MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Youth wrestling in Maplewood and South Orange is experiencing an historic resurgence.
The MSO Cougar Wrestling Club, sponsored by the Maplewood Recreation Department, had its largest enrollment this season since the mid-1990s. Its middle school wrestlers had the winningest team record since then also, along with the most Essex County place-winners (9), finalists (4) and champions (3).
In addition, the Club qualified its most wrestlers ever (since the Club’s founding in 1958!) to compete among the very best NJ wrestlers in the Youth State Championships in Trenton, where it crowned two state champions.
Among MSO middle school wrestlers, Sean Love and Jared Van Allen lead the charge. Love pinned all opponents in Trenton on March 10th to win the NJ 5th Grade State Championship at 85 lbs., making him MSO’s first Youth State Champion since the 1970s. He also won the Essex County Suburban Junior Wrestling League (SJWL) Championship, and finished the season with a 9-1 dual meet record. Van Allen won Outstanding Wrestler honors for the SJWL with a perfect record of 11-0, pinning every opponent he faced during the dual meet season and championship tournament before also qualifying for the State Championships in Trenton. Other noteworthy middle school wrestlers include SJWL Champ and State Qualifier Isaac Schiffer, SJWL Finalist Oliver Kreizman (with a 9-1 dual meet record), and SJWL Bronze Medalists Lucas Campos and Reid Ordower (who also qualified for the State Championships). Team Captains Derek Mingmongkol, Max Gigante, and Brady Williamson rounded out the Club’s SJWL place-winners with fourth, fifth, and sixth place finishes respectively.
The Club’s novice squad, which competes in the North Jersey Junior Wrestling League (NJJWL), also featured some spectacular performances. A total of 23 MSO novice wrestlers placed Top 3 at the two year-end tournaments, including gold medalists Lucas Laurore, Cole Hollis, Keegan Bohlman, Jack Brandt, Derek Rounsavill, Charlie Morrison, Jude Franco, Beckett Jarecke-Cheng, Peyton Smith, and Park Choy. Hasan Stokes, a silver medalist in the NJJWL Novice Tournament, also qualified for the NJ State Championships as a second grader. Other place-winners included Silver Medalists Zachary Maffucci, Ezra Ellman, Wilson Smith and Julien Grant, and Bronze Medalists Julien Leonard, Ezra Schleifer, and Ian Henry.
As a long-time proponent of girls wrestling, the MSO Club followed with great interest the changes made this season at the state level for female grapplers. For the first time, New Jersey has sanctioned a separate Girls State Championships at the high school level and, at the youth level, moved the Youth Girls State Championships to the same location and weekend as the boys’ tournament (for maximum exposure). These changes bode well for current and future MSO female wrestlers. This year, it sent two wrestlers to the Girls’ State Championships. Second-grader Peyton Smith came away as the NJ Girls’ State Champ for her weight and age, and eighth-grader Park Choy placed second in her bracket.
The Club graduated seven 8th-graders who are well-positioned to make an immediate impact at the high school level at CHS: Burton Alexander, Gabe Bergin, Park Choy, Jordan Meade, Derek Mingmongkol, Isaac Schiffer, and Tristan Tapia-Villamil. Other Club wrestlers who received special recognition at the season-ending Awards Banquet on Wednesday, March 13 include Jeffrey Spruill (Sportsmanship), Milan Connolly (Iron Man), Evan Fretz (Coaches Award), and James Gray (Sportsmanship).
Open to boys and girls of Maplewood and South Orange in grades 1-8, the MSO Cougar Youth Wrestling Club seeks to teach the world’s oldest sport in a fun environment. In keeping with the core values of our two towns, the Club prides itself as an inclusive organization open to all with an emphasis on healthy competition, sportsmanship, respect and teamwork. For more information, visit http://www.msowrestlingclub.com.
Photos courtesy of John Gigante