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Union's Gabriel Hargrove is congratulated by his coach Dino DeBellonia as the Farmers' junior puts together a terrific showing in Region 4 in the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium last weekend finishing a strong third at 126 pounds to become first Farmer wrestler since back in 2017 to qualify for NJSIAA state tournament in Boardwalk Hall. (Photos by Kristin Nunez)

Union’s Hargrove On The Rise
As Inspiring Story In Region 4

By JR Parachini
for sidelinechatter.com

Two years ago Gabriel Hargrove came out for wrestling for the first time. He only wrestled eight matches at 132 pounds. He won just once, by fall in 22 seconds.

Hargrove stayed with it and improved his sophomore year, going 20-8, including 19-7 at 138 and 1-1 at 144. At 138 in the District 14 quarterfinals he was eliminated by Ryan Vorndran of Brearley-Dayton 11-4 and his season ended. Hargrove was not able to qualify for Region 4 at Union and have one more opportunity to excel in his own gym.

Competing at 126, 132 and 138 this year, the Union High School junior continued to progress. When Union finished fifth in the Dover Tournament Hargrove was first at 132. When the Farmers placed third at the Parsippany Hills Tournament Hargrove was first again at 132.

However, when Hargrove had a chance to wrestle at home in the Union County Tournament at Union on Jan. 20 there were no wins. Just two matches, both losses. Hargrove did not even place.

“Sometimes stuff happens,” Union head coach Dino DeBellonia said.
Hargrove remained upbeat, did not get down on himself at all and continued to work hard to try to get back to the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium at UHS for Region 4.

At District 13 in Millburn Hargrove reached the semifinals and then wrestled back to place third at 126 and advance to Region 4.

Making the most of his final competition in his own gym this season, Hargrove reached the semifinals again and once more was able to wrestle his way back to the third-place bout. There he won by decision to punch his first ticket to Atlantic City.

Hargrove became Union’s first grappler to qualify for the NJSIAA Tournament since Nick Zuena did so as a senior at 152 pounds in 2017.

To sum up, Hargrove went from going 1-7 as a freshman, to not qualifying for Region 4 as a sophomore, to going 0-2 in this year’s UCT, to bouncing back and placing third in District 13 at Millburn and then third again in Region 4 at Union to lay claim as one of the best wrestlers in the state.

“It’s unbelievable and very exciting,” Hargrove said. “To do it right here at home in from of my family and friends makes it even more special.”

“We’re happy for him and for the program,” DeBellonia said.

Hargrove will head south with a 36-5 record that includes 4-1 at Region 4 and this year’s breakdown of 7-2 at 126, 19-1 at 132 and 4-0 at 138 for most of his matches.

Hargrove’s overall record is 57-20, including 1-7 as a freshman, 20-8 as a sophomore and, so far, 36-5 as a junior.

The NJSIAA Tournament commences Thursday, Feb. 29; continues Friday, March 1 and conclude Saturday, March 2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Boys preliminaries are Thursday, the quarterfinals and semifinals Friday and the finals on Saturday, with a start time of 3:45 p.m.

The quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday have start times of 11:10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Here’s the breakdown of how Hargrove got through Region 4 at Union:

Friday, Feb. 23:
First round:
13-Gabriel Hargrove, Union, dec. 4-Joseph Stanzione, South Plainfield, 7-1.
Quarterfinals:
13-Gabriel Hargrove, Union, dec. 12-Luke Sluberski, Westfield, 11-4.

Saturday, Feb. 24:
Semifinals:
1-Mason Tettambel, Immaculata, dec. 13-Gabriel Hargrove, Union, 5-3.
Wrestleback semifinals:
13-Gabriel Hargrove, Union, dec. 2-Ryder Connors, Cranford, 3-1.

Third Place:
13-Gabriel Hargrove, Union, dec. 8-Shane Wysocki, North Hunterdon, 3-1.
Beating Connors meant that Hargrove reached the bout for third place and was on his way to Atlantic City. Even if he lost to Wysocki, he would have qualified for the NJSIAA Tournament because the top four wrestlers in each weight class from the eight regions were the ones that advanced.

