LONG BRANCH – Long Branch wrestling has been one of the elite programs in the Shore Conference for as long as anyone can remember and this year’s squad is doing its best keeping that winning tradition alive.
Three state qualifiers and eight region qualifiers are back for the Green Wave this season helping Long Branch get off to a 7-2 start while being ranked sixth in the Shore Conference and 17th in the state. Their two losses have been against Watchung Hills – ranked 13th in the state – and last Wednesday’s excruciating one-point loss to Raritan – ranked 2nd in the Shore and 10th in the state.
A year ago Long Branch finished ranked sixth in the Shore Conference and were semifinalist in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament absorbing another difficult one-point loss to Jackson Memorial, who went on to win the sectional.
The Green Wave also made it to the final four of the Shore Conference Tournament and finished second in a very rugged Class B North, but their biggest victory of the season was winning the District 23 team championship giving Long Branch 11 district team titles in program history.
As a program, Long Branch has won three group championships, five sectional titles, three Shore Conference Tournament championships and 20 divisional titles along with crowning nine individual state champs – all under the tutelage of head coach Danny George, now in his 28th season at Long Branch.
With the talent Long Branch brought back this season, they’re hoping for bigger and better things as they rapidly move into the post season.
Sophomore Ryan Zimmerman moved up a weight class this year and is 14-1 wrestling at 113 after placing fourth in Region 6 and second in District 23 a year ago at 106, while junior Rey Guzman has been steady at 120 sporting a 6-7 record after going 18-13 and placing third in the District 23 meet.
Senior Chris Dean is back after posting a 27-9 record and placing second in the District 23 meet. This season Dean is 12-4 with a second-place finish in the Hawk Tournament, and another senior, Isaac Shohet, has been solid going 8-7 so far this season after a recording a 19-14 record a year ago at 138 while placing second in the District 23 meet.
With a second-place finish in the districts and a fifth-place finish in the regions last year at 145, junior Luke Arnold is perfect so far this year posting an 9-0 record wrestling at 160, while senior Dan Santos Silva is 14-3 this season at 170 after a 25-12 campaign last season that included a second-place finish in the districts.
Wrestling at 195 pounds this season, senior Peter Wersinger is 14-2 after a tremendous season a year ago when he went 35-8 with third-place finishes in both the districts and regions while wrestling at 182, while junior Kevin Cerruti has been outstanding in the heavyweight division posting a 12-2 record after going 20-8 last season taking fourth in the districts and third in the regions.
Freshman Joseph Conlon (6-5 at 106), sophomores Ryan Carey (8-7 at 138), Edger Padilla (6-7 at 170), Dylan Kelleher (3-4 at 106) and Tracey Taylor (5-1 at 220), juniors Stivini (6-6 at 132), La’Qym Morris (4-0 at 220) and Steve Pabone (4-3 at 132) and seniors Nick Luhn (4-5 at 145), Louie Saez (4-3 at 152) and Jael Cordero (7-4, at 220) have all contributed to the Green Wave’s success this season in various roles.
Long Branch is strong with a deep roster and is right in the mix for a lot of hardware as the post season approaches, but as is the case every year in the state and the Shore, the competition is intense and only time will tell how things will shake out.