ORANGE, NJ — High school wrestling in the state of New Jersey is often considered to be the domain of more suburban and rural areas of the state. It is also a popular sport that flies under the radar. Orange High School’s wrestling team does not fit the normal profile, but the program has gained enough traction over the years to have earned the respect of opponents. Led by wrestler Merlin Senat, the Tornadoes have made deep inroads in the world of form wrestling.
Senat, who will be graduating in a few months, took wrestling by storm when he started to wrestle at the middle school level. On April 20, Senat achieved a 100-31 overall record — making him the first Tornado wrestler to reach the milestone of 100 career wins. Senat wrestles in the 120-pound weight class, which is very popular among wrestlers who are small in stature.
“I wanted to focus on getting my 100th victory this year and not compete in the individual state tournament this year,” Senat said, adding that most of his victories were by decision and points, while the rest were by default or forfeit. “I wanted to leave a legacy for my fellow wrestlers here at Orange High School.”
Senat plans to attend NCAA Division III powerhouse Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa., where he will be a physical education major, attending on a wrestling scholarship.
“He is such a wonderful young man,” Orange Assistant Principal of Athletics Anthony Frantantoni said. “We wanted to make sure that our community shared in this great accomplishment that will forever cement his legacy as a Tornado.”
Senat’s victory came by forfeit against Summit High School at an outdoor wrestling match hosted by the Tornadoes at Orange’s Bell Stadium.
“There you have it, ladies and gentlemen; Merlin Senat has reached his 100th victory! Thanks for the memories” was the announcement at the end of the duel.
“It’s great to be a part of something this special,” stated one of Senat’s teammates.
The April 20 meet was a special two-day outdoor event that was only open to the participating teams, staff members and invited guests. Summit won the overall match 45-30.
“We were hoping to take advantage of the weather this week and continue to develop our guys,” Frantantoni said. “Wrestling is such a popular sport, but it still flies under the radar.”
On the following day, April 21, the Tornadoes hosted the Minutemen of Elizabeth High School, also at Bell Stadium. The Minutemen dominated the match in all weight classes except for the 120-pound bout. Senat came away with a pin in 4:34, adding to his already impressive record, making it 101-31. Elizabeth won the meet 66-6.
When asked if he has any Olympics aspirations, Senat said that, while that would be amazing, he is focusing on his studies and his future as a college wrestler.
“I think knowing what I can do is great, but anything is possible. I just want to finish high school and start my college career,” he said.