Edison’s Cleary avenges loss in GMC Tournament finals



 Metuchen High School’s Emily DelaCruz competes in the girls 200-yard Individual Medley at the Greater Middlesex County Swim Championships at Perth Amboy High School on Jan. 30.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Metuchen High School’s Emily DelaCruz competes in the girls 200-yard Individual Medley at the Greater Middlesex County Swim Championships at Perth Amboy High School on Jan. 30. SCOTT FRIEDMAN By his own — and his coach’s — admission, Robert Cleary prefers to let action rather than words speak about what he does on the wrestling mat.

That is why the Edison High School sophomore frequently paused to take deep breaths as he described his 12-5 victory over Old Bridge High School’s Steve Nadera in the 120-pound final at the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament.

“This is probably the biggest win in my life,” said Cleary, who avenged a 3-1 loss to Nadera (21-1) a week before and handed the Old Bridge wrestler his first defeat of the year.

Cleary’s coach, Tom White, echoed his wrestler’s sentiment about the impressive win at the GMCs, which were held on Jan. 30 and 31 at Piscataway Township High School.

“We both knew Robert (19-4) was a better takedown wrestler, so that’s what he focused on, finishing off opportunities, which he did,” he said. “Moving forward, he’s not going to worry about opponents’ strength and weaknesses but work on what he wants to do.”

Last year, Cleary put together a late-season surge and finished second at the regional championships, which earned him a trip to the state finals in Atlantic City. Although Cleary didn’t place, he believed the experience would prove invaluable as he entered this season. However, the sophomore got off to “a rocky start,” losing three matches in addition to the one against Nadera. “Because of that [start], beating Nadera was a big deal to me, and I now feel I’m back on the right track to being where I want to be,” he said.

That’s getting back to Atlantic City.

Billy Povalac (20-2) showed he is also a strong favorite to return to the states by his GMC performance. The senior breezed through the 145-pound class, punctuated by a 36-second pin of South River High School’s Jared Smith. Povalac pinned all four of his opponents in the tournament in a combined 6:57 and was named outstanding wrestler in the lower weights.

Povalac placed fifth in Atlantic City a year ago.

The other area wrestler to reach the finals was Bishop George Ahr High School 106-pounder Gavin Ringwood (19-6). The sophomore battled South Plainfield High School’s Joe Heilmann but couldn’t overcome the freshman’s quickness, which resulted in a 10-0 loss.

Despite the loss, Ringwood said his experience in the finals will help prepare him for future bouts.

“My goal is to make it to the regions,”

Ringwood said. “I know going against quality wrestlers [like Heilmann] will only help me get closer to doing that.”

Edison finished with 96 points and placed fifth in the team standings. Bishop Ahr was next with 83 points to place ninth; Metuchen High School finished 16th with 27 points; and J.P. Stevens High School placed 22nd with 10 points.


The St. Joseph High School of Metuchen swimming team captured its 37th consecutive GMC and Middlesex County Athletic Conference (MCAC) title on Jan. 31 at the Raritan Bay YMCA in Perth Amboy.

The Falcons accumulated 641.50 points to outdistance East Brunswick High School, which placed second with 559 points. Other area schools to place were Metuchen, which finished sixth with 265 points, and Bishop Ahr, which placed eighth with 134 points.

St. Joe’s built its lead on the strength of team balance with the only first-place finish coming from the 200 freestyle relay team of Andrew Thompson, Jonathan Baron, Tyler Catania and Enzo Butrico.

Other area swimmers to win firstplace medals were J.P. Stevens’s Gary Sun, who won the 100 butterfly, and Metuchen’s Michael Sparks, who captured the 100 freestyle.

In the girls championships the day before at the same venue, Bishop Ahr placed second to East Brunswick, scoring 450 points to the Bears’ winning total of 578.50 points. Metuchen came in third with 446 points.

Among the first-place medalists were the Trojans’ 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams; Katrina Kuhn, who won the 200 intermediate; and Jessica Schmidt, who captured the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Metuchen’s Julie Stankiewicz won the 200 and 500 freestyle races, and Edison’s Amie Ko finished first in the 100 breaststroke.

J.P. Stevens

In last week’s varsity roundup, it was noted that J.P. Stevens girls basketball coach Amy Bonk was a graduate of East Brunswick. Bonk, in fact, graduated from the school where she now coaches and was a member of three GMC Tournament championship teams.