DOVER TWP. – Camden Catholic senior Jeremy Nutt spent the better part of Sunday morning with an eye to the portable scoreboard adjacent to Mat 3 on the RJW Barnabus Health Arena floor while running scenarios through his head.
Set to wrestle at 220 pounds, Nutt kept thinking about bonus points. In his mind, the Irish needed every single point they could get against Pope John XXIII to win the Group B state title for the first time since 2014. Well versed in Irish history, Nutt has been through a lot in four years and for a program in search of its 17th title (third best in New Jersey) this looked to be his moment to shine.
“You go in to every match looking for bonus points or a pin,” said Nutt, who weighed in at 195 pounds against 210-pound Cole Zydell. “Once 195 ended and I saw that score, I knew a decision clinched it. (Assistant coach Bill Heverly) came up to me. He said nothing but he just looked at me and I knew had to go out and fight hard. Push my pace. At the end, I just wanted to win.”
Camden Catholic beat Pope John XXIII 33-29 to secure the NJSIAA Group B title on Sunday. The Irish won eight bouts including five straight to end what seemed like an endless stretch of failure for a program known for its success over the last 25 seasons. Nutt’s 7-6 decision clinched the match that in the end could have gone awry at 152 pounds when Brandon Mooney lost due to injury default. That said the Irish persevered and showed the character they’ve long been known to have in abundance.
“I’m not even going to talk about that,” head coach Matt Walsh said. “Pope John is an incredibly tough team and I feel for (Pope John’s) Robert Garcia. I know he’s hurt and just hope he’s good to wrestle in the state tournament.
“In the end we won this on our terms. We have a lot of kids that have waited a long time for this. When I took over the program (Nutt) was one of the freshmen who wasn’t sure he was going to wrestle sophomore year. That’s a credit to him and everyone one of our seniors who stuck through and got us back to this point.”
For Nutt the win proved especially gratifying. The senior has battled an injured right knee since the end of last season. He’s missed time in the past two weeks, but, on Sunday, his knee in a brace and taped that most of his 195 pounds may have been the brace.
Nutt got an early takedown, but in a back-and-forth match, almost gave up a late takedown that could have changed the entire script for this day. Instead, he fought it off and walked away with a big win.
“There is not better feeling than coming through for your teammates,” said Nutt, who admitted to battling physical and mental issues because of a balky knee that has followed him around since sophomore year. “It shows that God works in mysterious ways. He kept me in this sport for a reason. This has taught me so many things, more than just wrestling but about life. This sport has brought me to my highest highs and lowest lows.
“These coaches stayed by my side. These teammates stayed by my side. They’ve pushed me to levels I’ve never thought I could reach. They never let me give up on myself.
“I’m a state champ, that’s all that I’ve got to say.”