South Brunswick High junior Ali Yildiz defeated Brandon Simon, 6-0, to win the 170-pound title in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament on Saturday.
"I came in third place last year and was the third seed in this one, but I'm a year older, more mature and prepared for the tournament," Yildiz said of the event held in Piscataway.
The match between Yildiz and JFK Iselin's Simon was scorless after the first period. Yildiz picked up three points with a near pin in the second period. He then widened his lead with an escape and takedown in the third period.
"I was confident I could win this," Yildiz said. "I've been there before.
"It's a great feeling to win. It's hard to explain. I was happy to win. I was just happy."
Yildiz ended up with the lone GMC title for South Brunswick.
"It was nice that I was able to come up for my team," Yildiz said. "South Brunswick has a lot of quality wrestlers. It was nice to remind people of that."
Coming into the season, South Brunswick had two defending GMC champions. Unfortunately, both were put in difficult positions when it came to repeating their titles.
Tyler Jaramillo was out with an injury. Jake Pietrefesa (195 pounds) was in the same weight class as Highland Park's Tyler Rios, the fourth-place finisher in the state last season.
Jake Pietrefesa and Jordan Pagano (126) both were seeded second in the tournament and both reached the title matches before being defeated.
Pietrefesa was defeated by Rios, 3-0. Pagano lost by technical fall to South Plainfield's Anthony Ashnault, 16-1.
"Jordan had to wrestle a kid that is the two-time defending state champion and one of the top ranked guys in the country," Dougherty said.
South Brunswick ended up placing eight wrestlers in the tournament. Justin Lopez (120), Constantine Risiotis (160) and Joe Pietrefesa (182) were all fifth. Dallas Siegel (220) was sixth. Gordon Thompson (heavyweight) was eighth.
South Plainfield was first out of the 22 teams with 249.5 points. JFK Iselin was second (155), followed by Old Bridge (145), Bishop Ahr (129) and South Brunswick (122).
"Fifth place isn't that bad," Dougherty said. "I'm okay with fifth place. This was a tournament where everyone was trying to get second (South Plainfield was a clear favorite). I was hoping to come in second, but what can you do?"
Especially when Jaramillo and Luke Rimmer were both out with injuries.
"With Tyler and Luke in the lineup, we have a legit chance for second place," Dougherty said.
South Brunswick also had a big meet on Jan. 13 when it defeated Monroe, 45-14. That victory allowed Dougherty to reach 300 wins for his career.
According to Dougherty, the accomplishment was mainly just one of "relief" as he knew it was bound to happen at some point this season. The coach, however, did appreciate the support showed for him and the program.
"I was impressed with the number of former wrestlers, parents and community members that were there," Dougherty noted.
According to Yildiz, it was a special night for everyone there.
"It was probably one of the best experiences we've had as a team," Yildiz said. "We have a lot of seniors on the team that have been with him for four years. We also had a lot of returning lettermen there. It made it all better."