Old Bridge wrestlers set expectations high this winter

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By Warren Rappleyea

With several key competitors back from a squad that won the NJSIAA District 20 championship last winter, the Old Bridge High School wrestling team is once again aiming high.

Last February, the Knights won threes title and had five other grapplers place in the top three of their weight classes at the District 20 meet. In all, Old Bridge accumulated 190 points to easily outpace second-place Marlboro High School’s 162.5 points. Coach Bryan Garnett’s team finished with a 16-4 mark and placed second in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament as well as second in the GMC Red Division.

Six wrestlers who compiled at least 21 victories have graduated, including Steve Nadera, who posted 37 wins at 126 pounds.

“We’re young this year; we have just a few seniors in the starting lineup,” Garnett said. “Although we have some guys with experience, the majority of our guys are talented but inexperienced. They’re working hard to prepare.”

Senior T.J. Angstadt and sophomores Jake Wiatroski and Mike Botte all won 20 or matches a year ago. The trio provide Old Bridge with a strong foundation near the top and in the middle of the lineup.

Angstadt will move up to 160 pounds after competing at 145 last season, when he went 21-13 and finished third in the district competition. Wiatroski moves up one notch to 113 pounds. He turned in an impressive 30-13 ledger at 106 as a freshman and took second in his weight class at the district. Botte wrestled at 113 pounds, going 20-13, and he won the district and was second in the GMC. He will wrestle at 120 pounds this time around.

The coach is expecting more from 132-pound junior Dylan Ur, who came on strong late in the campaign with a fourth-place finish at the district meet to end up at 8-19. Chancellor Cooper and Oscar Santiago won three matches apiece in limited action and will be at 182 and 195 pounds, respectively.

Old Bridge’s lineup also includes seniors Ata Tok (195 pounds) and Dan Layne (220); juniors Rich Ritter (138), Luigi Luppino (152) and Artyom Grigoryans (170); sophomores Alec Meyers (126), Javier Espinosa (145) and Antonio Bejarano (285); and freshman Justin Schifter (106).

Garnett’s team is off to a good start with two victories in as many meets, besting Bishop George Ahr High School and South Brunswick High School. The Knights were slated to compete in the 60th Annual Hunterdon Central Invitational Dec. 27. The coach said it will be a good test for his youthful group, as the field includes perennial powers such as Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Cherokee High School, Livingston High School, Toms River High School East and the host school.

“We always have high expectations,” Garnett said. “I think our team is set to have a strong season. They’re going to gain a little experience with each match, and that will come in handy for the postseason.”