In his first year as head coach of his alma mater during the 2021-22 season, Rhys Weinberger led the Hillsborough High School wrestling team to its first Somerset County Tournament team championship since 2010.
Winning a second straight county championship was a prime target of Weinberger and his Raiders coming into the 2022-23 season, especially since the Somerset County Tournament (SCT) was going to be held on their home turf at Hillsborough High School.
On Jan. 7 in Hillsborough, the Raiders shined bright on their home mat to win their second straight SCT title and fifth county championship in program history.
“We knew we could do it together again this year,” said Weinberger on Hillsborough winning its second straight SCT championship. “There was no reason we couldn’t get it done. It really excited us to do it in our house.”
Hillsborough had nine medal winners and three first place finishers to lead them to a team points total of 173 points to beat out Watchung Hills (160 points) for the top spot in the team standings.
Tommy Kester (113), Jack Miller (165) and Joey Witcoski (190) were each crowned county champions after impressive individual performances during the SCT, said Weinberger.
This is the second-straight SCT championship for Witcoski after winning at 175 pounds last year as a junior. Witcoski went on to win a district championship and qualify for the state tournament last season for the Raiders.
Miller, a junior, is also a returning state-qualifier for the Raiders. The 165-pounder improved from a disappointing fourth place finish at the SCT last season to win his first county championship.
Kester is the lone freshman in the Hillsborough starting lineup this winter. His father, Mike, was a three-time SCT champion during his time at Bridgewater-Raritan.
Matthew Jones (215), Christian Quandt (285) and Corey Iannucci (126) each received a silver medal with a second-place finish in the SCT for the Raiders. Both Jones and Quandt won a SCT championship last year to help Hillsborough win the team title.
Logan McDermid (106) won a bronze medal, while Peter Quandt (175) and Matt Miller (150) placed fourth to round out the medal winners for Hillsborough.
It’s been a great start on the mat for Weinberger and the Raiders this winter. Hillsborough is 6-1 in dual meets heading into its match against Bridgewater-Raritan on Jan. 11.
Weinberger believes his team’s performance on the mat this season shows how strong the Hillsborough wrestling program has become over the past few years.
“We’re showing that we’re the real deal,” Weinberger said. “Consistency is important in wrestling. Our guys have won two straight county championships and have performed well in state-wide meets.”
Hillsborough is looking to end the team competition portion of its season strong before the state individual tournaments begin next month.
The Raiders qualified for the sectional tournament last season, before being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Old Bridge and finished the season with a record of 10-10.
Weinberger said his Raiders believe they have what it takes to compete against the top teams in their section this season and are hoping to earn at least one home match during the postseason.
“We’re off to a good start this year. Our goal is to continue to get better and get a winning record,” Weinberger adds.
This winter on the mat will serve as a fond memory for Weinberger in his coaching career, he said. When the Hillsborough alum started coaching in the school district at the middle school level in 2017, the current senior class of wrestlers on the team were in seventh grade at the time.
Weinberger calls this year’s senior class a “special group” and has enjoyed being able to watch their careers unfold on the mat in Hillsborough.
“Seeing (the seniors) grow as wrestlers on the mat and people off the mat has been awesome,” Weinberger said. “It’s an honor to coach them in their final rodeo.”