Columbia HS wrestling team has good Essex County Tournament showing; Kevhan Bent wins 285-pound title; Devin Rocha takes 4th as Cougars place four among just 9 grapplers

MAPLEWOOD – The Columbia High School varsity wrestling team, entering nine wrestlers in the 14 weight classes, enjoyed a good showing at the Essex County Tournament,  Jan. 21-22, at Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange.

Despite that disadvantage, the Cougars had four grapplers place in the very tough tournament as they  finished 11th out of 21 teams with 56 points.

Several of the new members of the squad did not participate. Even so, the Cougars had only two seniors wrestling in the tournament.

Senior 285-pound Kevhan Bent improved upon his fourth-place finish last year by winning the championship. Bent pinned Seton Hall Prep’s Nikolaos Diakidees in the quarterfinals and also pinned West Essex’s Francis Hunter in the semifinals before winning the final on a medical injury over Caldwell’s John Murphy. Bent improved his season record to an outstanding 16 wins and 3 losses.

Freshman Devin Rocha placed fourth at 120 pounds in his first venture in the tournament. Rocha won his first match by a 9-1 major decision and followed with a pin in the quarterfinals. Rocha lost a tough semifinal match to top-seeded Anthony Clarizio of Cedar Grove r and lost the third-place match in a very close battle with a very good junior wrestler from Caldwell, Kyle Maw, by a heartbreaking score of 6-5. Rocha is having an exceptional first-year season with a record of 14 wins and 6 losses.    

Freshman 152-pound Blake McGowan is continuing his winning ways as he returns to competition after being out for several weeks due to an early-season concussion. McGowan won his first match by a pin over Irvington’s Pedro Lazo, then lost in the quarterfinals to returning county champion and top-seeded Dean Caravela from Caldwell. He then wrestled tough against West Essex senior Matthew Jones, losing 4-0, before finishing seventh with a victory by pin over Verona’s Matt DiDia. McGowan’s record stands at 8 wins and 5 losses in a fine first season at Columbia.

Junior 195-pound Emanuel Jackson returned to the mat this year after missing last year due to a football injury. Jackson won his first match by fall over Glen Ridge’s Andrew Skorupski, but lost in the quarterfinals to second-seeded Noel Eustaquio from Bloomfield. He lost his first wrestleback match, but then won a very tightly contested match against Nutley’s Saul Abreu, winning 6-2 and placing seventh. Jackson is having a fine comeback season with a record of 11 wins and 6 losses.

Also competing for the Cougars in the County Tournament were junior Sam Wren-Harden at 132, freshman Aamier Bonhomme at 138, sophomore  Hunter Dallison at 160, sophomore  Akil DeBruhl at 170, and  senior Mansky Charles at 220.

The Cougars travel to Newark Shabazz on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and tentatively to East Orange on Friday, Jan. 29, for two division meets.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, Columbia hosts its annual Wrestling Hall Of Fame Day with a quad meet with Bernards, Super Essex Conference foe East Side, and Union. Matches should start at 9:30 a.m.