MONROE: Dynamic duo maintain D-20 dominance

Juniors Emburgia and Saley each win third district titles

By Rich Fisher, Sports Editor
   SOUTH BRUNSWICK — If it’s February, rest assured the celebrations include Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day and the day where Sam “Bam Bam” Emburgia and David Saley hold up their bracket cards after winning yet another District 20 title.
   The two juniors were at it again last Saturday, as both won their third straight district championships in helping Monroe Township High School to a fourth-place finish with 124 points.
   Emburgia won the 125-pound weight class with relative ease, pinning his way into the finals before beating Old Bridge’s Conor Hayes, 8-4, in the finals. Saley claimed the 145-pound title by recording a 21-second fall and major decision before pinning South Brunswick’s Colin Preacher in 2:31 in the finals.
   ”I think I did pretty good,” Emburgia said after beating Hayes. “I could have done a little better. I made a few mistakes here and there but other than that I did good.
   ”I made a mistake (Friday) with a sloppy shot, and got a little too cautious at the end of this one. I should have gone a little harder.”
   Saley was also happy with his weekend effort at South Brunswick High School.
   ”I felt in control most of the time,” he said. “There were some situations where your head hits the mat and you feel a little iffy, but you work through it and that’s where all the hard work in the summer pays off.
   ”I expected to get past this round. Not because I’ve won districts before, but because you get a little more confident as the year goes on, you get mentally tougher and you expect yourself to do well.”
   Emburgia and Saley were joined on the winner’s podium by first-time district champ Mark Tyson, who won at 189 pounds. The Falcons advanced a total of six wrestlers to the Region 5 tournament, as Chris Garibaldi took second at 152 and Kyle Jensen (119) and Hunter Pipala (171) claimed third. “I was hoping to get six through,” coach Allen Rushing said. “I would have liked to have gotten a couple more, but six was our acceptable goal. We had seven last year, so we came close.
   ”Sam and Dave were number one seeds, so they did what they had to. Hunter did a nice job getting third, Kyle beat a kid who beat him earlier this year, and Chris made a good run to get into the finals.”
   Unfortunately for the trio, all three fell in Tuesday’s first-round action. The three district champs jump into the region fray tonight (Friday) at Hunterdon Central, and Emburgia and Saley are both looking for a ticket to Atlantic City next weekend.
   Emburgia has already gone twice, and this year wants to make a statement at states. “I’m where I should be, I just have to keep working to stay there now, no breaks,” said Emburgia, who is 37-1 with 28 pins. “I want to win regions and place in the top three in states.”
   He won regions as a freshman and finished second last year. Emburgia said the loss in the finals motivates him, as does the only loss he suffered this year to Edison’s Jeff Peterson in the county tournament semifinals.
   ”That one loss is a little annoying,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll see him in regions. It doesn’t matter who I wrestle, I just want to beat them.”
   Saley, now 31-6, is trying to reach states for the first time and will draw on his past region defeats for knowledge.
   ”You try to use everything as an experience,” he said. “You don’t’ want to forget anything because then you might do it again. At the same time, you can’t let something like (losing in regions) get to you, or you’ll never get past that point.”
   Emburgia is hoping he and all his teammates can move on, as it seems to help the cause.
   ”We feed off each other,” he said.
   For Emburgia and Saley, the districts have been nothing short of a feeding frenzy.