It has been a few years since Miller wrestling head coach, Mike Artigliere, has been to Atlantic City to coach one of his wrestlers in the annual state championship tournament at Boardwalk Hall. But with two district champs returning, along with another returnee who reached the Regional Championships a year ago, it appears that the wait may be over for Millburn wrestling.
"I think overall we're going to have a solid team," Artigliere said. "I think when you have three returning district place winners, it's a good sign for them as well as your team."
The Millers finished in third place in the Super Essex Liberty Division, behind Verona and Montclair. The two key losses to graduation were heavyweight Sam Caivano and Danny Freeman at 171. Both reached the regions last year.
Without question, the top two returnees are Simon Levin and Gabe Gordon. Levin was the District 10 champion at 152 pounds and also took second in the county last winter, while Gordon won the district at 160. Levin finished fourth in the Region 3 Championships and Gordon took sixth. Both have eyes on taking that run a little farther and reaching the state tournament in Atlantic City. Both have expressed the hope of winning the county, district and region.
"I think I've trained very hard. I've been training all year round for the season, it's my senior year, so I think I'm in pretty good shape right now," Gordon said.
"I think I'm pretty prepared," Levin said. "I want to win counties this year, win regions and definitely make it to states and place down in AC."
Levin has returned and is looking to move up to 170, while Gordon is looking to stay put at 160.
Dylan Pollock, who is returning after a good sophomore season in which he reached the regional championships, is another candidate for a big winter in Millburn. He wrestled at 119 last season and was knocked out of the regions on the first day. He will wrestle at 126 this year.
Some of the other returning wrestlers who have a chance to make an impact include Teddy Gruer (132), Patrick D'Egidio (113), Josh Kessler (138) and Yaniv Dudai (145).
"We have some experience, we have some inexperience, but I think we have a good mix," Artigliere said.
Like many schools, the Millers will not be able to fill out all 14 weight classes this winter, especially with the new weights that have been implemented. During the offseason, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association removed one of the middle weights and added a heavier weight. Most of the time, it's much easier to find a high school athlete to fill out lower and middle weight classes than it is to fill the uppers.
"I don't like them, I don't like them at all. I haven't heard one coach that likes the new weight system," Artigliere said. "It's a small guy sport predominantly, it's easy to convince small guys to come out for it because it's a sport where you have weight classes. The big guys already have their sports, they have basketball and football and the big guy kind of sports. Why would you add another weight to the uppers and take one out of the middle? It's beyond me."
Some of the team goals include possibly qualifying for the state sectional playoffs, and competing for the Liberty Division crown. Artigliere would also like a return trip to Atlantic City in March.
"I'm hope so. We have Gabe, Simon and Dylan and I'm hoping one of them can do it, if not all of them," Artigliere said. "They definitely have the potential, but it's not an easy thing."
Millburn wrestling gets its season started on Saturday morning at the Edison Tournament.