Wrestling: Long Branch Head Coach Dan George Reaches 400 Career Wins
With a 49-19 victory over Wall on Wednesday night, Long Branch head coach Dan George became the second wrestling coach in Shore Conference history to reach 400 career wins.
George, who has 337 wins at his alma mater and 63 wins from his time as the head coach at Red Bank, joins Howell head coach John Gagliano as the only Shore Conference wrestling coaches to reach 400 wins. Gagliano enters Thursday’s match with South Plainfield with 429 career wins in his 21st season as the head coach at Howell, which is also his alma mater.
Toms River East head coach Warren Reid has 394 career wins, Raritan’s Rob Nucci has 356 and former Brick Memorial head coach Tony Caravella, who is currently an assistant at St. John Vianney, has 325 career wins.
The 2017-2018 season is George’s 28th as a head coach overall and his 19th season at Long Branch. Since George took over in the 1998-199 season, Long Branch has experienced unprecedented team success while continuing its strong tradition of individual championships. Under George, Long Branch has won three NJSIAA Group II state championships, five NJSIAA sectional titles, three Shore Conference Tournament titles, four NJSIAA district team championships and seven Shore Conference division titles. Wednesday’s win over Wall clinched at least a share of the B North division title and a win over Manasquan on Jan. 24 will give Long Branch the outright championship.
Long Branch had a historic run from 2008 to 2010 where it won all three of its state titles and all three of its SCT championships. The Wave went undefeated in 2008, capping an incredible season with a 30-27 victory over Brearley in the Group II final en route to finishing No. 2 in New Jersey.
The following season Long Branch went 27-1 and finished No. 1 in the final New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association poll with George being selected as state Coach of the Year. The Green Wave again defeated Brearley, this time 31-24, to finish off back-to-back state titles and join Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial as the only Shore Conference teams to win consecutive state titles. During that season, Long Branch had an epic 28-27 win over High Point on criteria in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at Rutgers in which Omar Akel had a furious rally to defeat Billy Smith, 13-11 in overtime, and Andrew Balina held John Guzzo to a decision in the final bout to clinch the win. Also in 2008, Nick Visicaro became Long Branch’s first state champion since Sam Cole in 1986 when he hit a merkle to stun Delran’s Anthony Saule and win the 160-pound state title.
In 2010, Long Branch became the first Shore Conference program to win three straight NJSIAA state championships when it went 28-3 and defeated West Deptford, 37-19, in the Group 2 final. Long Branch’s only NJSIAA loss that season came to High Point, 24-23 in another epic dual, and the Green Wave finished the season as the No. 3 team in New Jersey. Visicaro went on to win his second state title with a 5-3 win over Eastern’s Preston Keiffer in the 160-pound final and senior Scott Festejo captured the 135-pound state championship with a thrilling 7-6 win over Brick Memorial’s Mike Morales in a rematch of the Region 6 final won by Morales by the same 7-6 score.
Long Branch also won sectional titles in 2011 and 2013 and reached the Group II championship in 2013.
Long Branch’s three Shore Conference Tournament titles are tied for fourth all-time behind Brick Memorial (15), Jackson Memorial (six) and Toms River South (four). Long Branch, Jackson Memorial, Toms River South and Brick Memorial are the only Shore Conference programs to win three straight SCT titles.
Along with the individual state championships won by Visicaro and Festejo, George has coached eight additional state medalists at Long Branch, including 152-pound state runner-up Doug Cornell in 2010, third-place finishers Billy George (2009 and 2010 at 189), Jon Robertson (2009 at 145) and Festejo (2009 at 125), sixth-place finishers Akel (2009 at 171) and Ameer Washington (2009 at heavyweight) and seventh/eighth recipient Anthony Miscia (2002 at 145). At Red Bank, Ashon Lovick was the 215-pound state runner-up in 1996 and finished seventh/eighth at 215 in 1995.
The George Family is synonymous with Long Branch. Dan George and his three brothers, Bill, the current superintendent of the Middletown School District, Alex, an administrator for the Manchester Township School District, and Tommy were all standout athletes during their time in the green and white. Dan George’s son, Nick, and his nephews, Bill’s sons Billy and Jake, were also standouts for Long Branch. Billy was a Region 6 champion and two-time state medalist, Jake was a state qualifier and Nick was a district champion.
During his high school career, George won a district title at 155 pounds in 1983. He wrestled collegiately at Ohio State from 1984-1988.
George is also Long Branch’s football coach and led the Green Wave to the 2017 Central Jersey Group IV sectional title with a 43-42 overtime win over Freehold in one of the Shore Conference’s best sectional championship games of all-time. George has 143 overall wins as a football coach, including 127 in 19 seasons at Long Branch. He is also the school’s boys track and field coach.
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