Barrons impressed with season despite holes in lineup

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Matt Denton
Woodbridge wrestler Harry Brand (L) scores points on Bishop AHR's John Sheedy during their match at the NJSIAA District 19 wrestling tournament held at Woodbridge High School on February 20. Brand won on points taking him in a score of 4-1. Here he breaks out of a possible pin by AHR's Sheedy.

By Jeff Appelblatt

For as many matches as Woodbridge High School’s wrestling team is forfeiting regularly, the Barrons haven’t looked too shabby this season. But with some of the wrestlers the squad had back this year, coach Mike Carbone didn’t expect his team to hit rock bottom.

“We’re doing OK. We have a lot of good wrestlers,” the coach said after his team won a meet against Somerville High School and Bridgewater-Raritan High School Feb. 4. “We won the [Greater Middlesex County (GMC)] White Division.”

Carbone just knows his team would be doing so much better if he was able to fill all weight classes.

“We came fourth in the [GMC] Tournament. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been second in the tournament,” the coach said, thinking about the event Jan. 28 dominated by South Plainfield High School. “We’ve been competitive all year, but giving up 18 points off the bat [from the forfeits] hurts.

“We could have done so much more this year with a full lineup.”

Injuries haven’t helped keep the lineup full.

“It’s been constant injuries,” Carbone said, reflecting on the recent loss of Hunter Kiraly, who will miss the rest of the season. “His knee blew up from a staph infection.”

Not that Carbone didn’t have other injuries on his mind. A number of wrestlers have been out this season for Woodbridge, including Dale Alvarez with a leg injury sustained during football season and Joey Brucato with a knee injury.

However, the Barrons (15-7) have competed thanks to the wrestlers who have been on the mats regularly, starting with Drexel University-bound wrestler Bryan McLaughlin and continuing through the everyday lineup with Alexander LaGrippo, Marquan Payne, Nick Nyers and Jack Quinn.

Nyers tried to wrestle last year in the same weight class as McLaughlin, who recently set the Woodbridge record when he reached victory No. 141, so he didn’t have many opportunities. But McLaughlin moved from 160 to 182 pounds this year, so Nyers has had more chances.

“We knew Nick would come in and succeed,” Carbone said.

While McLaughlin (27-1) has looked as dominant this year as the last despite his move, Nyers (13-5) has been Woodbridge’s main 195-pound wrestler.

Carbone won’t make any guarantees the rest of the way, though.

“We still have sectionals. We have districts,” he said.

“[And] we’re not sure where we’re going to go for states.”

He does know what teams he’ll see before the year is over, which are some of the best.

“Cranford [High School] (18-0), South Plainfield [High School] (25-1) — we’ll see them both,” Carbone said, knowing that the district realignment has his team in the same one as the two powerhouse clubs. “Cranford will definitely challenge South Plainfield.”

South Plainfield made it 32 years in a row when they won the District 12 title last year.