David Williams turned one of the lowest moments of his high school wrestling career into the motivation he needed to accomplish a new high.
The Hammonton High School senior lost both matches he wrestled at states last season as a junior.
But Williams bounced back in a big way this season.
Williams won 41 straight matches to open the season with his only loss this year coming by one point in the 182-pound state final.
Williams won his third District 30 and second Region 8 titles along the way and is the 2012-13 Press Wrestler of the Year.
“It was a pretty good year,” Williams said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. I got to the final — I just didn’t win. It could have been better, but it was a pretty good year.”
It’s the second season in a row a Hammonton wrestler has won Wrestler of the Year honors. Phil Bakuckas (now at Rutgers) won last season after taking second in the state. Bakuckas, coincidentally, lost to the same wrestler in the state final that Williams did — Bergen Catholic’s Johnny Sebastian.
“I think his success at the tournament this year absolutely relates back to the experience he had last year,” Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello said. “Coming in (to states) as a region champ and not meeting the success in that tournament last year really lit a fire in him.
“He felt he was capable of placing last year and that disappointment became motivation to let the state know the type of wrestler he is.”
Williams, who is also a standout football player at Hammonton, was already a year-round wrestler but recommitted himself even more after states his junior season.
“I started wrestling more,” Williams said. “After I got done losing in states, I started to wrestle a lot. I focused on what I had to do and tried to improve myself.”
“Just seeing David grow as a wrestler and a person has been tremendous,” Mauriello said.
“You kind of had an idea early on in his career that he was capable of hopefully competing for a state title.
“Thankfully, he was able to do that.”
Williams still isn’t completely sure whether he will pursue football or wrestling in college but after some prodding, admitted he was leaning toward wrestling. Mauriello said Williams has received quite a bit of attention from colleges since states.
And Williams is still wrestling.
He will lead a local contingent going to the High School Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va., on April 3-7.
Williams won the South Jersey Wrestling Association Tournament at the Wildwoods Convention Center as well as the Overbrook Holiday tournament in December.
His 41-1 record this season leaves him second to Bakuckas on Hammonton’s all-time wins list with a 130-20 career mark.
“It’s been an incredible run,” Williams said.
Team of the Year
Teams around South Jersey keep waiting for Southern Regional to have a down season. …and waiting and waiting.
The Rams finished the season at No. 2 in The Press Elite 11 and are the 2012-13 Press Team of the Year.
Southern won its eight South Jersey Group IV title in the past nine season and then edged favorite Toms River South by a point to win the District 24 team title, the 11th in the last 12 seasons.
Zach Wilhelm (132 pounds), Chris Serpico (152), Gerardo Jorge (160) and Connor Case (182) all won district titles with Serpico winning a Region 6 title to represent the team at states.
Southern finished No. 8 in the New Jersey Wrestling Writer’s Association poll of the state’s top 20 teams.
Coach of the Year
There were certainly ups-and-downs, but Buena Regional coach Doug Castellari persevered and is the 2012-13 Press Coach of the Year.
Castellari and the Chiefs went 12-5 this season while winning the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title and qualifying for the South Jersey Group I tournament.
Castellari, in his final season as head coach of the team, was dismissed as head coach Feb. 11 only to be reinstated eight days later.
Castellari, who was voted District 32 Coach of the Year by his peers, finishes his career as head coach (he plans on remaining active with the team) with a 318-152-3 career record, good for 10th on South Jersey’s all-time wins list.
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