Bergen Catholic dominates its way to 7th straight title by Sean Farrell of The Record
TOMS RIVER – Winning wasn’t enough.
Bergen Catholic came to dominate and the results said it all.
The wrestling dynasty has become head and shoulders above just about everyone else in New Jersey and keeps making state championships an annual tradition. As coordinated cheers and horns rang out by the adjacent mat, the Crusaders and their fans sat quietly and focused on the task at hand en route to the seventh straight Non-Public A title.
Bergen Catholic’s 63-12 win over Camden Catholic in Sunday’s final was just an hour-long, workmanlike performance. This has come to be expected.
“It’s our mentality,” senior Sage Mosco said, after his pin at 220. “We don’t expect to just go out and beat teams. We want to go out and dominate.”
Bergen Catholic won 12 of 14 rounds with the only exceptions being where starters were held out. Freshman Dylan Weaver started the night at 126 by getting the first of seven Crusader pins and the only one during the third-period. Gerard Angelo, Shane Griffith, Jacob Cardenas and John High were all off the mat in less than a minute.
“We’re really close this year,” said Griffith, a two-time state champion. “Every day, we came in and did our job and got better. In my opinion, we have the best team in the nation. We push each other to get better every day and have a great time doing it. When we come out here, it all comes out on the mat.”
Bergen Catholic coach Dave Bell called his group possibly the most balanced in school history and arguably the top NJSIAA team ever. After all, the Crusaders have beaten No. 1 Blair and four other top-10 teams in USA Today’s rankings. Half the wrestlers in their starting lineup appear in national leaderboards and most could place in Atlantic City. The Crusaders (15-1) went undefeated against in-state opponents.
“We have a tough kid at every single weight,” said Angelo, a Cornell commit. “It’s tough to compete against us. You see some powerhouse teams have holes. Our team is just tough overall and we can get a win at any weight, any match on any given day.”
Even as the wins piled up, the mood along the Bergen Catholic bench stayed even-keel. The Crusaders were at ease in the state final, occasionally making jokes or looking across the gym when loud cheers broke out in the other match. When some wrestlers held up two fingers during Joe Zargo’s win, it was maybe the most emphatic reaction of the night. Angelo said a team dinner was just about the only victory celebration planned.
“As a group, even in the most intense competitions, they remain very calm,” Bell said. “But I think they’re just seasoned. They’re confident and we have good leadership. That’s been our culture.”
Bergen Catholic’s other victories came from Nick Kayal, Robert Howard, Carmen Ferrante, Wade Unger and Christopher Foca. That’s how the Crusaders became the only state champion in Toms River to win a final by more than 30 points.
“Every [championship], even if it’s a decisive score or not, is still great,” Bell said. “I breathe a sigh of relief to get here. We didn’t know if we’d get past Delbarton. We had that match last year and this year. Yesterday was a good day knowing that we were coming here. I certainly felt that we were favored and that makes it a little easier. But when you finally put the dual meet season to bed, it’s a relief. It’s a testament to these kids, to these seniors who have four state championships which they really deserve.”