“I’m a big believer that if you want to get good, you have to seek out the competition,” Phoenix High School head coach Gene Mills said. “These last two weekends, our guys definitely looked for some serious competition.”
After wrestling at the 1000 Islands Duals in the Empire State, his squad made its way down to the shore for the inaugural National Wrestling Hall of Fame (New Jersey Chapter) duals in Long Branch, New Jersey.
The squad from Section 3 began with three contests against some top club teams from the Garden State and Ohio on Friday before taking second place in the Small High School Division event on Saturday.
In the tournament on the second day, Phoenix began with three lopsided victories against teams from the host state (Northern Burlington, Holy Cross and Fury) before facing New Jersey Select – a group of “free agent” wrestlers. In a close dual, the Firebirds needed to score nine points in the final two bouts to win, but came up a bit short to take the runner up position.
“New Jersey Select was a really good bunch of guys,” Mills said. “It came down to the last few matches and I’m really proud of our team. I’m really glad we went. We saw some great competition, which can only help us. The way I look at it, they did phenomenal, especially compared to the guys that weren’t there.”
One wrestler who stood out was two-time state champion Nick Tighe, who wrestled at 143 pounds.
“Nick went 7-0 and pretty much dominated everybody he faced,” Mills said. “He’s been working all summer to make sure he obtains his goals again next year. He knows everyone is gunning for him. I think he’s made improvements, especially in positioning and more crisply using his setups.”
In addition, Mills noted the efforts of Rowdy Prior, who notched over 30 victories a year ago for Phoenix, and Tommy Hill, who competed for Fulton in 2011-12. According to the coach, both went 5-2.
The trip was an opportunity for Mills to participate in weekend of activities for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, of which he is a Distinguished Member.
“I think they did a great job initiating the process of doing something for the Hall of Fame,” Mills said. “It was a great chance for the kids to get in some time at the beach too. We had a great time swimming and bodysurfing. Overall, it was awesome. We saw some great competition and, honestly, that’s why you wrestle.”
For some videos of Team Phoenix, please see below:
Nick Tighe Talks About Going for 3 State Titles in a Row and College Options
Nick Tighe (Phoenix) vs. Tyree Edmund (N Burlington, NJ)
Tommy Hill (Phoenix) vs. Zach Verity (N Burlington NJ)
Aaron Wilkinson (Phoenix) vs. Casey Cliver (N Burlington NJ)
Theo Powers (Phoenix) vs. Anthony Foggia (N Burlington NJ)
Franky Nassivera (Phoenix) vs. Rahmil Davis (N Burlington NJ)