TOMS RIVER, NJ - It's a moment that has been in the making for many, many years, and it has finally arrived for the Montville wrestling team.
The team has claimed three sectional titles since 2009, after winning both the 2019 title and this year's title. But it had never won a Group state title in the history of the program, a hurdle that was not cleared in its previous two Group tournament appearances.
But that all changed on Sunday, as the Mustangs took down Ocean Township 45-23 in the semifinals, before edging West Essex, 34-33 in the final to give Montville its first Group 3 state championship at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River.
It marked Montville's third Group championship as a school, after the girls tennis team's Group 3 title in 2013, followed by boys bowling's championship in 2014.
The Mustangs officially clinched the title in the 220 bout, as Michael Marucci earned a 5-1 decision over West Essex's Vin Rubino. Going into the 195 bout, there were just four bouts remaining, and Montville was guaranteed to clinch the title with a pin in any of the four remaining bouts. But it didn't even need that, as Zach Stolz-Illge- despite losing- limited the bonus points that West Essex gained, as he held Samuel Carsillo to a major decision, which gave West Essex four points instead of six.
From that point on, Montville needed a win of any kind in the final three bouts, and Marucci delivered. Montville forfeited the 285 and 106 bouts, and the celebration was on; a celebration that continued all the way to the high school as the team received a police and fire escort back into town on Sunday night with sirens and car horns blasting and lights flashing.
Montville got pins from Aaron Kurzer (113), Brandon Teresa (160), Noah Fox (170), and Michael Conrad (182). Karl Monaco won by major decision at 120, while Daniel Salzano earned a decision at 152.
Bonus points ultimately were the difference, as the teams won the same amount of bouts at seven apiece. Montville held a 13-12 edge in that area, and it was 13-6 prior to West Essex's two forfeit victories at the end.
Montville finishes the dual season at 19-2, and will now get to hang a Group 3 championship banner in its gym. But for its individuals, the season is far from over, as the District Tournament is set for this coming weekend, with Regions set for the following weekend, and the NJSIAA State Championship will be held in Atlantic City March 5-7. Noah Fox (170) and Michael Conrad (182) are both ranked third in the state in their respective weight classes.
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