CRANFORD - The final score may not indicate it, but it came down to the wire.
After dropping four of the first five matches, the fourth-seeded Cougars took seven of the next nine to defeat fifth-seeded Middletown South, 40-25, in the quarterfinal (first) round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament on Wednesday night.
Down 18-3, Jimmy Gluck (132) got the rally started with a 5-2 decision, followed by a Luke DiGiovanni (138) pin at 1:09 and Colin Murray (145) 19-6 major decision. Two matches later, Shane Kanterman (160) scored a fall at 2:44 to even the meet 22-22.
Both teams were somewhat familiar with each other as Cranford beat Middletown South 37-24 back in January, but Max Nock did not compete due to a hip injury. Healthy and ready to go on Wednesday, Cranford head coach Pat Gorman began the shuffling of his roster and inserted Max Nock at 170 against Sean Fitzpatrick, effectively bumping the rest of his lineup up a weight class.
Nock believed he had Fitzpatrick scouted from the prior meet when he took on Chris Hecht and went to work early, landing an early takedown and eventual pin at 1:28.
"I watched him last time and got to scout out how he was and saw his imperfections," said Nock. "I just tried to work my moves off of that."
Justin Alpaugh-McLean (195) sealed the deal with a pin at 2:16 to give Cranford a nine-point lead with just the 220 match left, which Middletown South took a forfeit loss.
Cranford advances to the semifinal round to take on undefeated and top-seeded North Hunterdon, tentatively set for Wednesday. Coach Gorman said there's a lot to work on before the next round.
"The good thing is we got the win, but there's a lot of things we need to work on," he said. "We need to get back in the room and talk about a full six-minute effort. There's a couple of spots where I thought we'd be winning, and we lost. We were kind of backing ourselves into a corner. We've got to get as prepared as possible. North Hunterdon is a force."
285: Kevin Shriner (Cranford) over Pedro Ricardo (Middletown South) (Dec 8-1)
106: Jack Zaleski (Middletown South) over Will Fernandez (Cranford) (Fall 2:55)
113: Kaden King (Middletown South) over Mason Hooey (Cranford) (Dec 8-3)
120: David Hussey (Middletown South) over Patrick Kalnins (Cranford) (Dec 6-3)
126: Brandon Slavin (Middletown South) over Patrick Ganley (Cranford) (Fall 3:37)
132: Jimmy Gluck (Cranford) over Michael Holland (Middletown South) (Dec 5-2)
138: Luke DiGiovanni (Cranford) over Kyle Smith (Middletown South) (Fall 1:13)
145: Colin Murray (Cranford) over Nick Holland (Middletown South) (MD 19-6)
152: Owen Fitzgerald (Middletown South) over Christian Esposito (Cranford) (MD 10-1)
160: Shane Kanterman (Cranford) over Austin Carter (Middletown South) (Fall 3:15)
170: Max Nock (Cranford) over Sean Fitzpatrick (Middletown South) (Fall 1:30)
182: Jack Willi (Middletown South) over Chris Hecht (Cranford) (Dec 11-7)
195: Justin Alpaugh-Mclean (Cranford) over Landan Moylan (Middletown South) (Fall 3:24)
220: Evan Kanterman (Cranford) over Unknown (For.)