As opposed to most other sports, wrestling is not one that involves much statistical analysis, so here are some numbers to bear in mind. Of the 35 athletes on the No. 10 ranked Springfield roster, 13 hail from the small but most densely populated state in the United States: New Jersey.
So, when No. 30 TCNJ (The College of New Jersey) paid a visit to Blake Arena this past Sunday, it is safe to say that there was a real Garden State atmosphere. To make the storyline complete, three New Jersey natives captured victories for the Pride en route to a 24-18 victory over the Lions.
Of the 13 New Jersey residents on Springfield’s roster, only two live in the same hometown (sophomore Tom Casper and freshman Jovan Rivera-Bergenfield). Oddly enough, only one member of the TCNJ roster shares a hometown with a SC wrestler.
Springfield junior Andrew Balina (Long Branch) was hoping to wrestle against his hometown friend Omar Akel, but instead had the burden of wrestling TCNJ’s Mike Denver, the nation’s No. 1 ranked competitor. Balina would ultimately lose by pinfall despite a courageous effort.
“TCNJ was actually my No. 1 choice to attend, but by the time I was accepted there, I had already committed to Springfield,” explained Balina. “If I had gone to TCNJ, I wouldn’t have wrestled but played football instead.”
Similarly, Pride junior Mike Fish (Middletown) entered Sunday’s match with some connections and high expectations as well. “I looked into TCNJ but never ended up applying, so I was pumped up for the match against them. TCNJ is always a tough team, so I looked forward to the tough match.” Fish defeated Kenneth Murphy at 174 lbs, scoring a decision-based victory (5-3 — 15-12).
In other match-ups featuring Jersey natives, Casper defeated Joey DiCarlo at 125 lbs (11-6 — 3-0), and SC freshman Eric Hamrick (Collingswood) bested Dan Herr at 149 lbs (4-2 — 6-9), while Pride senior co-captain Ryan McGilvray fell to John Darling at 157 lbs (7-0 — 6-12).
Both on the mats and off, the Pride wrestlers share a strong bond and chemistry, which could be attributed to so many of them being from the same state, but when you look at the other home state representatives, it is actually a bit surprising.
“Our team is a mixed bag of New England, New York and New Jersey,” said Fish. “I know the New Jersey wrestlers on the team always know who we’re wrestling, so it can get a bit more personal for us.”
Balina noted that there are no “cliques” and that the whole team is always together.
Before arriving at Springfield, Fish was already familiar with some of his soon-to-be teammates and has only grown closer over the past summers.
“I knew of Ryan [McGilvray] before getting here because he only lives a few towns away. I was already friends with Andrew [Balina] because we wrestled at the same club in high school and we hung out over the summer.”
Balina, like Fish, already had a few friends on the team upon enrolling at S.C.
“I was friends with Andrew and Mike Case and was familiar with Devin Biscaha and McGilvray because they were all in my region and our high schools wrestled against each other.”
Aside from Springfield getting the victory, the Garden State was done proud on Sunday afternoon. All in all, 15 New Jersey natives took to the mats, showing that although small, the state of New Jersey knows how to flex some muscle.