MAPLEWOOD, NJ (updated Monday Feb. 19, 12:49 p.m.) – The Columbia High School varsity wrestling team boasted four second-place finishers and a pair of third-place finishers at the NJSIAA District 10 tournament held at Belleville HS on Feb. 17.
Naquan Tory, at the 113-pound weight class; Cahil Love Jr., at 126; Devin Rocha, at 132; and Galileo Hetherington, at 285 heavyweight, each finished second for the Cougars.
Blake McGowan, at 145, and Hunter Dallison, at 195, won their third-place consolation bouts.
The Cougars finished fifth in the team standings out of 10 teams. Delbarton dominated in winning the team title.
The six CHS wrestlers advanced to the Region 3 tournament at West Orange HS, Feb 21, 23 and 24. The region tournament consists of the top three finishers in each weight class from the District 9, 10, 11 and 12 tournaments. For the Cougars, the district showing was a big improvement from last season when they advanced one wrestler to the region.
Indeed, first-year CHS head coach Mike Freedman was elated for his team.
“I thought our team wrestled very well,” said Freedman in an email to The News-Record. “Almost every coach in the district approached me about how tough are wrestlers look and how much they have improved over a short period of time.”
Freedman also was nominated for District Head Coach of the Year.
The following are Freedman’s comments about his wrestlers at the districts:
“Naquan is a first-year wrestler and did a fantastic job making it to the district finals. Naquan has 18 wins on the season. Naquan defeated the Orange wrestler (Pierre) Senat in the semifinals, who finished fourth at the Essex County Tournament. When you get a lightweight that does well, everyone else feeds off his victory. I felt after Naquan won his semifinals match, it took a lot of the pressure off the other guys on the team.”
Cahil Love Jr.
“CJ, at 126, had a strong tourament. CJ has 24 wins on the season. He won a barnburner 12-11 match in the semifinals over (Ebenson) Macenat of Orange. CJ was down a few points early, but raged a furious comeback and kept pushing the pace to held of Marcenat in the final few seconds. CJ is only a sophomore. Placing in the districts will help his seed tremendously over the next two years in all tournaments. I am very happy with his progression all season long. He continues to get better on a daily basis and he is wrestling his best at the end of the season.”
“Devin has 30 wins on the season. Devin was dominating his Delbarton opponent Cummings in the finals. He made a single mistake and it cost him. I thought the first and second period, Devin was clearly the better wrestler. Devin is extremely talented and will bounce back and have a strong region tournament. He is wrestling with a lot of confidence and is looking forward to the regions.”
“Blake has 17 wins on the season. He lost a heartbreaking 9-8 match in the semifinals to (Michael) Charles of West Orange but was resilient in coming back strong with a pin in the third place match. Blake has the ability to win matches at the regions.”
“At 195 pounds senior Hunter Dallison continued his strong season. Hunter leads the team with 31 wins He always finds a way to win and his third-place match was no different. He wrestled a very dangerous Nutley wrestler that upset the top seed (Noah) Tandy (of West Orange) at the ECT Tournament last month. Hunter had defeated (Justin) Luna of Nutley earlier in the season as well. At the districts, Hunter won 12-10 but I thought Hunter clearly pinnned the Nutley wrestler and for whatever reason, the refs missed it.”
“At 285, senior Galileo Hetherington, who has 23 wins, continued his fine season pinning his first two opponents on his way to second place. Hunter had a Delbarton opponent in the first round and to that point Delbarton had advanced their entire team. It didn’t faze Galileo as he pinned (Liam) Gray of Delbarton. His semifinals was a rematch vs. (Luis) Abreu of Nutley. Galileo pinned Abreu in the second period and punched his ticket to the finals. Just like Devin, he was winning the match in the finals and made a mistake that cost him. I am very happy both seniors advanced to the regions and we are looking forward to making a statement as a team at regions.”