CRANFORD, NJ – As Cranford wrestling gets ready to begin a new season and sets its eyes on a state sectional title, Coach Pat Gorman and the seniors on the team, took some time to speak with TAP into Cranford.
Gorman entering his sixth season as head coach, along with assistant coaches, Justin Bonitatis and Steve VanDam, have had much success. Under their direction, Cranford as a team has won, one county championship, two districts championships and two conference championships. Individually the team has won; six county champs, 15 district champs, two region champs and three state-placers.
This year’s team has a mix of experience and youth with five seniors, twelve juniors, two sophomores and twelve freshmen in the line-up. Gorman will look to a very talented core in; senior Niko Cappello who finished seventh in the state at 182 lbs., juniors Tom DiGiovanni who is a two-time county and district champ, as well as a two-time state qualifier and Chris Scorese who is a county champ, two-time district champ and state qualifier. There are also six returning district champs in the line-up.
All five seniors, Niko Cappello, Dave Busch, Andrew Tompkins, Chris Kiamie and Kevin Doran agree when it comes to how they feel about the team and the coaches. Busch stated, “We are a family, we practice to be better every day, win or lose we are a team.” Cappello said of his coaches, “They are the best hard-working coaches, we practice hard and yet they keep it fun.” Doran echoes the sentiment, “We are one team, one big family and everyone works so hard.”
Like a family they work hard and have fun when they can. It is a long, grueling season and training is intense, the seniors say they need to cut loose at times. Busch, who has been given about 10 nicknames, gets all the team’s focus on his birthday. Cappello said, “We have singing sessions and the best practice day is when we celebrate Busch’s birthday, it’s just a lot of fun, we go crazy all day.” No specific reason why, they just go with it.
When asked what they wanted their wrestling legacy to be, again they were in agreement, “To have the team win a state title, finish in the Top 20 and go undefeated.” Tompkins added, “Our main goal is a section title and we all train hard to reach it.”
The match they look forward to the most is against their biggest rival Roselle Park, “The atmosphere is great, the seats are filled, the fans on both sides are loud, it’s just an exciting environment.” Cappello said.
Gorman is optimistic about the team’s chances of making a run to the state title, he said, “This is a talented team and I could see them putting together a great year, a section title is as reachable goal as is a group title. I am setting the bar high this year and we are already working hard toward bigger and better things for the program.” He continued, “I am very excited for another successful season with this group of young men, they are all on board with what needs to be done in order to reach our goals, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifices that lie ahead.”
The team begins its season Friday Dec. 18, at home against Plainfield.