D.J. Santos understands fully what it takes to be a champion and to bring talents to the highest level.Santos, a junior wrestling at 125 pounds, was an integral part of Brick Memorial High School’s drive to backto back NJSIAA Group IV championships. He saw his older brother Steve crown an unbeaten season with an individual state championship before continuing his endeavors this season at Columbia University. The Mustangs’ unbeaten senior Mike Morales, who suffered only two losses last season, won a state title as well.
The Mustangs head into the postseason, starting with the Shore Conference Tournament that began on Jan. 27 when the fifth-seeded Mustangs took on Marlboro High School in the opening round with the hope of competing in a second match that night in the semifinals. The winners collide on Saturday at Southern. The state sectionals follow on Feb. 8.
“The team is looking pretty good,” said Santos, as the Mustangs finished 12-2 in dual meets, including a 43-19 victory over Brick Township High School last week. The Mustangs won eight of the first 10 bouts that day, capped by pins by Bill Miller at 215 pounds in just 12 seconds and heavyweight Pal Schuster at 1:31. They also had encouraging victories over Randolph, 37-22, and Hanover Park, 40-21, after losses earlier in the month to Southern, 32-24, and Jackson Memorial, 36-19.
“Coming toward the end of the season, people start kicking it up,” Santos said. “Losing to Jackson and Southern helps us. We know what we have to do.”
That includes Santos, who brings a 15-3 record with six pins, second only to Morales at 16-0 with nine pins at 135 pounds. Right behind Santos are seniors Jake Vescovi at 130 and Bill Miller at 215, both 14-3. Senior Noel Reyes has lived up to the expectations surrounding him coming into the season with a 12-2 record at 140 pounds.
“I feel like my season is going pretty well,” Santos said. “I feel stronger than my opponents.”
Despite the lower seed, Santos feels that teams in the conference tournament are on the alert for the Mustangs coming off their prior success.
“Teams know who we are, what we do, how we wrestle,” he said. “There are kids on the team who have been on the two previous teams and kids who have been junior varsity wrestlers filling in and have to step it up. That’s the hardest part, and they’ve done that.”
He said that this team is a “lot different” from past ones.
“We had a great team last year, but we have the same kids, so we should be a lot better,” said Santos. “We are more mature and have trained more.”
He feels that just like with any top team, the key from here is bonus points off major decisions, technical falls, and especially pins.
“We have to get bonus points the way we should and wrestle tough and not give them up when our kids wrestle their studs, not get pinned,” Santos said.
It was Brick Memorial’s key to great seasons the past two years.