SPOTSWOOD, NJ - This weekend's NJSIAA/ Rothman Orthopaedics Individual Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall is a high-profile event for high school wrestling. It will feature 448 boys and 60 girls. Spotswood High School's Zach Weiner will be among that select group. The junior qualified for a chance to become a state champion in his weight class by winning the District 19 132-pound title and finishing in fourth place in last weekend's Region Five championships.
"It is a very challenging task to qualify for the state tournament in the sport of wrestling," explained Spotswood High School Social Studies teacher and head wrestling coach Matthew Merrigan. "Only the elite make it this far and Zach has proven to be in that class of elite wrestlers. Zach will be placed in a 32-man bracket consisting of the top four finishers in each of the eight regional tournaments. He will wrestler top-level competition, represented by the best wrestlers in the state for his weight class."
Weiner boasts an individual record of 19-4 for the Chargers this season. The junior made the varsity wrestling squad as a freshman. Last year, Weiner placed third in his weight class to earn his first trip to regionals, but did not end up qualifying for a trip to Atlantic City.
"I have known Zach for five years, I started as his middle school coach in seventh grade and continued as his high school coach his freshman year," Merrigan continued. "It is impressive and admirable to see all the hard work Zach puts in to get better and improve after each year. He has so much love for the sport and is determined to be great. He is a pleasure to coach and I'm grateful for his presence in the practice room and everything he brings to the team."
Weiner did not start wrestling until he was in sixth grade.
"I was a little late to the sport, but I'm thankful I did not quit," Weiner said.
The teen has never been to the state wrestling tournament in person, but did watch the finals online for the last two years.
"It feels good to represent Spotswood, being from a small school I feel like I know everyone," Weiner continued. "It is great to know everyone in town has my back and wishes me the best of luck."
"This is significant for the wrestling program at Spotswood," Merrigan added. "Only a few times in history has someone qualified for states and has the opportunity to wrestle in AC. This brings positive recognition to the school and attracts more interest to the team and sport in general."
Spotswood High School has only had a handful of wrestlers qualify for the state tournament in Atlantic City. In 2018, Shea Obado wrestled in the 160-pound weight class after finishing third at the regional tournament. Obado was knocked out early in the competition, losing in the first round. Amiran Odzelashvili headed to the championship in 2013. Odzelashvili lost in the second round in the heavyweight division. Jason Mar recorded the highest finish in the Chargers' history in the state wrestling tournament in 2003. Mar placed third in his respective weight class.
"I have witnessed Zach grow as a novice middle school wrestler to become a seasoned and skilled varsity wrestler," Merrigan said. "He is strong-willed and determined. He has developed mentally with his preparation and physically adding new moves and skills each year."
Seeding for the state tournament took place today in Robbinsville. Weiner is the 29th seed in the 132-pound weight class. He will wrestle fourth seeded Justin Bierdumpfel from St. Joseph's High School in Montvale. Bierdumpfel is the fourth seed in the bracket and has a 15-2 individual record. The tournament takes place on Thursday, March 5 through Sunday, March 8 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
"I am very excited to wrestle in AC this weekend and I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity," Weiner added.