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ATLANTIC CITY – All the heartbreak, the sacrifices, the weight cuts, the grueling nature of being a wrestler; it was all worth it for what Tyler Klinsky got to experience on Saturday night.

Klinsky put the finishing touches on an outstanding career by defeating Don Bosco Prep’s Kelly Dunnigan, 6-3, to win the 113-pound NJSIAA State Championship at Boardwalk Hall. One season after losing in the state final, Klinsky returned to the center mat and became Middletown North’s first state champ in 46 years.

“This is as big as it gets,” Klinsky said. “Just bringing it back for my town is what I’m most proud of. We haven’t had a state champ in 30, 40 years, however long it’s been. It’s bigger than me, bigger than I can put into words. It can’t get any better than this, going out on top.”

Klinsky is Middletown North’s second state champion in program history and first since Ken Hopfsensperger won the 115-pound state title in 1974.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Middletown North head coach Matt Sirchio. “As his coach it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It’s a big win for Middletown and it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”

To achieve the ultimate goal of every New Jersey wrestler, Klinsky had to vanquish the one opponent who bested him this season. At the Sam Cali Memorial Invitational in January, Dunnigan defeated Klinsky, 10-5, in the championship bout.

This time, Klinsky scored first with a takedown with five seconds left in the opening period. Dunnigan chose bottom and escaped in the second period but Klinsky took him down again and held him there to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. In the match at the Sam Cali Tournament, Dunnigan beat Klinsky on the mat by scoring nearfall points, but this time Klinsky turned the tables with a reversal to go up 6-1. Dunnigan scored a late reversal but it wasn’t enough to derail Klinsky’s run to the top.

03/07/2020: NJSIAA Boys State Final
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“It’s definitely hard beating someone two times in a row, so I learned a lot from (the loss),” Klinsky said. “This time I was wrestling smarter and getting to my attacks and finishing clean. My coaches put it in my ear so much that no one can beat me if I stick to my gameplan.”

“We were able to get to the Sam Cali and get our guys great matches,” Sirchio said. “Tyler was able to meet up with (Dunnigan) and although it didn’t finish the way we wanted to, he was able to see a lot of the things he did and he made every adjustment. He spent a lot of time perfecting his craft and he put it all together here.”

Klinsky will go down as the most accomplished wrestler in Middletown North history. He is the Lions’ only four-time district champion and one of just seven Shore Conference wrestlers to win four region titles. He is Middletown North’s only two-time state finalist and his 169 wins are the most in Shore Conference history.

“This is the ultimate goal in everybody’s eyes,” Klinsky said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose every tournament before states, if you win states it’s the biggest deal. I’ll be honest, the heartbreak (of losing in the state final) is one of the worst things I’ve ever felt in my life and finally punching through and getting it, you almost forget about last year. It was part of my journey and what had to happen, I guess.”

For the last four years, Tyler Klinsky’s life has revolved around wrestling and the pursuit of winning a New Jersey state championship. When the final buzzer sounded and he was victorious he knew he had made the right decisions.

“Just finally, everything is worth it,” Klinsky said. “All the hours and sacrifices I made. My family can count so many times I’ve been in a bad mood from cutting weight and stuff like that or not being able to hang out with my friends because I’m training so hard. They’re always asking me why I’m always training and now I can just point up at my bracket and say, ‘That is why.”


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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.


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