Friday, March 8, 2013


Perhaps it stems from the fact that I was an atrocious high school wrestler. Perhaps it comes out of all of the pleasure I derived out of watching Margaret's two nephews (first Joe and then Frank) compete at incredibly high levels during their respective careers, which were highlighted by Joe's sixth place finish in the State Championships his senior year.  Perhaps it is just because - having been dreadful at it and knowing how hard Joe and Frank worked to be excellent at it - I know the courage required to be out there on your own.  No teammate to hide behind.  Nowhere to run.  Maybe it is for all of those reasons. I know not.  I know simply that I am a great fan and admirer of each and every youngster who has assembled in Atlantic City this weekend for the New Jersey High School Wrestling Championships.

There are as many great stories as there are wrestlers.  A senior from South Plainfield named Anthony Ashnault is attempting to become New Jersey's first undefeated four-time State Champion.  He enters this weekend as the favorite at 138 pounds sporting a 166-0 career mark.   Best thing about him according to those who know him is he is an even better person than he is a wrestler.  Damn high praise.  Next season he will wrestle as a freshman at Rutgers University.

Senior 170 pounder Jaeden Bernstein of Voorhees High School is in search of his first title. He placed sixth last season after being the second-place finisher at his weight two years ago.  Bernstein has accepted a commission to the United States Naval Academy.   The United States Navy can always use a wrestling, piano-playing virtuoso. Who could not?

If Bernstein is to capture his first title then one of the people he may have to best is fellow 170 pounder Ethan Ramos of Hawthorne High School.   Like Bernstein, Ethan Ramos arrives in Atlantic City as a Region Champion and as a returning place winner.  He finished fourth at this weight last year.  And while Bernstein is headed off to Annapolis to continue his education next year Ethan Ramos shall begin his collegiate life in Chapel Hill as a North Carolina Tar Heel.  What Ethan Ramos brings with him to Atlantic City that his rival does not is a twin brother who is also competing for a title.  Evan Ramos is the Hawthorne High 195 pounder and tonight he will begin his chase for a medal side by side with his twin brother and life-long training partner.  The Brothers Ramos are attempting to become the first set of twins to win a State title in the same year.  NOTE TO NEIGHBORS IN HAWTHORNE:  If you eing the doorbell at the Ramos home this weekend and get no reply they are not ignoring you.  They are otherwise engaged.

Robbie Maggiulli of Emerson Senior High School, a Junior who weighs about 195 and competes in the 220 pound class is likely considered a longshot to medal this weekend.  This is his first trip to the big show in AC.  Methinks he cares little about the odds.  Maggiulli was born with a condition known as bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and with conductive hearing loss as well.  The fact that he is essentially deaf does not hold him back.  In addition to his success as a wrestler he is a member of the National Honor Society and sported a 4.7 GPA last term.   

Vince Lombardi said, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."  While young Mr. Ashnault hopes to prove the former wrong he and all the rest of the kids who shall go all out and all in this weekend in New Jersey's gambling mecca are testaments to the latter.

Here is to hoping that each continues the chase for the rest of his life. 


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