LONG BRANCH – 2018 was an epic year for Long Branch head coach Danny George and the Green Wave wrestling team.
On Jan. 17 of last year, Long Branch defeated Wall, 49-19, making George the second wrestling coach in Shore Conference history to reach 400 career wins. Two months later, the Green Wave won their sixth state sectional championship in program history – all under George – and first since 2013 before losing to state-power Phillipsburg in the state group final. They then added their 12th and second consecutive NJSIAA district team championship and fifth under George’s command.
From 2008-2010, George led Long Branch to three consecutive NJSIAA Group II championships and the No. 1 ranking in New Jersey. During that same period the Green Wave also won three straight Shore Conference Tournament titles.
George is in his 20th season as head coach at his high school alma mater and prior to that he was the head coach at Red Bank Regional for eight years, where he recorded 63 wins before accumulating 337 wins at Long Branch to reach the magical 400-win plateau.
Howell’s John Gagliano and Toms River East’s Warren Reid are the only other head coaches in Shore Conference history to reach 400 wins for their careers. Raritan’s Rob Nucci, with 390 wins, will reach 400 career wins later this season barring any unforeseen circumstances.
George is also the most successful football coach in Long Branch history and just completed his 20th season at Long Branch where he has won 137 football games. George’s 2018 team won their second straight sectional title and third under him and also won the first-ever NJSIAA South, Group IV Bowl game where the Green Wave came back from a 17-0 deficit to score 20 unanswered points to claim the win. During the summer, George is the head lifeguard at the Long Branch public beach.
This season, the Green Wave – ranked No. 6 in the Shore Conference – are currently 9-1 after Wednesday night’s epic come-from-behind win over No. 7 and A North rival Manalapan.
Long Branch trailed by 17 points entering the final five bouts of the match and rallied for a thrilling 36-29 win.
La’Qym Morris started the comeback with the first of three consecutive pins. Morris, wrestling at 195 pounds, pinned John Montgomerie at 1:25, followed by Tracey Taylor (220 pounds) pinning Jordan Adelson at 3:02. Kevin Cerruti then gave Long Branch the lead pinning Matt Kovacs at 1:17 for a 30-29 Green Wave lead with two matches to go.
Dylan Kelleher then recorded a 5-4 decision over Chris Balzano at 106 pounds and Joe Conlon (113 pounds) clinched the match with 11-9 sudden victory over Calvin Burke.
Ray Guzman, wrestling at 120 pounds, and Ryan Zimmerman at 126 pounds, both recorded pins leading off the match for Long Branch.
The win marked the Green Wave’s sixth in a row since losing to Toms River North – ranked second in the Shore and 16th in the state – back in late December.
Cerruti, an all-state lineman in football who helped Long Branch win the first-ever NJSIAA South, Group IV Bowl game – is 15-1 and having another dominant campaign this season after going 39-6 with a Region 6 title and a seventh-place finish in the state tournament last season.
Morris is 11-2 and Taylor 13-1, while Zimmerman is 15-2 so far this season after a 38-7 season a year ago where he was second in Region 6.
With records hovering around the .500-mark, both Kelleher (7-9) and Conlon (7-8) came up huge Wednesday night in pressure-packed bouts.
Guzman (7-4) and Ryan Cary (4-2), wrestling at 152 pounds, won 20 matches last season with Cary winning a district title and Guzman placing third at the districts.
Seniors Stivini Silva (9-6) at 132 pounds and Steve Pabone (10-4) at 138 pounds, along with junior Isaiah Gonzalez (8-6) at 152 pounds, and sophomore Jack Friedman (10-4) are all key contributors and freshman Angel Bonnano (6-6) at 132 has been a bright spot as well.