Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wrestling: Gardner reaches milestone in 'Cats' win

John Gardner isn't all that interested in discussing his career resume.

But the longtime coach surpassed one of his idols on Thursday night as Gardner became High Point's all-time winningest coach in the Wildcats' 39-19 win over Hackettstown in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division clash in Wantage.

In doing so, High Point (4-3 overall, 2-1 division) gave Gardner his 289th career victory to move past Jeff Hull on the school's coaching list. Hull, who was Gardner's coach during his fine career that was capped by winning the 189-pound state title in 1990, amassed a mark of 288-104-4 over two stints with the program.

Gardner, who is now 289-80-2 over his 17 seasons, also was glad to have longtime assistant coach Mickey Thomas on the bench to witness another historic moment. Thomas, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, was High Point's first district champion -- winning the 115-pound title in 1968.

"Jeff and Mickey were very important in my development in wrestling and beyond," said Gardner, who compiled a career mark of 131-8-1 -- then a state record for victories -- and won four region titles from 1986-90.

"I've been pretty fortunate to go through High Point where wrestling is important. We didn't always win -- the 'Cats went 69-12 overall and won three SCIL titles in four seasons with Gardner in the lineup -- but we competed and wrestled hard. Jeff and Mickey were a big part of that. Now, I'm coaching next to Mickey."

High Point, which has only had four head coaches and just two losing campaigns (1970-71 and 1971-72) in 49 seasons, is in the midst of a rebuilding project after claiming back-to-back Group 2 titles for the first time in school history. The 'Cats have been hit hard by injuries this season, including the loss of two-time Region 1 champ and former state placewinner Mike Derin (2-0 at 132 pounds), a senior who is likely done for the year with a knee injury.

Senior 126-pounder Dom Gallo (12-3), who has 94 career wins, sustained an elbow injury over the weekend at the Escape the Rock Tournament. Gallo wrestled on Tuesday night against Morris Knolls, but he did not wrestle against Hackettstown and may miss Saturday's match at Phillipsburg.

Against Hackettstown, senior Ryan Cullen started off the match with a solid 4-3 win over Anthony Carida at 152 pounds. Senior star Jason Gaccione followed with a pin at 160 before the Tigers reeled off three straight wins to take a short-lived 12-9 lead. Junior Kevin Lewis and senior Henry Kuperus followed with back-to-back pins at 220 and 285, while Malcolm Sinclair added a 6-4 win at 106 and the 'Cats never looked back.

Hackettstown (6-5, 1-1) also got wins from freshman Alex Carida, who earned a 5-3 win in sudden victory over Region 1 qualifier Chase Babus at 113, and talented junior Joe Renne, who posted a major decision at 126.


152 -- Sr. Ryan Cullen (8-8), HP, d. Jr. Anthony Carida (14-5), 4-3.
160 -- Sr. Jason Gaccione (22-1), HP, p. So. Tyler Palomino (0-4), 1:25.
170 -- Jr. Nick Renne (9-5), H, d. Jr. Kurt Rosner (1-12), 4-3.
182 -- Jr. Eldin Ribic (8-11), H, p. Sr. Ryan Olinger (1-6), 1:40.
195 -- So. Kyle Connelly (13-5), H, d. So. Richard Kinkead (0-3), 4-0.
220 -- Jr. Kevin Lewis (14-8), HP, p. Sr. Tahke Martin (7-9), 3:31.
285 -- Sr. Henry Kuperus (6-11), HP, p. Sr. Teddy Gurnowski (14-6), 3:32.
106 -- Fr. Malcolm Sinclair (6-7), HP, d. So. Justin Bennett (8-10), 6-4.
113 -- Fr. Alex Carida (14-6), H, d. So. Chase Babus (3-7), 5-3 SV.
120 -- Fr. Trey Osborn (6-5), HP, d. So. Steven Nicotra (8-10), 4-0.
126 -- Jr. Joe Renne (16-4), H, md. Jr. Garrett Fenlon (0-1), 14-6.
132 -- Fr. Sawyer Fenlon (1-1), HP, p. Jr. Brandon Baker (7-10), 5:18.
138 -- Sr. Trevor Risdon (1-1), HP, d. Fr. Robert Spezza (11-10), 12-10.
145 -- Jr. Jared Kobis (18-0), HP, d. So. Anthony Gonzalez (9-9), 5-0.
Records -- Hackettstown 6-5, 1-1; High Point 4-3, 2-1.

1 comment:

  1. Johnny Gardner is as good as they come in the wrestling world. Never looking for accolades, he just does what he does best. His kids are always well prepared and win or lose are gentlemen. A no nonsense program with a no nonsense coach. Jeff Hull set the bar and, along with Mick, Johnny was taught the 'right way' to coach kids. He brought the Wildcats to the top. Congratulations to all of those in the High Point Wrestling Family!