keansburg) p. Farhan Khan (Carteret) :22
220: Fred Womack (Colts Neck) p. Dom Liana (Shore) 2:46
285: Joe Maloney (Metuchen) p. Anthony Tacinelli (North Brunswick) :27