Against Wysocki part of the strategy was focusing on the mental part initially.

“I just blocked everything out,” Hargrove said. “I played it really smart and did what I had to do.”

After escaping for a 1-0 lead, Hargrove was then able to produce a takedown in the second period to go up 3-0.

“Being aware, focus, balance and poise,” said Hargrove in describing how he was able to navigate through his bracket as the 13th seed, with one of the victories coming over the second seed. All five of his matches were decided by decision.

“He’s very poised and shows a lot of athleticism,” DeBellonia said. “After the county tournament he’s done well and has become more consistent.”

UNION COUNTY WRESTLERS GOING TO ATLANTIC CITY
OUT OF REGION 4 AT UNION: NJSIAA TOURNAMENT BOUND

FIRST-PLACE QUALIFIERS (3):
106: Michael Daly (33-7), Cranford, sophomore
165: Jordan Chapman (38-1), Cranford, junior
HWT: Josue Cordoba (27-1), Plainfield, senior

SECOND-PLACE QUALIFIERS (4):
113: Zachary Belverio (36-6), Johnson, junior
120: Max Rotter (24-11), Westfield, senior
144: Joseph Ortega (40-3), Johnson, senior
215: Nathan Faxon (38-1), Gov. Livingston, junior

THIRD-PLACE QUALIFIERS (7):
126: Gabriel Hargrove (36-5), Union, junior
132: Luke Scholz (20-4), Cranford, sophomore
138: Braeden Valley (34-6), New Providence, sophomore
165: Cristian Gioia (36-4), Gov. Livingston, junior
190: Jake Zemsky (19-6), Westfield, sophomore
215: Timothy Smith (32-6), Elizabeth, junior
HWT: Samuel Henry (34-6), Summit-Chatham, junior

FOURTH-PLACE QUALIFIERS (2):
150: Joe Dasti (29-11), Gov. Livingston, senior
157: Jake Kreisberg (35-5), Gov. Livingston, junior

UNION COUNTY WRESTLERS GOING TO ATLANTIC CITY
OUT OF REGION 4 AT UNION: NJSIAA TOURNAMENT BOUND

FIRST-PLACE QUALIFIERS (3):
106: Michael Daly (33-7), Cranford, sophomore
165: Jordan Chapman (38-1), Cranford, junior
HWT: Josue Cordoba (27-1), Plainfield, senior

SECOND-PLACE QUALIFIERS (4):
113: Zachary Belverio (36-6), Johnson, junior
120: Max Rotter (24-11), Westfield, senior
144: Joseph Ortega (40-3), Johnson, senior
215: Nathan Faxon (38-1), Gov. Livingston, junior

THIRD-PLACE QUALIFIERS (7):
126: Gabriel Hargrove (36-5), Union, junior
132: Luke Scholz (20-4), Cranford, sophomore
138: Braeden Valley (34-6), New Providence, sophomore
165: Cristian Gioia (36-4), Gov. Livingston, junior
190: Jake Zemsky (19-6), Westfield, sophomore
215: Timothy Smith (32-6), Elizabeth, junior
HWT: Samuel Henry (34-6), Summit-Chatham, junior

FOURTH-PLACE QUALIFIERS (2):
150: Joe Dasti (29-11), Gov. Livingston, senior
157: Jake Kreisberg (35-5), Gov. Livingston, junior

CRANFORD’S DALY KEYS TO SUCCESS

The keys to success according to Cranford sophomore Michael Daly: “working on offense a lot, keep working hard and conditioning.”

All three were in play Friday and Saturday and assisted Daly in coming out on top in all three of his matches at Region 4 at Union.

After placing sixth in Region 4 last year and seeing his season end in Union’s gym, this time he got his picture taken holding the 106 poster card that showed the bracket he captured for the first time.

In the championship match at 106, the third-seeded Daly found a way to get past fifth-seeded Ridge sophomore Tanner Connelly 3-1 in overtime.

