West Essex wrestling looks to bring home state title once again

By Molly Simon, Sports Apprentice

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After last year’s winning season, and with a state title on their back, the West Essex Wrestling team has started their 2019-2020 season very strong. Defeating some of the top teams in the state, the Knights have moved up in state rankings to number 17. They lost some very impressive seniors from last year, which meant they had some spots to fill on the roster. They are now looking to win another state championship to bring back to West Essex. The Knights record as of now is 17-4 and they are the first seed in the state tournament.

Senior captains Bardyl Gashi, Sam Carsillo, Alex Jones, Darren Jones and the rest of the upperclassmen have made it easy for the new underclassmen to adjust to wrestling with a winning team. 

“I think we have hit the ground running, with that we have some seniors back this year who are still kind of reiterating the principals that the seniors last year held the team to,” Coach Mike Markey said. “I think that the freshman are doing excellent as far as being on the right time table. They are right where they are supposed to be and the seniors are doing a great job ensuring that.”

The Knights have defeated some of the top teams in the state, such as Saint Peter’s Prep, who was originally ranked 14. This was a big upset, as the Knights were predicted to lose by a huge margin. They are in the midst of their state tournament, which they are looking to take home again. 

“As a team we plan on going the entire way, winning sections, winning groups, going back to back,” sophomore Ricky Cassidy said.

The Knights had a very successful Essex County tournament. They had seven finalists and five champions this year and all four of the senior captains won titles. In addition, Gashi won his second county title and the Jones twins both won their third title. 

Alex Jones said that the team’s bond is what makes them so special, and credits their close bond as a group of individuals with helping them perform to their maximum ability.

“We’re all really close — that’s what makes us a group title team,” Jones said. “I love all my teammates. I love my coach. I love West Essex.”

Markey said he’s had a very fun time coaching the team this year and loves the way they are progressing. 

“I can feel the passion,” Markey said. “I can feel how much these guys care, and that makes me care even that much more.”