As one of the few year-round wrestlers on the Piscataway High School team, junior Jordan Cooke is the type of grappler head coach Bill Pavlak can continue rebuilding his program around.
The Chiefs, who recently completed their dual meet season with a 10-13 record – the most wins they have had in years – enter this weekend’s District 19 Tournament at Woodbridge with the chance to advance at least five wrestlers to the regions.
RELATED: District 19 Tournament seeds
Cooke, who as the No. 2 seed with a 28-5 record at 145 pounds appears destined to meet top-seeded Billy Povalac of Edison in the final, hopes to join teammates Arcelio Aponte (17-11 at 132), Michael Yeboah (20-9 at 152), and Eti-ini Udott (27-3 at 182) at the Hunterdon Central Field House next week, along with freshman Michael Petite (27-4 at 160).
Edison, which ended a 17-year drought by claiming the District 19 team title last season, is favored to defend its championship while receiving challenges from Bishop Ahr, Woodbridge and J.F. Kennedy.
Povalac, who was named Outstanding Wrestler at last year’s District 19 Tournament, joins teammates Keith Serio (285) and Robert Cleary (120) as incumbent champions.
Yeboah, who did not wrestle a single varsity match last season because family responsibilities prevented him from attending practices on a consistent bases, takes a nine-bout winning streak into the districts.
He has been wrestling up in class all year with Cooke at 145 pounds, where the junior is a leader in the room.
“(Cooke) is the only junior left that’s been with me for the three years,” Pavlak said, noting other juniors who started with the Chiefs as freshmen have either left the team or elected to participate in other sports. “He’s one of the few wrestlers that wrestle all year round, and it’s starting to pay dividends. He’s technically sound.”
Pavlak said Cooke serves, on occasion, as an additional coach in the room, demonstrating moves to teammates, many of whom have significantly less experience.
Aponte, who placed third in the district last year, enters the tournament on a roll for the second consecutive season.
A former middle school state champion, Petite is “the kind of wrester we need in the program to move on,” Pavlak said.
Udott remains Piscataway’s flagship wrestlers and represents the programs best chance for Atlantic City.
District 19 Wrestling Tournament
When/Where: Saturday at Woodbridge High School.
Schedule: Preliminaries and quarterfinals, 10 a.m.; semifinals, 12:30 p.m.; consolation finals, 2:30 p.m.; finals, 4:30 p.m.
Teams: Academy for Urban Leadership Charter School, Bishop Ahr, Carteret, Edison, Highland Park, J.F. Kennedy, Metuchen, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, J.P. Stevens, Woodbridge.
PREDICTED REGION QUALIFIERS
106: Gaven Ringwood (Bishop Ahr, 20-8); Aaron Coleman (J.F. Kennedy, 26-4); Oanes Mahmood (Carteret, 20-12).
113: Norberto Torres (Perth Amboy, 26-7); Mohammad Dhillo (Carteret, 25-7); Dylan O`Connor (Bishop Ahr, 20-12).
120: Robert Cleary (Edison, 26-4); Jack Quinn (Woodbridge, 23-12); Victor Torress (J.F. Kennedy, 17-11).
126: Sam Guerrero (Highland Park, 29-4); Joseph Marty (Woodbridge, 26-9); Peter Tomasino (Edison, 22-9).
132: Arcelio Aponte (Piscataway, 17-11); James Halladay (Carteret, 15-16); Ryan Naiduk (Edison, 13-13).
138: John Sheedy (Bishop Ahr, 27-4); Stiven Skenderi (J.F. Kennedy, 23-9); Joseph Montouro (Edison, 22-11).
145: William Povalac (Edison, 28-2); Jordan Cooke (Piscataway, 28-5); Paul Vargas (J.P. Stevens, 25-8).
152: Bryan McLaughlin (Woodbridge, 35-0); Eric Nolan (Edison, 26-6); Kevin Coleman (Metuchen, 20-7).
160: Eliias Vega (Carteret, 28-1); Michael Petite (Piscataway, 27-4); Tyler Underwood (Bishop Ahr, 21-8).
170: Brandon Farrell (J.F. Kennedy, 26-1); Alexander Robinson (Edison, 13-14); Zackary Cottrell (Woodbridge, 19-14).
182: Eti-ini Udott (Piscataway, 27-3); Andrew Brazicki (Bishop Ahr, 21-7); Christopher Cuevas (Edison, 16-13).
195: Farhan Khan (Carteret, 25-5); Anthony Maloney (Metuchen, 25-5); Vladamir Torres (Edison, 21-9).
220: Anthony Deleon (J.F. Kennedy, 23-6); Joe Maloney (Metuchen, 20-7); Jose Caceres (Perth Amboy, 1 13-10).
285: Keith Serio (Edison, 24-4); Alexander LaGrippo (Woodbridge, 23-9); Cameron Crisco (Academy of Urban Leadership, 27-2).