2006-12-13 / Sports

Raritan could compete with Shore’s elite teams

BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer

BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Staff Writer

With a strong group of returnees back in the fold, the Raritan High School wrestling team’s goal is to successfully defend its Shore Conference Class A Central title.

Last season the Rockets compiled a 19-4 mark, with two losses coming against mighty Jackson, and reached the finals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II tourney before losing to Delaware Valley.

Among the top returners are T.J. Mitchell, who will compete at 125 pounds, and sophomore Dan Seidenberg, who will wrestle at 160 pounds. Mitchell is a three-time District 22 champion, while Seidenberg captured the District 22 crown a year ago while competing at 140 pounds.

Coach Rob Nucci is also looking for strong seasons from several seniors, including Greg Alexander (103 pounds), who was 16-13 last season; Kevin Moore (130), 11-5; and David Seidenberg, a District 22 champion in 2005 who was hampered by a broken ankle a year ago, but still managed to post a 19-4 mark.

Junior Billy Voutsinas (13) went 27-6 a year ago, while fellow juniors Bob Kolb (135) went 21-10 and Bob Hornacek (140) was 11-2. Dan Bilowus (171), was 10-14 and should be more effective this time out, Nucci said. Sophomore Cody Mooney (119) is coming off a 17-13 campaign.

“The last few years we’ve had key injuries that have hampered us,” Nucci said. “Right now I think we’re on the verge of being one of the top teams in the Shore — that’s no small accomplishment for a Group II school — but we need to stay healthy.”

Other members of the Rockets include senior Chris Mooney (189), juniors Brian Whalen (135), Ryan Putnam (140), Pat Susino (152) and John Boyle (215); along with sophomores Jonathan DeAngelis (112), Chris van Sechtman (112), Nick Hungerford (171), Aaron Creuz (189) and Matt Walsh (HW).

“We have good depth but they don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” the coach said. “That will change this season.”

Raritan also had an outstanding turnout. Sixty-seven grapplers, including 28 freshmen, are now in the Rockets’ program. While the varsity’s success in recent years has certainly spurred interest, Nucci credited Hazlet’s recreation program, now in its seventh year, and the Middle School program with developing and teaching younger wrestlers.

“Our whole town has been very supportive,” he said. “Kids learn the fundamentals early, and by the time they get to high school they’re pretty advanced.”

To help celebrate the program’s success, Nucci said an Alumni Day will be held Dec. 30 in conjunction with the Rockets’ match against Matawan. Past Rocket competitors will be honored and a history of the program will be displayed. The day begins with Hazlet recreation wrestlers competing against their counterparts from Matawan. Middle school teams from the respective towns will then take to the mats, followed by the junior varsity match and then the varsity event.

“It will be a fun day for our program, and because it’s being held over the holiday break, we’re hoping to have a big crowd,” Nucci said.

The Raritan varsity opens its season Dec. 15-16 at the Richmond Invitational in Virginia. The Rockets return home on Dec. 19 to host RBC and will visit St. John Vianney on Dec. 23. In addition, Raritan will go to the Manchester Hawk Tournament on Dec. 28.

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