WEST ORANGE, NJ – In the 21st century, the big high school sport in the town of West Orange has been soccer, because Seton Hall Prep and West Orange High School always seem to have teams that rank among the best in the state.
But during the winter of 2017-18, another sport, wrestling, has moved into the state spotlight. In January, SHP won the Essex County Tournament, and in February, West Orange captured the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 5 state title.
Both local teams spotlighted some top grapplers, but no one has more determination on the mats than WOHS senior Noah Tandy who competes at 195 pounds. Tandy, who also was a top linebacker in football for the Mountaineers, gets the nod for the Worrall Community Newspapers Athlete of the Month in February.
Also given close consideration were SHP wrestler Charles Cunningham, SHP hockey player Stephen Buck, East Orange track and field performer Akeem Lindo, and Golda Och girls’ basketball player Ally Landau. Columbia girls’ swimmer Marie Fagan was the pick for Athlete of the Month in January, and among the other youngsters considered were West Orange girls’ basketball player Mya Bembry, and SHP basketball player Ashton Miller.
“Noah is so tough on the mats because he can score points from anywhere,” said WOHS head coach Stephan Zichella, who also led the team to a section state title in 2012. “Noah’s forte is his great defense, and he’ll battle for all three periods because he shows great stamina on the mats.”
At last week’s Region 3 event at WOHS, Tandy, who one day hopes to work in the field of sports management, qualified for the states with a fourth-place finish. Another WOHS football standout, Sebastian Rawls, placed third at 182 pounds. Tandy is 30-9 heading into the state tourney in Atlantic City, while Rawls stands at 34-7. Both were second in the Districts.
“Getting to the states is the goal for every wrestler,” said Zichella. “And to place is the main objective.”
Tandy, who was the No. 1 seed in Region 3 at 195 pounds, has shown a lot of grit this winter. In the county tourney, he was ill, and went out in the opening round. But he certainly came back very strong in the month of February.
“When we beat Passaic Tech for the state sectional title, that was a special thrill,” said Tandy, whose father, Derrick, was a top football player at Shabazz High and Cornell University. “We made a pretty good run in 2017, so we knew we had a good chance to win the championship this winter.”
Tandy, like his coach, gives credit to all the members of the varsity roster. Along with Rawls, youngsters like juniors Colin Morgan and Edgar Moreno, and sophomore Michael Charles have particularly stood out for the Mountaineers.
Tandy, who says his top thrill in football came in his junior season when WOHS upset a strong Montclair High squad during a run toward the state playoffs, has always enjoyed going up against quality competition.
“When you face a tough opponent, you know that you have to out-work him if you want to win,” said Tandy. “The guys on our team are always in peak condition.”
Tandy, who has a lot of respect for the wrestlers who compete for town neighbor SHP, isn’t sure at this point whether he wants to compete in football or wrestling at the college level. And he hasn’t decided where he wants to attend college.
“Maybe I’ll come up with my decision before the end of March,” said Tandy, who is a fan of New Orleans in the NFL and Oregon in the college gridiron ranks. “To be honest, I’m leaning toward wrestling, because my senior season has been so satisfying.”
Tandy feels that WOHS, which went 15-6 and had a second-place finish to powerful Delbarton in the Districts, will continue to do well on the mats.
“We have a nice tradition in the sport,” remarked Tandy. “Guys like Morgan and Moreno will be leaders in 2019, and Coach Zichella will always push us in the right direction.”