PHILLIPSBURG – In the final bout of the 2021 NJSIAA wrestling championships, Brick Memorial’s David Szuba claimed one of the most significant state championship victories in Shore Conference history.
Just over halfway through the first period, Szuba countered an underhook and hit a header shot that threw Toms River North’s John O’Donnell to his back for a thunderous 1:15 drop that resulted in to Szuba the New Jersey 285 pound state title on Sunday Night at Phillipsburg High School.
O’Donnell had taken a 2-0 lead with a strikeout early in the fight, but Szuba managed to escape and find an opening for a home run. And when he logged in, it was over. The senior Mustangs let out a primitive scream that was only surpassed by his father, Ben, who lifted his son into the air with a roar of his own as the crowd watched in awe.
“I was looking for pressure on the arms, I was looking for punches in the duck because it’s so big,” Szuba said. “His pressure is from fighting his arm and he pulled on a hook and I was like ‘man, whatever man’, and I sent him.”
“I started with judo so I know my headgear is good and I can throw anyone. I just had to be in the right position because he’s tall and he’s tall and he was hunched over. right above me. I felt it and it was there. and I have big hips so I sent it into orbit. “
Szuba’s victory settled the score with O’Donnell after the two parted ways earlier this season. Szuba won in a double competition, O’Donnell won in the central region final and Szuba won the rubber heavyweight crown match.
The victory also put the Brick Memorial in the history books. A day after Evan Tallmadge, Anthony Santaniello and Vincent Santaniello won back-to-back 113- to 126-pound state championships, Szuba gave Brick Memorial four state champions in one season for the first time in Shore history. Conference and just the third time in the modern era of the state. High Point in 2011 and Bergen Catholic in 2015 and 2016 also accomplished the feat.
“This is who we train with, this is our coaching staff, this is where we train – Shore Thing is a big club – we always growl, always put our heads down and we knew we were going to do it. do, ”Szuba said.
When the two met in a double meet on April 1, it was Szuba who won in the fall at the start of the third period. O’Donnell nearly got a cradle in that fight, but Szuba broke free for a knockdown. When O’Donnell attempted a Granby Roll to start the third period, Szuba caught him and cornered him for the fall.
In the rematch, O’Donnell made his adjustment and fought the fight on his terms, slowing him down and using every piece of his 6-foot-4, 282-pound frame to pound Szuba onto the mat and push him with power. vicious. half. O’Donnell came away with a 5-1 victory in the Central Region final that landed him the No.1 seed for the state tournament.
On the drive back to The Brick from the regional tournament at Hunterdon Central, Szuba and Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley began devising a plan to reverse the loss if they encountered O’Donnell in the of the state final.
“We had a long drive together from the super regions, just him and me, and he actually said to me, ‘Why do I have to lose to win? “Said Kiley.” In the past he lost to (Jackson Memorial’s Kyle) Epperly, (Jackson Memorial’s Brock) Winston and then he beat these guys in the most important game. We had a plan to keep the pressure on, looking for a duck and we knew it was gonna be there and, hey, it worked. It was really set up by that pressure, that constant pressure. “
“I learned that I had to concentrate more and be calmer so as not to tire myself because if you tire against a fat guy…” Szuba said. “I gave up on the withdrawal and thought ‘whatever.’ I got up, stuck with the plan and opened up. There was a great opportunity and I took it.”
Part of that plan was also to make sure that O’Donnell couldn’t use his towering height to his advantage. When O’Donnell scored the first out it wasn’t ideal, but Brick Memorial didn’t panic.
“You never worry with Szuba on the mat,” said Brick Memorial assistant coach Dave Kiley, who works with Szuba on a daily basis in the Brick Memorial wrestling hall. “It was not the most optimal start, but you have to remember that it is Szuba and that he always finds a way in the big spots.”
Last season in Atlantic City, Szuba missed a state championship by two points when he suffered a 9-7 loss to Camden Catholic’s Martin Cosgrove in the 195-pound state final. Second place is both a big achievement and a low point for a high school wrestler. He has fed Szuba for the past 414 days.
“I worked really hard to get there last year and to be short it eats you alive,” Szuba said. “It haunts you at night, how did it happen?” Then you start to put together the pieces of why it didn’t work and you just have to put your head down and grind. And I squeaked.
“It’s a special group of kids, they work their tail for us and it’s been a long time for David Szuba,” said Mike Kiley. “He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever known. This kid went to dark places in our wrestling room to work to the bone. He ended our weekend and he ended his career at top of its place. “
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