By Andy Loigu
Matt Valli was honored as Outstanding Wrestler at the John Goles Tournament in Washington on Wednesday, as the 132-pound Warren Hills senior won the championship in his weight class for the third time.
He was one of three champions from Warren Hills, which finished second in the team score behind champion Delaware Valley and ahead of third place West Morris. Eight teams took part. Blue Streak wrestlers were place winners in eight of the 14 weight classes.
Valli reached the final with 9-3 decisions over Garrett Stewart of Sparta in the quarterfinal and Andrew Gapas of North Hunterdon in the semifinal. He won the title with a 7-3 decision over Connor Mills of Delaware Valley.
Also winning championships for Warren Hills were Zach Nauta at 145 pounds and Jarod Ostir at 182.
Winning second place honors for the host Blue Streaks were Kyle Wulff at 120 pounds, and Ryan Beckler at 170. A trio of Blue Streaks captured third place finishes: Logan Nauta, Nick Galka, and Taylan Zafis at 113, 195, and 285 (heavyweight) respectively.
Bill Lunger has organized the tournament since 1979.
The tournament started in 1958 and is the second longest running high school holiday wrestling tournament in New Jersey.
It honors the memory of John Goles, who coached wrestling at Washington/Warren Hills Regional High School from 1943 to 1979. During those 36 seasons Goles mentored 39 individual state champions, 39 state second place winners, and led the Blue Streaks to over 250 dual meet victories.
A coaching legend respected throughout New Jersey, he also developed a multitude of district, regional, and state place medal winners.
Inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Goles was named the New Jersey High School Wrestling Coach of the Decade for the 1950s by The Star-Ledger, and The Express-Times included him in its Top 100 Sports People of the Century, as the millennium came to a close.
He was inducted posthumously, on March 1, 2014, into the Region One Hall of Fame. A ceremony honoring him was presented that night at the Region One championships at Wallkill Valley High School, prior to the championship finals, before an appreciative crowd of wrestling fans from a four-county area.
It was a fitting ceremony, with the region’s top current wrestlers and their families in attendance, learning about a man who did so much to grow the sport in this area.
That same year, in October, he was inducted posthumously into the Warren County Hall of Fame, at Hawk Pointe Golf Club, Washington, in a recognition dinner event arranged by the Warren County Community College Foundation.
The Warren County Hall of Fame recognizes leaders and achievers from all walks of life. While sports participation has been a part of many successful people’s formative experiences, Chot Morrison of Hackettstown, and Ned Bolcar and Jim Ringo of Phillipsburg are the only other persons primarily known for success in sports to have been inducted into the WCHOF to date.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.