TOMS RIVER – Buffalo Wild Wings was the final stop.
A trip down the shore for Passaic Tech ended with a meal.
It didn’t matter that the Bulldogs could not win a state championship on Sunday, falling to Southern by a 49-12 score in the Group 5 semifinals. Getting to wrestle at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena was enough to earn a dinner at the popular restaurant chain.
“They didn’t stop,” said coach Luis Colon, who pointed to his team’s losses as learning experiences. “They all knew that you’re not just going to show up and win. You got to fight.”
Passaic Tech went on to win four of 14 rounds against Southern with Alex Vertedor and Laith Hamdeh kicking off the day with decisions. Christian Vertedor and Yosue Gomez also scored points for the Bulldogs (18-3), who won a North 1, Group 5 title for the second time in three years. Colon made a deal with his team that a sectional title would land them another trip to Buffalo Wild Wings, where they racked up a $600 tab in 2017. The 11th-year head coach expected to pay up since he believes the program is at the highest level it’s ever been.
“I think it is, with the amount of kids we have and what we’re doing with the kids,” Colon said. “Our goal the whole time was to get here.”
Wayne Valley ends season in state semifinals
Todd Schroder never made it to Toms River as a wrestler, but he’s gone twice as a head coach.
Schroeder considered himself lucky to be among the state’s wrestling powers after Wayne Valley’s 44-16 loss to Phillipsburg in the Group 4 semifinals. The Indians were underdogs in their own section, yet remained competitive with the Stateliners, ranked No. 9 by the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association. It was certainly a positive sign for the Indians, who didn’t get past the sectional semifinals during Schroeder’s high school career.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” said Schroeder, a state medalist and four-year starter. “There’s some of the top teams in the state. I think it’s another springboard for our program and shows where we’re going to be in the future.”
The usual stars got the job done for Wayne Valley. Reid Colella pinned his opponent at 170, while Dan Murphy and Nick Trani also won in the upperweights. There was also some more overtime magic for Jordan Botero, who won a dramatic winner-take-all heavyweight battle in Friday’s win.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Schroeder said. “You look back earlier in the season and how far we’ve come team-wise and some of the close matches we had early on. We had a grinding schedule and the kids were resilient. They stuck with it.”