ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - Wrestling through a knee injury in the later part of the season didn’t lessen Nick O’Connell’s expectations.
The Southern Regional sophomore was given the No. 25 seed but was still aiming for a top three finish.
O’Connell finished his first tip to the NJSIAA Individual Championships with an eighth-place medal after falling in the seventh-place match 8-2 to Gateway/Woodbury’s Andrew Solomon at 145 pounds Sunday in Atlantic City.
“The goal wasn’t to come here and get a medal, it was to finish top 3 and I took eighth,” O’Connell said. “Right now I’m disappointed, maybe tomorrow I wont be. I’m a sophomore but in my eyes that doesn’t matter.”
For the past couple of week however O’Connell has been wrestling with a torn meniscus.
“Two three weeks ago I tore my meniscus,” O’Connell said. “Four, five matches later in a long tournament like this it’s hard. I was basically on one leg.”
In his seventh-place match it showed. O’Connell struggled to move quick enough to get takedowns. Trailing 6-0 after two periods, he managed two escapes in the third to lose 8-2.
“I like to move around a lot. It affects my movement, my motion but it’s not an excuse,” he said. “I still have to find ways to win and I didn’t.”
While this trip didn’t go as wished, it still has O’Connell looking to the future and return trips to the championships.
“This weekend, really all whole season I proved I’m right there with everyone,” he said. “I lost to the kid in the finals late. I’ll be back next year and am ready to do better.”
Joining O’Connell in Atlantic City from Southern Regional was junior Matthew Barnett competing at 132 pounds. Barnett lost his first match before coming back and winning his wrestle back round. Finishing with a 1-2 record at the championships.