A second attempt to forge ahead and hold the first Union County Wrestling Tournament in two years is now set to take place Sunday at Johnson High School in Clark.
This will be the first time the tournament will not be held at Union’s Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium in some time. Union’s gym was not available due to the damage it sustained from Tropical Storm Ida this past September.
The 46th annual wrestling Union County Tournament was originally scheduled for Jan. 15 at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth, put postponed. The event used to take place at the Dunn Center before it was moved to Union High.
Now Johnson High has the opportunity to open both of its gymnasiums and host an event that will feature the best wrestlers in Union County.
The UCT has always been that first tournament feel for wrestlers before the final three stages of the season: districts, regions and states.
“We still wanted it to happen and I’m glad we found a way to figure it out,” Cranford head coach Pat Gorman said. “COVID is still affecting our sport, so this tournament might be a little light, but we (county coaches) felt it was important to try to get it in for the kids.”
Cranford has won the last six tournaments (2015-2020) and is seeking to tie Roselle Park (1997-2003) and Brearley (2006-2012) as the only schools to win it seven years in a row.
Cranford outscored second-place Westfield 244-233.5 to win the last tournament in 2020. Westfield last won the crown in 1990.
What did it come down to for the Cranford Cougars to capture a sixth consecutive county championship?
“We had all 13 wrestlers place, so we all showed up,” said Gorman, now in his 11th season as the head coach at Cranford. “Those extra points you get along the way really become important.”
That was before COVID. Now rosters are not quite as full.
“Even if some teams have lineups of just two or only three wrestlers, we still wanted to put something together,” said Gorman as county coaches convened on a zoom meeting to discuss the parameters.
The seeding meeting was to be at Union on Thursday.
Cranford and Westfield are the favorites once again.
Cranford improved to 10-4 Wednesday with a 69-6 win at Union. The Cougars are scheduled to host Linden Friday, while Saturday’s scheduled match at Phillipsburg has been cancelled because of Cranford wrestling in the UCT on Sunday.
Westfield improved to 9-2 with Wednesday’s 58-18 win at Summit. The Blue Devils are scheduled to wrestle at Union Friday and then Saturday compete at Hunterdon Central against multiple schools. According to Westfield’s schedule that competition is still on.
Cranford is scheduled to wrestle at Westfield on Jan. 28. Both have not lost to a Union County opponent.