Hillsborough wrestlers shine bright to win Somerset County Tournament

The Hillsborough High School wrestling team celebrates placing first at the Somerset County Tournament on Jan. 8 in Franklin.PHOTO COURTESY OF HILLSBOROUGH HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS
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The Hillsborough High School wrestling team celebrates placing first at the Somerset County Tournament on Jan. 8 in Franklin.PHOTO COURTESY OF HILLSBOROUGH HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS

First-year Coach Rhys Weinberger and his Hillsborough High School wrestling team earned the title of county champs after a great showing on the mat at the Somerset County Tournament on Jan. 8 in Franklin.

Led by a trio of first place finishes from wrestlers Joseph Witcoski (175), Matthew Jones (215) and Christian Quandt (285), the Raiders scored a total of 158.5 points to beat out Somerville High School for the top spot in the team standings and bring home their first Somerset County title since the 2009-10 season.

“It felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work the kids have put in over the past few years,” Weinberger said about winning the Somerset County championship. “It was great to see them thrive out there on the mat. A lot of the guys on the team are friends and they all want to succeed together.”

Weinberger, who graduated from Hillsborough in 2013, was part of the program’s last county championship 12 years ago when he was a freshman.

According to Weinberger, this is the fourth time in program history that Hillsborough has won a county championship as a team.

Peter Quandt (190) and Logan McDermid (106) each made it to the finals of their bracket at the Somerset County Tournament for the Raiders and placed second.

Both Christopher Spinelli (120) and Zachary Iannucci (113) were third-place finishers at the tournament, while sophomore Jack Miller (165) scored points for Hillsborough with a fourth-place finish.

It was a great feeling for Weinberger to lead the Raiders to a county championship, he said, but being county champions is just the first step in the process for the Hillsborough alum.

Weinberger believes his Hillsborough squad has the talent and work ethic to be very successful this season, both individually and as a team.

“We have a lot of potential on this team,” Weinberger said. “We have a strong group of freshmen that can be very good as the season goes on. We have a lot of juniors and sophomores that can thrive in the district tournament and at regions to qualify for states.”

From the junior varsity level to the starting varsity lineup, Weinberger has prior relationships with all of his wrestlers from being their youth coach or coaching them at the middle school level.

Already having relationships with his wrestlers made it an easier transition for Weinberger as a first-year varsity coach, who said that his squad was able to get right to work at the beginning of the season and focus on the goals they wanted to accomplish.

Weinberger is no stranger to success on the mat, winning a region championship during his senior season for the Raiders at 145 pounds and went on to place eighth that year in the state tournament.

Knowing fully well the talent his squad possesses, Weinberger has made sure his team hasn’t lost sight of the bigger picture after winning the Somerset County Tournament.

“It’s all about getting better and better each day,” he said. “We’re trying to set in their minds that there is a lot more work to be done. There is more that we can accomplish this season.”

That starts with Hillsborough improving on its 1-3 record in dual meets to begin the 2021-22 season.

Hillsborough picked up a 34-33 victory over Franklin on Dec. 18, but came up short in its other three dual meets against Woodbridge and Hunterdon County wrestling powerhouses North Hunterdon High School and Hunterdon Central Regional High School.

With a strong showing in winning the Somerset County Tournament, Weinberger believes his squad is on pace to pick up more dual meet victories over the course of the season and make a push at qualifying for the sectional tournament.

“We talk about taking things one week at a time,” Weinberger said. “As we progress, we will hopefully rack up some dual wins and give ourselves a chance at making the state tournament.”

Hillsborough’s next dual meet will be against Somerville High School on Jan. 12.