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RUMSON -- Senior Hudson Skove and his fellow teammates on the Rumson-Fair Haven wrestling team were confident heading into Wednesday's home NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II final vs. Point Pleasant Boro that they would finish off the Bulldogs' first sectional title in program history.

If there is one thing the last three seasons have taught them, however, it is to take nothing for granted.

Rumson left nothing on the mat other than time Wednesday, executing 11 pins in a dominant, 66-13, win over Point Boro to claim the program's first sectional title and make a statement heading into Friday's NJSIAA Group semifinals. Rumson will host North Jersey Section 2 Group II champion Caldwell.

"My freshman year, I thought we could have won it, if not for COVID," Skove said. "Last year, we had some injuries and a young team. So it feels like we have been building to this and getting better and better.

"Nothing is guaranteed. You always have to wrestle the matches. Coming into tonight, I thought we were going to be able to do what we did, but you actually have to go out and do it."

"It's been a different mindset this year," junior Conor Delaney said. "Yeah, we had some injuries last year, but there were also days when we would be goofing off in the room way too much. This year, we have taken it much more seriously, working hard every day. We know what we're capable of and we want to win that group title."

Skove's pin was the quickest of the 11, which the senior standout landed 23 seconds into the 215-pound bout. Point Boro had actually taken a 13-12 lead after five bouts following a 9-0 major decision by senior Ryan Acquisto at 165, but Rumson responded by winning each of the last nine bouts by fall.

Sophomore Luke Dougherty started the run with a pin at 175 1:20 into the bout. Delaney then wrapped up his bout in 1:18 to give Rumson six points at 175 and a 24-13 lead.

That set the stage for Skove, who was overpowering in his 23-second pin that ran his record on the season to 28-0.

"Once we got to the upper weights, I knew it was going to be pin, pin, pin, pin," Delaney said. "We're a really deep team with a lot of talent and we're a really scary team to be running through Group II."

Junior Matt Smith kept the run going with a pin 20 seconds into the second period, which came after he put five points on the board in the first without conceding one.

"It was great to watch that momentum continue to build and build," Skove said. "To watch us rattle off those pins, one after the other by guys who have put the work in -- to see it translate to the match was great."

With a 36-13 lead and five bouts to go, Rumson could seal the championship with a win from freshman Henry Marshall at 106 pounds. Marshall's bout with Point Boro sophomore Mike DeAngelo (17-12) was the most competitive match-up of the night and DeAngelo jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period.

"I knew it was going be a good match because I know who (DeAngelo) is and he is pretty good," Marshall said. "I wasn't expecting to pin him, but I was going in there thinking in my head that I was going to win. I have been getting my legs back and I was just able to ride him out and once I got my opportunity, I took it."

Marshall (14-7) fought his way back with a reversal in the second period to trim his deficit to 4-3, then took DeAngelo down to grab the lead early in the third. The Bulldogs freshman finished the job with a pin 50 seconds into the third and Rumson could begin its celebration.

"Seeing our big guys step up the way they did, it made made me want to do it more," Marshall said.

Rather than rest on the lead, the Bulldogs celebrated with four more pins. Sophomore Eamon Fry nailed down a pin in 1:28 at 113, with Point Boro opting not to use 26-3 junior Joey DeAngelo with the match out of reach.

Sophomore Joaquin Duque needed just 57 seconds to pick up a pin at 120 pounds and junior Elijah Bayne finished off the fall at 126 at 2:44.

Senior Julian Duque capped the run of nine straight pins in just 33 seconds -- an emphatic punctuation to Rumson's first ever sectional championship.

Before the nine consecutive pins to finish the match, the Bulldogs got back-to-back falls at 144 and 150 from freshman Sonny Amato and junior Cole Pangborn -- both in the first period. Amato also earned his 28th win of the season and locked it up in only 34 seconds.

Sophomore Luke Renna gave Point Boro the first three points of the match with a 7-1 win at 138 and freshman Jake Clayton scored the Panthers' lone pin 1:32 into the bout at 157.

At a Group II school that competes for sectional and state championships year-in and year-out across all sports in all seasons, wrestling has only recently ascended to that level. Skove and his father, Thomas, have been a key part of that, along with third-year Bulldogs head coach Eleazar DeLuca.

Skove comes from a wrestling family, with his father and five uncles all enjoying decorated careers at Long Branch High School and beyond.

"Because it's a public school and it's local, it started years and years ago with the youth program," Skove said. "I have to give some credit there to my dad. He had been coaching that for a long time. He has since stopped, but it has just continued to grow and you get to see those same kids transition to high school, where we have had great coaching and great culture. We just continue to grow together."

Photo: Matt Manley
Photo: Matt Manley

After dispensing of Point Boro in under an hour, Rumson turns its attention to Friday, when the Bulldogs will look to inch close toward another program first: an overall Group II championship.

Skove became Rumson's first ever individual state champion last season and after checking off that accomplishment, the Harvard commit and his teammates don't want to stop there.

"That was my expectation going into the season," Skove said. "We're not just a team that can win a sectional title. We are competing for a group title. I know the kids on this team are capable, we just have to go out and wrestle the matches like we know how."

"This is big, but we're not done yet," Delaney said. "We have two more to go, we're still working hard and we're coming for that group title. The sectional is nice, but the group is going to be a whole lot better."

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