UNION — For Watchung Hills High School junior wrestler Mike Magaldo, Wednesday’s Region 3 first-round matchup against Andrew Tompkins of Cranford was just a way to get himself loose for the quarterfinals on Friday.
“I didn’t want to come out and pin him, I wanted to come out and dominate the whole bout,” Magaldo said. “I got the tech, but I want to build up momentum going forward and get better every bout.”
Magaldo, who won the state tournament a year ago, but qualified second for the Region 3 Tournament after losing to Corey Stasenko of South Plainfield in last weekend’s sectional tournament, dominated Tompkins at 126 pounds and won by technical fall at the 3:45 mark.
He outgained Tompkins 21-4, but knows that a matchup with Stasenko potentially looms large in Saturday’s final.
“I just stopped wrestling in the third period against Corey last week; it’s not a technical thing against him, it’s a mental thing,” Magaldo said. “I just need to build the confidence. He’s the goal in the final, I won’t settle for anything less than that.”
Teammate Matt Coppola also took care of business as a two-seed, easily besting Kyle Bota of Parsippany Hills 20-8 at 138 pounds.
“I felt pretty good. I was really confident coming out here tonight,” Coppola said. “I was just trying to come out and get used to wrestling here and get as many takedowns as possible. I just need to stay focused, if I wrestle like I know I can, I know nobody can stop me.”
Seventh-seeded Derrick Washington of Plainfield, who dominated his bout against Jonniel Bazan at 152 pounds, pinning the 10th-seed in just 52 seconds, shares that mentality that he can’t be beaten. Washington said he came into Wednesday’s bout on a mission.
“I’m hungry,” he said. “I want to come out as a Regional Champion. I just need to knock people down that are in my way, regardless of who they are.”
One of the many upsets in the 1st round came when Tom Cunningham of Scotch Plains-Fanwood took down David Mupo with a pin at the 3:43 mark of their 120-pound bout. Cunningham, the 9th-seed, was emotionally drained following his bout, but knows how quickly he needs to turn around and get ready for top-seeded Jon Mele of Governor Livingston.
“I just need to go out and wrestle my best and if I can beat the 1-seed, that’d be amazing,” Cunningham said.
Maybe the surprise of the night came at 170 pounds, where Jordan Handwerger of South Plainfield was pinned in 3:38 by Vincent Mattia of Whippany Park. South Plainfield, which advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to the Region 3 Tournament, is one of the top teams in the entire state, but Handwerger’s loss only strengthens their team, according to one of his teammates.
“Seeing a teammate lose picks us up even more and makes us stronger,” South Plainfield’s Tory Russell said after winning his 220-pound bout against David Tobe of Elizabeth. “We have to fight hard and we just need to stay strong and focused.”