After three seasons at the helm of one of New Jersey's most storied wrestling programs Mike Denver is stepping down as the head coach at Brick Memorial for personal reasons, he told Shore Sports Network on Wednesday afternoon.

"I have to do what's best for my family and for the program," Denver said. "It certainly wasn't an easy decision."

"Family obligations and a difficult commute to and from work every day (about 90 minutes each way) have made it very challenging for Coach to maintain his competitive work-load," Brick Memorial athletic director Ed Sarluca Jr. said in a statement. "His commitment to this program has been second to none and with added family responsibilities, he feels it is in his best interest and our program’s best interest if he steps down. Mike is leaving this program on a very positive note and hopes his efforts and commitment will continue to be upheld with future success."

"We are very sad to see him go as head coach, but we know that both Coach Denver and our wrestling program will land on its feet and continue in a successful manner."

Denver started his coaching career in 2012-2013 at St. Rose where he guided the Purple Roses for one season. He then became the fourth head coach in Brick Memorial history when he took over for Dan O'Cone for the 2013-2014 season. He went 15-3 during his first season with the Mustangs, reaching the Shore Conference Tournament final and winning the District 23 Tournament.

Photo by Ray Richardson.

Everything came together in Denver's second season as Brick Memorial turned in one of its best seasons in program history. The Mustangs won the 2014-2015 Class A South division title and the Shore Conference Tournament for a record 15th time. Brick Memorial then captured its 15th sectional title by winning Central Jersey Group V, and finished off a 21-1 season by dominating Hunterdon Central, 53-15, in the Group V championship match. The Mustangs finished ranked No. 2 in New Jersey.

That season Brick Memorial also turned in a brilliant individual postseason with six district champions and 13 region qualifiers en route to winning the program's 29th district championship and sixth in a row. Brick Memorial then had three region champions and four state qualifiers, and all four of those wrestlers - Gianni Ghione, Alec Donovan, Cliff Ruggiero and Nick Rivera - reached the state finals in their respective weight classes. Donovan became Brick Memorial's seventh state champion when he defeated Bound Brook's Stephan Glasgow, 1-0, in the 145-pound state final.

Denver was selected as the 2015 Region VI Coach of the Year and was also named the 2015 Shore Sports Network Wrestling Coach of the Year.

This past season the Mustangs finished 10-8 with a team mostly comprised of first-year varsity wrestlers.

Denver went 46-12 in his three seasons at Brick Memorial, coaching 15 district champions, eight region champions and eight state medalists.

Denver wrestled at Central from 2004 to 2007. He went 34-7 his senior season and qualified for the state tournament by finishing third in the Region VI Tournament at 171 pounds. He blossomed at the collegiate level wrestling for The College of New Jersey, becoming a three-time NCAA Division III All-American and winning the 184-pound NCAA championship as a senior.

Brick Memorial will return most of its starting lineup next season, led by Princeton University recruit Gianni Ghione. One of the top lower weights in New Jersey, Ghione is a two-time Region VI champion and two-time state medalist with a career record of 96-14.

 

Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.