Daly wrestled Connelly just once prior. Last summer at Roselle Park he also defeated Connelly in overtime.

This is how he described Saturday’s Region 4 final at Union: “it was a gritty, hard match. I knew what to expect.”

Daly became the second Cranford wrestler in two years to win Union County Tournament, District (16 at Watchung Hills this year) Tournament and Region 4 Tournament championships in the same season.

The other Cranford wrestler is junior standout Jordan Chapman, who accomplished the feat last year and this year, winning District 13 at Cranford at 157 last year and District 16 at Watchung Hills at 165 this year.

Daly and Chapman are joined by sophomore teammate Luke Scholz as the three Cougar wrestlers who are headed to Atlantic City for this weekend’s NJSIAA Tournament.

The top four wrestlers in each weight class in the eight regions advanced to the NJSIAA Tournament.

Chapman, the top seed, pinned second-seeded Paramus Catholic senior John Quinonez in 2:42 in Saturday’s Region 4 final at the Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium at Union High School. Chapman has reached Region 4 finals all three years, falling at 157 two years ago and winning his first last year at 157.

Scholz, who last year placed fifth at 126, finished third at 132 to advance. In the third-place bout fourth-seeded Scholz defeated fifth-seeded Immaculata freshman Nate Keller 3-1. Keller entered Region 4 competition with a 35-3 record.

Here’s a look at all three Cranford wrestlers who will seek to make history this weekend in Atlantic City. Pat Hogan at 171 in 2006 is Cranford’s last state champion. Union County has not produced a state champ since 2011.

Chapman was third at 157 last year and is ranked second in the state at 165. Last year’s 157 state champ was Delbarton’s Alessio Perentin, who is ranked No. 1 in the state at 165. The junior just won his third Region championship, capturing the 165 crown at Region 5 at Franklin.

Michael Daly, Cranford, sophomore
2022-2023: 25-8, 6th Region 4 at 106
2023-2024: 33-7 so far, 1st Region 4 at 106
Overall record: 58-15

Jordan Chapman, Cranford, junior:
2021-2022: 35-5, 2nd Region 4 at 157
2022-2023: 42-4, 1st Region 4 at 157
2023-2024: 38-1 so far, 1st Region 4 at 165
Overall record: 115-10

Luke Scholz, Cranford, sophomore
2022-2023: 30-5, 5th Region 4 at 126
2023-2024: 20-4 so far, 3rd Region 4 at 132

The NJSIAA Tournament will be held Thursday, Feb. 29; Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The boys and girls tournament will run concurrently on all three days of the tournaments.

Tickets are priced at $60 for a three-day, all-round ticket or $30 per day.

Tickets for the event may be purchased through the Boardwalk Hall Ticket Office online at boardwalkhall.com, by telephone from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 609-348-7512 or in person.

NJSIAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, Feb. 29:
8 a.m.: boys and girls weight check
8:30 a.m.: boys and girls weigh-ins
10 a.m.: Girls pre-quarterfinals and Wrestleback 1 and 2 on 8 mats
10:30 a.m.: Boys preliminaries and Wrestlebacks on 8 mats
6 p.m.: Awards

Friday, March 1:
7 a.m.: Boys weight check
7:30 a.m.: Boys weigh-ins
9 a.m.: Boys WB2, quarterfinals, WB2 and3 on 8 mats
11 a.m.: Girls weight check
11:10 a.m.: Boys quarterfinals on Mats 3-4-5-6 and Boys WB3 on Mats 1-2 and 7-8
11:30: Girls weigh-ins
1 p.m.: Girls semifinals, WB3 on Mats 7 and 8
5:45 p.m.: Awards
6 p.m.: Boys semifinals on two middle mats. Girls consolation semifinals on outside 4 mats.
To follow: Boys WB5 immediately following completion of girls consolation semifinals.

