CRANFORD - Year after year, Cranford wrestling continues to churn out some of the best wrestlers in Union County, and sometimes, the entire state. How you might ask? A lot of credit has to go to the dedicated volunteers of the Cranford Police Athletic League (PAL).
On Wednesday night, the Cranford High School wrestling program honored the young wrestlers (K through 8th grade) and volunteer coaches of the PAL prior to its matchup with Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Due to injuries and illnesses, a few Cougars got their first opportunity of the season to shine.
"We have a couple of guys either hurt or sick and it's just something every team deals with at this time of the year," said Cranford head coach Pat Gorman. "I had some guys fill in and it just shows that we have depth in the program. All the guys who first-time wrestled tonight have been training in the room since day one. I don't hesitate to put a new guy in, bump a guy up, or bump a guy down. I trust everybody I put out there."
Luke DiGiovanni at 138 pounds wrestled his first match of the year and wasted no time as he landed two takedowns on the Raiders' Kyle Robinson before scoring the fall just 30 seconds in to kickoff Cranford's eventual 43-27 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
"I was a little nervous before the match like always," said DiGiovanni. "Had some first match jitters, but I just wanted to go out there and put on for my boys. I'm always telling them in the room that we have to work hard and we have to do this. I want to be the guy who's able to go out on the mat and show it and show out for my boys and show them that I'm willing to work hard and put it down for them."
Cranford trailed by six midway through but went on to win five of its next six matches. Back-to-back pins by Mason Hooey at 113 and Ronan Waters at 120 put the Cougars up by 15 with just two matches remaining to seal the deal. Hooey, a freshman, pinned his opponent in 35 seconds while Waters, a sophomore, scored the fall in 42 seconds.
"It's an all-around team effort," said DiGiovanni. "Our team in the room works harder than any other team. I can say that because we're in there every day and I'm pushing the guys and I'm being pushed myself to the highest limit."
Next up for Cranford will be the Union County Tournament on Saturday at Union High School.
"We've got to go win that county tournament," said coach Gorman. "Five in a row. We've got to make it six."
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