16 Division titles. 15 Shore Conference Tournament titles. 15 State Sectional titles. Nine State Group titles. It’s hard to find a Shore Conference wrestling program more decorated than that of Brick Memorial. For wrestling fans at the Shore and around New Jersey, the Mustangs are synonymous with producing winners year after year on the mat.
However, the last two seasons have seen Brick Memorial fail to capture any one of those four titles that it has become so familiar with winning. But with a strong 7-2 start to the 2017-18 season, the Mustangs are determined to reclaim their place among the best in the Shore.
“I’m so proud of the work ethic in these kids and their persistence to come into the gym and work hard,” second-year head coach Mike Kiley said. “They work their tails off during the offseason and during the season too.”
A former Mustang wrestler himself, Kiley lead Brick Memorial to a 13-7 record in his first season as head coach last year. It earned the Mustangs a third-place finish in the A South division, quarterfinal appearance in the Shore Conference Tournament, and finalists in the Central Jersey Group 4 Sectional.
Despite losing three starters to graduation from last year’s squad, Brick Memorial has shown an ability to retool and reload its lineup this season. After losing its opening match of the season at home against division rival and two-time defending A-South champ Southern (8-1), the Mustangs bounced back with four straight wins to improve to 4-1. The four-game win streak featured dominating non-conference wins over Notre Dame and Hamilton, as well as impressive Shore Conference victories over division foe Toms River North (5-1) and Shore (9-3).
After the holiday break, Brick Memorial’s win streak was snapped by A-South nemesis Jackson Memorial (5-5) on the road. But the Mustangs got back to their winning ways with a pair of non-conference wins over Robbinsville and Bordentown. In its most recent win, Brick Memorial took apart Central (2-12) to improve to 2-2 in A South competition.
With five matches remaining before the Shore Conference Tournament begins at the end of the month, the Mustangs know that it will not be easy. Notable opponents for Brick Memorial down the stretch include A South clashes against Toms River South, Toms River East, and crosstown rival Brick Township.
One key to Brick Memorial’s strong start has been the balanced contributions it has been getting up and down its lineup from upperclassmen and freshmen. Two of the seniors leading the way this season have been Sam Williams and Liam Rivera. At the 195 weight class, Williams is 11-2 on the season with a second-place finish at the TCNJ Pride Wrestling Tournament and a third-place finish at the Mustang Classic last month. Finishing third at TCNJ was Rivera, who is 6-3 at 120 pounds this year. Another upperclassmen contributing to the Mustangs’ success has been junior Caleb Alvarado. At 138 pounds, Alvarado is 8-3 on the season and placed third in his weight class at TCNJ as Brick Memorial finished second overall in the tournament.
Two standout freshmen for the Mustangs this season have been Vin Santaniello and David Szuba. At the 106 weight level, Santaniello has posted a dominating 15-1 record with a first-place finish at TCNJ and a second-place finish at the Mustang Classic. At 160 pounds, Szuba is 10-5 on the year for Brick Memorial.
If Brick Memorial is going to reclaim its place among the best in the Shore and in New Jersey, Kiley said that the key is improving everyday and focusing on the little things.
“We preach winning in the room everyday,” Kiley said. “We want to compete in those big matches, but we need to limit bonus points and can’t give up pins.”
As a former wrestler at Brick Memorial, the second-year coach knows what it means to win as a Mustang. And he knows what it would mean to bring the program back to the mountaintop of wrestling.
“It would give us some credibility as coaches for what we’re trying to do here and all the hard work that we put in,” Kiley said. “The wrestlers, the coaches, we all are working very hard toward that goal everyday. I want to give these kids the taste and opportunity of winning here that I had.”
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