We’re into the month of January, which means only one thing in the world of Morris County high school wrestling: The dual meet season.
The Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference has seven – count ‘em seven – divisions for its 35 wrestling teams. Here is a look at how each division figures to shake out.
Teams: Morris Hills, Mount Olive, Pope John, Sparta, Vernon.
The favorite: Sparta.
Big matches: The Spartans have taken a major step up in recent seasons and this is their best dual meet team in quite awhile. They have already beaten Jefferson, 40-27, and lost by just 33-29 to Roxbury. Sparta travels to Mount Olive tonight and goes across town to Pope John on Jan. 21.
Comment: Sparta is celebrating a resurgence on the mats and should easily win the American.
Teams: Morris Knolls, Parsippany Hills, Randolph, Roxbury, West Morris.
The favorite: Morris Knolls.
Big matches: The Golden Eagles beat Randolph, 38-24, and are coming off a 33-32 loss to Top 20 caliber Christian Brothers Academy, losing on Criteria 9, on Saturday. They have a demanding upcoming schedule this week at North Hunterdon on Thursday and Lenape Valley (at Mount Olive) on Saturday. Roxbury, which surprised Hanover Park on Thursday, 33-26, travels to West Morris tonight. The Wolfpack are improved over last year but will be hindered in the dual-meet season by two forfeits. The division should come down to Knolls at Roxbury on Feb. 4.
Comment: Knolls is the best the National has to offer but will be tested by both Roxbury and West Morris.
Teams: Chatham, Delbarton, Mendham, Montville, Morristown.
The favorite: Delbarton.
Big matches: The Green Wave have already beaten Mendham, 43-28, and would lock up the division if they beat Montville at home on Jan. 28. The real race would appear to be for second. Montville has already beaten Morristown, 39-27, and will host Mendham on Jan. 21. Mendham travels to Morristown on Feb. 3.
Comment: Perhaps an all-star team of the rest of the division would have enough to knock off the powerful Green Wave, who just pounded Top 20-caliber Paramus, 44-15.
Teams: Hackettstown, High Point, Jefferson, Lenape Valley.
The favorite: Lenape Valley.
Big matches: The Patriots have already defeated High Point, 39-31, and are in the driver’s seat to win the Freedom. Lenape Valley travels to Jefferson on Jan. 21.
Comment: Lenape Valley seems to be following the formula it used to win the old SCIL back in 1999, when the Patriots beat co-favorite High Point in the very beginning of the season. In that season, everyone knew those two were the favorites to win the SCIL. Lenape Valley went up to High Point during a snowstorm and defeated the Wildcats.
Teams: Hopatcong, Kittatinny, Newton, North Warren, Wallkill Valley.
The favorite: Kittatinny.
Big matches: The Cougars are a heavy favorite to win the league. They have already beaten North Warren, 61-12, and would in all likelihood wrap up the division with a win when they travel to Newton on Jan. 13.
Comment: The Cougars might be a little down by their own lofty standards but that is clearly enough to win the Colonial.
Teams: Boonton, Butler, Kinnelon, Morris Catholic, Pequannock, Whippany Park.
The favorite: Pequannock.
Big matches: Boonton and Butler are much improved but have nowhere near the depth of Pequannock, which has already beaten the Bombers, 53-19. Pequannock is at Butler tonight. The Golden Panthers host Whippany Park on Feb. 4..
Comment: The Golden Panthers, who have won five straight Independence titles, have already won the North Warren and Collingswood Duals against much stronger opposition than the Independence has to offer.
Teams: Dover, Hanover Park, Madison, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany.
The favorite: Hanover Park.
Big matches: The division crown will come to the night of Jan. 28, when Parsippany entertains Hanover Park.
Comment: The Hornets have their sights set on winning the state Group II championship and are a good bet to do so. Watch out for dark horse Parsippany, which gave powerful Howell a scare, has terrific balance and is much better than Hanover in the upper weights.
Morris County Top 10
2. Morris Knolls
5. Hanover Park
7. West Morris