WEST CALDWELL- While the wrestling contingent from James Caldwell High lost its first dual meet of the season on Saturday, Jan. 9, the locals also emerged as big winners, as the Grapplin' Chiefs went 2-1 and finished an impressive second at the prestigious Paul Finn Duals, a team-on-team tournament which was held for the 13th straight season at Millburn High School on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Paul Finn, Jr., a/k/a “The Gentle Giant,” was a 6-4, 300-pound standout heavyweight matman at MHS in the late 1970's. He won a 1978 state championship, but, sadly and suddenly, died due to a coronary condition in 1999.
The bracket for the 2015 Finn dual meet duels saw perennial power Roselle Park in the top spot, followed by second-slotted Cinnaminson, No. 3 JCHS, No. 4 Whippany Park, No. 5 Edison, the sixth-seeded host team, seventh-slotted Morris Hills and No. 8 Summit.
However, Morris Hills was forced to drop out due to a skin rash problem among many of the Scarlet Knights, Roselle Park reaped a bye directly into the semi's and Summit was moved into the seven spot, with Caldwell overwhelming an undermanned Millburn contingent, 55-16, prior to upsetting Cinnaminson, 34-24, in a semi's showdown, but then being rousted by Roselle Park, 42-25, in the finals fracas.
In some of the other results on the day, it was Whippany Park being upset by Edison, 45-27, but then edging Millburn, 40-39, via a pin in the final bout of the match, and Millburn slamming Summit, 48-15.
In the Grapplin' Chiefs' first match of the day, a clash against homestanding Millburn, JCHS led, 12-10, on the strength of forfeit wins at 106 and 120, but a major decision loss at 113 and a loss by fall at 126.
From that point on, though, it was nearly all Grapplin' Chiefs all the time, with Caldwell matsmen providing points at 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 182, 220 and 285, although the locals reaped forfeits at 145, 152, 220 and 285, to go along with the earlier two.
In the win over perennial power Cinnaminson, which started at 113, Caldwell led by just four, 28-24, before freshman Matt Driggs posted a pin at 103 to close out the contest.
Against now 5-0 Roselle Park, a battle which started at 120, JCHS trailed right away: 12-0 after 132 and 19-6 after 152, prior to losing for the first time this season, with the eventual margin being 17 points.
Five members of the Grapplin' Chiefs contingent went unbeaten on the day, including the club's three senior captains: Dean Caravela, Ryan Schaffer and Matt Maddaloni.
Caravela, a 152-pounder who is currently competing at 160 due to an injured thumb suffered by sophomore Ryan Schaffer, moved to 11-0 via a pin at 5:03 against Millburn, a 5-0 victory against Cinnaminson and a forfeit against RosellePark. For his efforts, Caravela, who got his 100th career win the night before, was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 2015 Finn fracases.
Also now at 11-0 is Ryan Schaffer, a 182-pounder who 10-0 in the opener, prior to registering pins at :22 and 2:22 in the afternoon, while Maddaloni, who just recovered from a fractured Fibula, reaped, in order, a forfeit, a 5-4 victory and a 2-1 win.
Also undefeated on the day were Gerry Jones, a 138-pound sophomore who just returned to the fray after months of back problems and who reached 5-0 on the strength of a pin in 3:45, a 7-3 decision and a fall in just 18 seconds, and Driggs, who moved to 6-3 by getting a forfeit from Millburn and that key pin against Cinnaminson at the 3:03 mark.
In terms of dual duels, Caldwell kicked-off its current campaign by sinking Shore, 35-28, on Dec. 23, prior to clipping Cedar Grove, 30-28, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and waylaying West Orange, 42-33, on Friday, Jan. 8, and then going 2-1 on Saturday to stand at 5-1 entering this week's action.
“Hey, we're happy to have gotten five wins so far, we're happy with those results, but this is a long, long season, a real grind, and we have a long, long way to go and, obviously, we're not satisfied and know that we have to continue to improve each and every day,” said longtime Caldwell head coach Gary Garamella, a member of the JCHS Class of 1981.
Wednesday, Jan. 13, should see Garamella's gang playing host to Bloomfield at 7 p.m., prior to traveling to take on Nutley at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, and then taking part in the Henry Boresch Duals at Newton, along with, among others, Morris Knolls, Hanover Park and the host team on Saturday, Jan. 16.
All Photos by Bill Allen-NJSportAction.NET. For a full set of photos from the Caldwell at Millburn matchup during the Paul Finn Duals on Saturday, Jan. 9, go to www.NJSportAction.NET.