LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston wrestling team struggled on Saturday in the opening match of a quad meet, falling to Kittatinny by a final score of 69-6, but the Lancers hope they can take lessons learned into Districts next week.
“We’re a little shorthanded today,” said Livingston head coach Earnie Cuneo. “We’re a little banged up from our season, so we’re trying to get some good matches for our kids before the districts and then we’ll be full strength and hopefully ready to go for next Saturday.”
Livingston was in a hole from the start of the contest, having succumbed to five forfeits. Forfeits at the 113, 126, 160, 172 and 182-pound classes effectively ended any hope of a Lancers win, as they would need to make up 30 points.
Despite the insurmountable odds, Livingston battled against a stronger Cougar squad. Ryan Valese, who was tied with his opponent after one period utilized a reversal and some back points to collect a 6-3 decision victory for the squad at the 220-pound class.
“I am really confident in neutral,” said Valese. “I knew if I went neutral I would have a better edge to get off.”
The victory was Valese’s eighth of the season in matches where there was an opponent at his weight. His leadership has been praised by his coach for helping the squad to its 17-win record.
“[Valese]’s match was a great one for us,” said Cuneo. “Their kid was tough and Valese has stepped it up all year long. The kid just battles.”
Livingston also received a solid effort at 132 pounds with an additional decision victory from Mathew Nichtor. Nichtor worked his Kittatinny counterpart from a 2-2 first-period tie to an eventual 7-3 decision win via a reversal and escape points.
“I told Nichtor when he came off the mat, that was probably the most complete match I’ve seen him wrestle,” said Cuneo. “He looked good on his feet, he wrestle tough on bottom and got out and he was tough on top so it was great.”
While Kittatinny was pressing onward to victory losses from several of Livingston’s top grapplers would not overshadow their season long successful performances. Austin Paris, who took a loss at 195 pounds has been a staple all year for the Lancers producing a 9-4 record in matches competed.
“[Paris] has been a really important part of our lineup as well,” said Cuneo. “He’s won a lot of conference matches for us, he wins a lot of close matches and he’s had a real nice season for us also."
Livingston’s team season is rapidly reaching its end after falling in the state tournament, so the individual portion has taken center stage as the district tournament approaches. The main goal for the squad is to gain health and confidence before the road to Atlantic City begins to get closer.
“Next week we have districts that we’re hosting, [which] is really the individual time of the season,” said Cuneo. “So it’s just win and advance—it doesn’t have to be pretty, just win and go on and hopefully we’ll have some guys advance.”