Saturday, March2:
7 a.m.: Boys and Girls weight checks
7:30 a.m.: Boys and girls weighing
9 a.m.: Boys WB6 on 6 mats
9:45 a.m.: Boys and girls 3rd, 5th, 7th
12:45 p.m.: Girls parade
1 p.m.: Girls finals
3:30 p.m.: Boys parade
3:45 p.m.: Boys finals

REGION 4 AT UNION

Team of the Year: Paramus Catholic
The Paladins had the most Region 4 champions with four and had two other wrestlers place second.

Coach of the Year: Roy Dragon, Ridge
The Red Devils went 21-2 and captured North 2, Group 4 and Group 4 titles.

Outstanding Wrestler: Thomas Brunetti, Hunterdon Central, senior
Brunetti defeated two defending region champions to win at 175. He is 39-0.

FINALS:
106: Michael Daly, Cranford, dec. Tanner Connelly, Ridge, 3-1 (OT).
113: Anthony DiAndrea, Watch. Hills, maj. dec. Zachary Belverio, Johnson, 12-1.
120: Anthony Rossi, Hunterdon Central, tech. fall Max Rotter, Westfield, 1:38.
126: Zachary Beading, St. Joseph’s, Met. dec. Mason Tettambel, Immaculata, 3-0.
132: Nicholas Pallitto, Paramus Catholic dec. Gavin Duran, Ridge, 8-5.
138: Dylan Ross, Paramus Catholic dec. Morgan Schwarz, SJ Met., 2-1 (2OT).
144: Nick Villani, Bernards, dec. Joseph Ortega, Johnson, 3-1.
150: Rhett Washleski, Hunt. Central, pin Matthew Di Eduardo, B-Raritan, 2:51.
157: Logan Wiecoreck, Voorhees, dec. Cody Pritzlaff, Watchung Hills, 3-1.
165: Jordan Chapman, Cranford, pin John Quinonez, Paramus Catholic, 2:42.
175: Thomas Brunetti, Hunt. Central, dec. Edward Terreri, Paramus Cath., 5-4.
190: Daniel Rella, Paramus Catholic, pin Fabian Acuna, Somerville, 3:43.
215: Xavier Williams, Paramus Catholic, pin Nathan Faxon, Gov. Livingston, :31.
HWT: Josue Cordoba, Plainfield, dec. Christopher Oliver, Ridge, 7-5.

THIRD-PLACE:
106: Julian Arango, St. Joseph’s, Met., tech. fall Reid Buzby, North Hunt., 1:43.
113: Aidan Yarussi, North Hunterdon, pin Derek Sutphen, Immaculata, 3:15.
120: Matteo Littman, Pingry, dec. Brady Hsnasko, Bridgewater-Raritan, 2-0.
126: Gabriel Hargrove, Union, dec. Shane Wysocki, North Hunterdon, 3-1.
132: Luke Scholz, Cranford, dec. Nate Keller, Immaculata, 3-1.
138: Braeden Valley, New Providence, pin Jordan Bash, Watchung Hills, 3:06.
144: William Cella, Hunterdon Central, pin Abe Zaretski, Paramus Catholic, 4:31.
150: Ryan Closterman, Somerville, dec. Joe Dasti, Gov. Livingston, 7-3.
157: Tyler Whitford, St. Joseph’s, Met. dec. Jake Kreisberg, Gov. Livingston, 5-1.
165: Cristin Gioia, Gov. Livingston, maj. dec. Brian Wilson, North Hunt., 9-0.
175: Michael Feliciano, Colonia, maj. dec. Evan Kinney, North Hunt., 9-1.
190: Jake Zemsky, Westfield, dec. Kevin Taylor, Ridge, 9-2.
215: Timothy Smith, Elizabeth, medical forfeit Brian Christie, St. Joe’s, Met.
HWT: Samuel Henry, Summit-Chatham, dec. Justin Perry, Bayonne, 2-1.

Follow JR Parachini on 'X' (formerly Twitter) @parachini_jr

Cranford's Michael Daly (106) and Jordan Chapman (165) were champs in their weight classes in Region 4 at Union as two of the Cougars who are headed to Atlantic City. (Photos by JR Parachini and Gene Nann)

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