Three junior wrestlers from North Bergen triumphed over their opponents at the recent New Jersey Novice Wrestling Association (NJNWA) state tournament at Madison High School in Morris County.
The township’s Junior Wrestlers Program participated in the tournament for the first time. Jerzey Ryan took first place in his weight division, making him the youngest wrestler in North Bergen history to have won the tournament.
Derek Rodriguez and Tyler Hisler both placed fourth in their weight division. Jerzey and Derek are the youngest North Bergen wrestlers to place in the novice tournament.
Wrestlers with one to two years experience throughout New Jersey participated in the tournament. Qualifying bouts were held at Fair Lawn School on Feb. 3, where wrestlers had to place first, second, or third in order to advance to the state tournament.
The North Bergen Junior Bruins Wrestling Program had four of their novice wrestlers, Jerzey, Derek, Tyler, and Aiden Cruz, advance to the tournament. Following their success in the tournament, North Bergen’s junior wrestlers advanced to the novice tournament.
“It feels awesome to win, I can’t wait for wrestling season to start again.” – Jerzey Ryan
According to NJNWA’s website, their mission is to “provide first and second year wrestlers an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the competitive nature of tournament-style wrestling, while building their confidence and wrestling resume.”
NJNWA realizes how difficult starting wrestlers find it to progress.
“The NJNWA recognizes that most wrestling tournaments are geared towards the top 20 percent of wrestlers and ignore the bottom 65 percent of participants still trying to find their way,” says the website. “We are dedicated to providing a venue to develop and integrate novice wrestlers into the sport of wrestling.”
North Bergen Junior Wrestlers Program Director Chet Anderson agrees that the young wrestlers are limited because of their age.
“It’s hard for them to compete in a lot of things because of their age so when [the tournament] came along it was a great opportunity,” said Anderson.
Anderson said North Bergen’s Junior Bruins recreational program takes pride in its young wrestlers who will one day advance to high school level.
“They have a lot of ambition and they want to be just like the older [wrestlers],” said Anderson. “They work very hard, they come to practice every day and they’re always asking questions. When they get to high school, they’re going to be really good.”
After taking first place in his weight division, Jerzey said: “It feels awesome to win. I can’t wait for wrestling season [which ends on Sunday] to start again. I’m grateful to all my coaches. They are smart, and when my coaches tell me something, I listen.”
Jerzey was up against wrestlers from Fair Lawn, Secaucus, Elmwood Park, Washington Township, Chatham, and West Essex within his weight group. His final opponent was Rhett Washieski from the Scorpions Wrestling Club, who had beaten him earlier this year.
Jerzey believes he is often underestimated because his peers don’t believe him when he lists his wrestling wins.
“I feel bad when I tell kids at school that I win my matches because they don’t believe me,” said Jerzey. “In a match, I like it, because I just show them I can beat them.”
Anderson attributed the wrestler’s success to his co-director Julian Yecora, and coaches who were formerly with the North Bergen Recreational wrestling programs and are now the high school’s wrestlers, including Bobby Dabal, Louis Rabelo and Idaldo Gonzalez. He also thanked father and son coaches Angel Quinones Sr. and Angel Quinones Jr.
Angel Quinones Jr. was also a part of the recreation center, a former high school wrestler and now a college wrestler.
Jerzey was inspired to wrestle when he saw Junior Bruins compete.
“I wanted to wrestle ever since I saw [brothers] Jeffrey [Rivera] and Justin [Cantor] wrestle for the North Bergen Junior Bruins rec team and it seemed fun,” he said. “Wrestling is important because I love to wrestle.”
Although most children his age would hate to lose, he believes they are opportunities to learn from mistakes.
“I love wrestling in matches, I love to practice and even when I lose, I learn,” he said.
Anderson said that he and the coaches tell the wrestlers that they “learn more from losses than their wins.”
“You learn what you did wrong and you go back and you correct that,” he said. “It makes you better and better each time.”
The winners from the Novice tournament will be added to the Wrestling Wall of Honors at North Bergen’s Recreation.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org