Army Strong Wrestling Team of the Week: Raritan
New for this winter season, the United States Army and Shore Sports Network will be selecting a wrestling Team of the Week based on its performance over the past weekend.
The latest recipient of the Army Strong Team of the Week is Raritan, which captured its first state sectional title since 2012 and reached the NJSIAA Group 2 final to cap another strong team season. Shore Sports Network along with Sergeant First Class Daniel Soto Jr. and Sergeant First Class Carl Cullins of the U.S. Army were at practice Tuesday to present the Rockets and head coach Rob Nucci with a special banner to commemorate their accomplishments.
In the week prior to the start of the NJSIAA Team Tournament, Raritan picked up solid wins over Manalapan (60-9) and a top-10 Toms River North team (38-21) to enter the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 Tournament with momentum. In the state tournament, the Rockets cruised to their third sectional title in program history by crushing Brearley, 74-3, in the quarterfinals, vanquishing nemesis Delaware Valley, 50-9, in the semifinals and blasting division rival Holmdel, 56-13, in the sectional championship match.
Raritan then advanced to the NJSIAA state semifinals at RWJBarnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North, and it was there the Rockets built a big lead and held on to knock off Hanover Park, 34-32, to reach the Group 2 state final. Senior A.J. Erven limited state champion Nick Raimo to a major decision in the first bout and George Burdick, Justin Acevedo, Ethan Wolf and Matt Spirko delivered consecutive pins from 182 through 285 pounds to give the Rockets a 34-11 lead. Hanover Park needed four straight pins of its own to rally for the win, and the Hornets put a scare into Raritan with falls in the first two bouts to make it 34-23. But when Mike Lonnay stayed off his back and lost a close decision at 120 pounds it clinched the win for Raritan.
Raritan also started strong in the Group 2 final against High Point as seniors Russell Benson and Christian Sookdeo won the first two bouts, junior Anthony Aquilano had a pin at 160 pounds and senior Dylan Lonnay gutted out a key double-overtime victory at 170 pounds. A fall from Burdick at 182 and a major decision by Wolf gave Raritan a 25-6 lead through eight bouts, but High Point staged an epic rally to win the final six bouts and take the match, 30-25.
Raritan concluded the season with a 27-3 record and finished ranked No. 12 in the state in the final New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association poll. The Rockets will enter the District 20 Tournament with 10 wrestlers having won at least 20 bouts. Wolf and Benson are tied for the team lead with a 33-2 record while Burdick is 32-3.