WOODBURY HEIGHTS – On a night that there were few unknowns, Chase Conover stole the spotlight for a Gateway wrestling team in search of retribution.
Conover, a senior that began his wrestling career a little over three weeks ago, secured a pin at 160 pounds in the Gators 44-28 win over Collingswood in an early season Colonial Conference tilt. Gateway (2-0) had the date circled as soon as the schedules came out having lost the last two seasons to the Panthers (1-1).
“I know (Collingswood coach Dechlin Moody) wants everyone to think they are down but I’m not buying it,” Gateway head coach Jim Rutter said. “That’s still Collingswood. That’s still a group of tough, talented kids. That’s a really well coached team. For us this is a big win that we’ve waited three years for.”
Of course to secure the win, the Gators needed a full effort and not just wins from their top three wrestlers in Dante Mininno (120), Antonio Mininno (126) and Tim Sparks (138). Combined those three registered 17-of-18 points with a forfeit, tech fall and pin, but Rutter knew as well as anyone he needed others to step up.
To that end, the Gators sent senior Chase Conover onto the mat at 160 pounds against Collingswood’s John Lex. The Gators held a four point lead with two bouts left and a decision would secure a team victory, but Conover, in all reality, remains a mystery on the mat.
“Conover has been wrestling for three weeks,” Rutter said. “That kid has got heart you can’t imagine. He comes in here and works hard every day and stays after practice. He even goes down to clubs and he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s a beast.
“And he’s a senior. I want to strangle him and say ‘where have you been the last three years?”
That’s right, Conover is a converted soccer player who is in his first year of wrestling. No matter, in a back-and-forth match, in which both wrestlers appeared to have pins within reach, it was Conover who got the all-important six points at the 5:04 mark to put Gateway up 38-28 with one bout left.
“I focused more on school my first three years,” Conover said. “This year, I figured I could come out and see if wrestling would toughen me up a bit. So far, I’ve been working hard and my body has held up.
“Coming out tonight, it was crazy. I was thinking just give it my all. I was mentally prepared, go out and use what I learned and no matter what give my all. I wasn’t going to quit, I don’t want to be known as the guy who quit.”
Conover’s heroics came on the heels of a huge pin by Lucas DeSantis at 152 over Chris Latch. In another tight bout, the Gateway junior, who counter to Conover has wrestled most of his life, got a pin at 2:52 to put Gateway up 32-28.
“I knew what I had to do,” said DeSantis, who struggled in the Gator Tournament last weekend in which he got pinned twice. “As soon as I got the jitters out at the table I just wanted to wrestle.
“We were really focused and no one was messing around before the match. You know, I was sick at the start of the year and trying to make weight. I didn’t like the way I wrestled last week and I didn’t wrestle Lindenwold (in the opening dual meet). Tonight I wrestled the way I know I can.”
182-Aaron Carter, C, maj. dec. Matt Goetz, 14-1; 195-Billy Plianthos, C, pin Kyle Albeser, 5:42; 220-Noah Little, G, pin Tom Ngo, 3:54; 285-Matt Meloni, C, pin Chris Guy, 3:11; 106-Peter Potts, C, dec. Ryan Kolecki, 6-2; 113-Jake Counsellor, G, dec. Matt Havens, 3-0; 120-Dante Mininno, G, won by forfeit; 126-Antonio Mininno, G, tech fall, Brian Cole, 17-1, 3:35; 132-Andrew Clark, C, pin, Kodi Petroski, 0:49; 138-Tim Sparks, G, pin Dahmir Blackney, 1:44; 145-Joe Downing, C, dec. Fernando Gismondi, 6-2; 152-Lucas DeSantis, G, pin Chris Latch, 2:52; 160-Chase Conover, G, pin John Lex 5:04; 170-Tom Goetz, G, pin Michael Hernandez, 2:49.