Updated with coach’s comments.
Correction: This is the second year that the top four finishers in each weight class qualify for the state finals.
MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Columbia High School wrestler Galileo Hetherington finished in third place in the 285-pound heavyweight class at Region 3 tournament at West Orange High School on Saturday, Feb. 24.
As a result, Hetherington qualified for the NJSIAA state finals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, March 2, 3, and 4.
In the third-place consolation bout, Hetherington decisioned Nicholas Huntt of North Bergen. After losing in the quarterfinals, Hetherington won the next three bouts to finish in third place.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for the state finals.
The Cougars, under first-year head coach Mike Freedman, had five other wrestlers at the Region 3 tournament, which consisted of the top three finishers in each weight class from the District 9, 10, 11 and 12 tournaments. CHS competed at District 10. The other region wrestlers for Columbia were 113-pound Naquan Tory, 126-pound Cahil Love Jr., 132-pound Devin Rocha, 145-pound Blake McGowan, and 195-pound Hunter Dallison.
Rocha finished in sixth place, losing to Edgar Moreno of West Orange in the consolation. Rocha had also lost to Moreno in the quarterfinals.
The region tournament began Feb. 21 and continued Feb. 23 and 24.
113: Jacob Baeza, Kearny, pinned Tory, 1:02. Tory eliminated.
126: Eli Shepard, West Morris, technical fall over Cahil Love Jr., 15-0, 3:10. Love eliminated.
132: Rocha pinned Alex Samara, Madison, 3:22.
145: McGowan decisioned AJ Hil, West Morris, 8-4.
195: Shamry Brodders, Phillipsburg, decisioned Dallison, 11-5. Dallison eliminated.
285: Hetherington pinned Patrick Sharpe, Phillipsburg, 2:47.
132: Edgar Moreno, West Orange, pinned Rocha, 3:58.
145: Sean Conley, Hanover Park, pinned McGowan, 2:21.
285: Durodolu Ajayi, Warren Hills, decisioned Hetherington, 10-3
132: Rocha decisioned John Cumming, Delbarton, 5-1.
145: Alex Vindici, Randolph, pinned McGowan, 1:45. McGowan eliminated.
285: Hetherington, decisioned Xavier Gulley, Bloomfield, 2-1.
132: Peter Tringali, Mendham, major decisioned Rocha, 12-4.
285: Hetherington decisioned Jason Kopich, Becton, 5-3.
132: Edgar Moreno, West Orange, decisioned Rocha, 7-2.
285: Hetherington decisioned Nicholas Huntt, North Bergen, 5-2.
Freedman was proud of his wrestlers at the region tournament.
Here are Freedman’s comments regarding the CHS wrestlers:
“On Saturday morning Galileo’s first match started with a 2-1 decision over Bloomfield’s Gulley. The next match is basically called the blood round of the Regions. The winner makes states and the loser of the match doesn’t go. This is usually the most exciting round of the tournament because of what is at stake. What made if even more special was Galileo had to defeat the Becton wrestler that pinned him three times this year, including last week in the District Finals. Since Galileo and Kopich have history and know each other’s wrestling styles, I knew we had to change things up. Going into the third period, the score was tied 2-2. The Becton wrestler choose bottom and since we haven’t been able to take him down in three matches, I knew we had one chance to score from top and win. I knew that the Becton wrestler typically tripods to escape. At the start of the period, I told Galileo ‘merkel’ when he tripods. This was honestly a big gamble because half the time it usually works; the other half it doesn’t. Gal ended up scoring three near-fall points to take a 5-2 lead. The Becton wrestler then escaped to make it 5-3. Galileo had almost 40 seconds to prevent Kopich from scoring and to hold position and he did to advance to the third-place match. Galileo kept the momentum going and won the third- place match 5-2 vs. Huntt from North Bergen, who defeated the wrestler that beat Galileo in the quarterfinals. Galileo had so much confidence after defeating Kopich, I knew he would wrestle very well in the third-place match and he did just that.”
“Devin took sixth place and did very well in one of the deepest weight classes at the tournament. Devin’s big win came against Cummings of Delbarton who defeated Devin last weekend in the District Finals. Devin had lost to Cummings in the previous two District championships. Devin could have easily been a two-time district champion to this point but Cummings edged him twice over the past two seasons, taking both championships. We spoke before the match about game-planning for Cummings. After breaking down the video from the districts, I knew Cummings only wanted to wrestle in two specific positions. If we could avoid those positions and Devin stayed on the attack, we felt very confident. Devin executed the game plan flawlessly and won a convincing 5-1 victory. After the match, Devin immediately came up to me and said ‘Game Plan.’ Devin lost the blood round to Tringali of Mendham 12-4 but gained valuable experience. In addition, Devin has 77 career wins entering his senior year, and the most wins in the program history is Andrew Adams with 101, which is well within striking distance.”
“Blake McGowan also picked up valuable experience winning his opening round match vs. Hill of West Morris , 8-4. Blake lost to three-time state qualifier Conley of Hanover Park and then had another tough draw wrestling Vindici of Randolph immediately following that match. I thought Blake was wrestling very well at the end of the season and the plan for Blake next year is lift weights and get as strong as possible. I have a feeling you will see Blake at 170 or 182 next year and I am confident he will be wrestling at the state tournament next year.”
“I also want to acknowledge senior Hunter Dallison who closed out his career at Columbia with a 31-7 season. I am extremely proud of what Hunter accomplished his senior year. He had 22 pins his senior year which is hard to come by. I am extremely grateful I got to coach both seniors Hunter and Galileo even though it was just for one season. Hunter led by example all season long and will be extremely missed. He taught the younger wrestlers how to win with class and set an example in the practice room for the younger wrestlers to follow.
“The other wrestlers that competed in regions, CJ Love Jr. and Naquan Tory, both had tremendous seasons for us and I am excited for both of them next season. They both had breakout seasons with CJ winning 24 matches and Naquan 18. I expect both of them to wrestle in the off-season and come back next year even better. If both improve as much as they did over this season to next, I would expect both to be wrestling at the state tournament as well!
“On a side note in my 13 years of being a head coach this is the 10th year that I have coached at the state tournament. I know what it takes to place down there; confidence is everything. Right now, Galileo has a ton of it!”