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From the time he took over as the head coach at his alma mater, Howell has reached unprecedented heights and become one of New Jersey’s best wrestling programs. Now, John Gagliano has reached a milestone no other area coach has achieved.

With the Rebels’ 69-9 victory over Piscataway on Tuesday, Gagliano became the first wrestling coach in Shore Conference history to reach 500 career wins. In 24 seasons leading Howell, Gagliano has a career record of 500-79.

Gagliano was a district and region champion for Howell during the mid-1980s when Howell was a good program but nowhere near the juggernaut it is today. Before Gagliano took over as the head coach, Howell had won six division titles and six district titles while having 60 wrestlers win district titles, 16 claim region championships and 12 wrestlers take home state medals - including 1965 state champion Carlos Fontanez - between 1965 and 1997.

During Gagliano’s tenure, Howell has stocked its trophy case with 18 division titles, including 15 straight Class A North titles from 2006-2020, seven district team titles and three Shore Conference Tournament team championships. In 2014, Howell finally broke through on the statewide stage by winning the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional title for its first state sectional title in program history. Some stinging defeats surrounded sectional titles in 2014 and 2016, but in 2017 Howell finally reached the top of the wrestling landscape by winning the NJSIAA Group 5 state championship with a thrilling win over Hunterdon Central.

The following season, Howell repeated as Group 5 champs with a perfect 32-0 record and a final ranking of No. 3 in New Jersey.

On an individual level, Howell has had 84 district champions, 22 region champions and 23 NJSIAA state place-winners during Gagliano’s 24-years as head coach. In 2008, Joey Langel won the 112-pound state title to end Howell’s 43-year drought between state champions and in 2017, Eric Keosseian won the 220-pound state championship. Gagliano has also had wrestlers reach a state championship bout on seven other occasions.

Howell has concluded its regular season with a 9-1 record and will now turn its attention to the individual postseason, which begins on April 17. Howell will participate in the NJSIAA Central Super Region, which comprises teams aligned in Region 5 and Region 6. The Rebels have three returning state qualifiers in seniors Paul Jakub (152) and Nieko Malone (126) and sophomore Colin Bradshaw (120). They also have junior Hunter Mays, who was a state qualifier in Pennsylvania and is a state championship contender at 160 pounds, senior region medalists Kyle Nase (132) and Hunter Lino (195) and talented freshmen JJ Machnik (106) and Sebastian Ortega (113)



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