By Josh Lashley
Everyone who follows the sport closely can attest to the fact that New Jersey has among the highest level team and individual wrestlers to be found anywhere in the country.
Therefore, Frank Rodgers, the veteran and knowledgeable head coach for the Hackettstown High School wrestling program takes the selection of captains on the roster quite seriously.
This season, the Tigers had a pair of captains on the roster who prove their worth not just once in a while, but on a continual basis.
Dan Olson (senior, 220 pounds) and Zeb Burke (junior, 160 pounds) were the captains for the Hackettstown wrestling squad.
Olson and Burke are well versed as to what it takes to be successful on the mat and they share their meaningful experience with their teammates.
“Both wrestlers are seasoned and experienced varsity wrestlers,’’ Rodgers said. “They have solid work ethics and are respected by the team members and coaches alike.’’
Both student-athletes enjoyed winning seasons individually and they constantly worked to become more complete competitors.
“Zeb has gotten a lot better on his feet and Dan has improved his mat wrestling tremendously [as the season progressed],’’ Rodgers said.
Coach Rodgers certainly takes note and appreciates the ways in which Olson and Burke helped their teammates improve on the mat.
“Part of what they do is lead by example,’’ Rodgers said. “They show up every day and work hard every day. They are mature and conduct themselves in a way that always makes us proud.’’
The Tigers performed well enough throughout the dual meet season to earn a berth in the NJSIAA North 2 Group 2 Sectional Tournament as the No. 7 seed. They lost, 37-31, to second seeded Bernards in the North 2 Group 2 quarterfinal round.
“I started (wrestling) my freshman year,’’ Olson said. “I got cut from the basketball team and my coaches influenced me to join. I’m pretty quick as a 220 pounds or heavyweight. All of my coaches and my mom and dad [are my most positive influences].’’
Hackettstown took part in the NJSIAA District 11 Tournament at Morristown High School on February 16 and placed a very respectable fourth in the team scoring. Mendham won the District 11 team championship. Olson placed third at 220 pounds and Burke was second at 160 pounds for the Tigers. Alejandro Castro (182 pounds) captured an individual District 11 title for Hackettstown. Zachery Yanoff (senior, 145 pounds) and Matthew Bremner (sophomore, 195 pounds) finished second along with Burke. Michael Sullivan (120 pounds) and Cody Moto (285 pounds) finished in fourth place for the Tigers at District 11.
At the Region 3 Tournament, Burke won three matches and finished in fifth place. He had an overall season record of 27-10. Olson lost in the preliminary round and had a season record of 21-12. Bremner lost in the preliminary round and tallied a record of 23-13 for the season. Moto lost his preliminary round match and finished with 10 wins this winter. Yanoff was defeated in the preliminary round and finished his season with a record of 19-12.