Boys wrestling team wins division

SPARTA. It was the Spartans’ first division championship in nearly a decade.

Sparta /
| 14 Apr 2024 | 09:40

It was literally a banner year for the Sparta High School wrestling program - and that’s no small achievement in such an intense yet rewarding sport.

The Spartans won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference National Division with a record of 5-0. It was their first division championship in nearly a decade.

They posted an outstanding overall record of 19-4 for the season.

“This season, the team had a lot of success,” head coach Daniel Trappe said.

One match that stands out was the quarterfinal round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament. The Spartans defeated Pascack Valley, 39-33.

“Pascack was the favorite to win the tournament and we didn’t match up very well with them. The team went above and beyond expectations, and we had two wrestlers (Ben Bialkin and Trevor Ekeland) make a huge impact by delivering two very important pins against tough opponents. The team showed unity and the ability to wrestle against the odds by overcoming a tough situation.’’

In the semifinal round of the sectionals, the Spartans lost by two points to Wayne Valley.

Student athletes on the roster made steady improvements as the season progressed, the coach said.

“This season, we had a few wrestlers that went above expectations, but two stuck out. Both wrestlers were first-year varsity athletes and both made massive strides in improvement.

“John Petelicki, who was a first-year wrestler, was asked to do a very hard task, which was to compete at the varsity level with zero wrestling experience. Instead of backing away from the challenge, JP charged. He not only won his first-ever varsity match but he won by pin. I celebrated like he won a state title because I knew how rare it is to see a first-year wrestler even win their first-ever match.

“JP kept the improvement growing throughout the season and finished with nine wins and finished fourth in the district,” Trappe said.

“Lucas Brown joined the team a little late, and I knew once he got on the mat, he was going to be a force. Luke had some wrestling experience but hasn’t competed since his freshman year. Luke came out the gate sprinting, winning his first eight matches and finishing sixth in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament.

“Like JP, his improvement kept growing, and by the end of the season, e finished with a 29-5 record, first place in the district and fifth in the region. That type of progress you don’t see very much and I can’t wait for next season to see him push to the next level.’’

The future for the Spartans appears bright as well.

“This team is built around one word: family,’’ Trappe said. “We say it at the end of practice, at the start and end of every match, and it is something I make sure the team understands. This sport is one where you need support; it’s demanding and very difficult to do on your own. You need a group to help push you to the next level.

“Your partner in the practice room, your coaches and your fellow teammates are all parts of that support system. With this family, our team was able to grow to where it is now and we look to continue that each season.”

Most of the wrestlers are returning and there will be a large incoming freshman class of experienced wrestlers, he noted.

This sport is one where you need support; it’s demanding and very difficult to do on your own. You need a group to help push you to the next level.”
- Daniel Trappe, head boys wrestling coach, Sparta High School