Raritan defeats High Point to win Group II state team championship

The Raritan High School wrestling team celebrates winning the NJSIAA Group II state championship with a 37-27 victory over High Point on Feb. 13 in Franklin.

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – Redemption was captured in the ultimate way for the Raritan High School, Hazlet, wrestling team in the NJSIAA Group II state team tournament championship match against High Point Regional High School of Wantage Township on Feb. 13 at Franklin High School.

In 2018, Raritan lost the Group II final to High Point.

In 2022, the Rockets reversed that setback as they defeated the Wildcats, 37-27, to claim the program’s second state championship.

“It feels great,” Coach Rob Nucci said. “John Gardner’s High Point teams are always here in the finals of the tournament. To beat a program like that feels great.”

Nucci previously led the Rockets to a state team championship during the 2011-12 wrestling season.

Following the victory over High Point, Nucci was smiling from ear to ear as the Raritan fans who made the trip from Hazlet to Somerset County were enjoying the historic moment.

“It feels absolutely awesome,” Nucci said. “The whole town of Hazlet came out on Super Bowl Sunday to be here and celebrate with us. I couldn’t be happier to have our students, parents and people (who have supported the team) throughout the years come be a part of this. There’s nothing better.”

The Group II championship match against High Point started with the 215-pound weight class and the Rockets trailed 18-10 after six bouts.

Raritan started to gain steam as junior Braden Kmak pinned his opponent in the first period of the 132-pound bout. That made the team score 18-16.

Sophomore Logan Acevedo (138) put the Rockets into the lead as he defeated Nate Clayton, 5-1, to put Raritan ahead 19-18.

The momentum kept on rolling for the Rockets at 144 pounds with sophomore Zach Reilley taking the mat to face Andrew Brevot.

Reilley and Brevot were tied, 4-4, with :30 left in the second period. Reilley did not slow down after scoring a takedown to tie the score. He bulldozed Brevot’s back and shoulders to the mat for a pin at 3:51 that extended Raritan’s lead to 25-18.

“It feels amazing,” Reilley said. “I knew I had to get it done for my team. I knew those six points would help change the match outcome.”

Senior Alex Auletta fashioned a 7-1 decision at 150 pounds to give the Rockets a 28-18 lead.

High Point won at 157 to pull within 28-21 with three bouts left (165, 175 and 190).

At 165, the stage was set for junior Bobby Mulligan to clinch the state title with a pin. Mulligan got the job done as he pinned Dalton Yetter at 3:20 to give Raritan a 34-21 lead that wrapped up the Group II team title.

Mulligan later said he was so focused on his match that he did not know what the exact team score was and that his pin clinched the state championship.

When he got back to the bench he learned his pin had sealed the victory for the Rockets.

“They were all excited and said, ‘You clinched the match for us,’ ” Mulligan said. “I didn’t even know. I was more focused on my match and coming out victorious. I’m excited I was able to do that for us.”

In the second bout of the championship match, senior Nick Burns improved to 28-2 by winning at 285 pounds with a 17-8 major decision.

Junior Matt Erven won by pin 113 pounds, defeating Colton Jaust in 3:23.

Raritan and High Point split the last two bouts of the championship match to produce the 37-27 final score.

Junior Kieran Falzon won the final match at 190 pounds for Raritan by a 5-4 decision.

On the road to winning the Group II championship, the Rockets (22-6) defeated Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, 42-25, to win the Central Jersey Group II state sectional tournament team title.

The Rockets then defeated Hanover Park High School, 56-21, in the Group II semifinals to earn the right to face High Point in the Group II championship match.

“This team is going to go down as one of the greats. It’s awesome,” Nucci said.