ROBBINSVILLE – The excitement of hosting the Region 7 wrestling tournament got an extra boost for the Robbinsville High School wrestling team when three of its wrestlers recently qualified for the event, which is the second step on the road to the state tournament finals in Atlantic City.
The Ravens had a pair of District 25 champions as Christopher Tan won the title at 120 pounds and Tyler Gildner added a championship in the 285-pound weight class. The Ravens added a third representative at the region tournament with Sam Acheampong finishing third at 132 pounds.
“We’re thrilled to have those guys as district champs,” Robbinsville coach Dan Hughes said. “It is a big deal and we’re extremely proud of them.”
Both Tan and Gildner were No. 1 seeds at the district tournament, but the road to a title is never easy no matter what your seed is. Tan defeated Pedro Hernandez of Rancocas Valley in the finals, 13-3, while Gildner was a 4-3 winner over George Wolyn of New Egypt in the finals.
“The seeds don’t guarantee anything,” Hughes said. “In our district a couple top seeds went down, so you still have to go out and prove yourself. Those guys had not won a district title before so it was a big moment for them.
“It is fun to have the three kids there. We get started with Chris and end with Tyler and we have Sam in the middle of the weights,” Hughes said.
Gildner had taken a step forward each year he has been in the district tournament and winning the title as a junior is his biggest step forward yet.
“It is different,” said Gildner, who won the 285 championship at the Mercer County Tournament earlier this year. “Last year I didn’t think I would do too well, so I didn’t feel the same as I do now. I came in a lot more confident this year.
Each match going in I feel like I am getting better and have learned more. Last year I was fine-tuning and this year I am putting it into action.”
While a year ago Gildner was just happy to advance to the regions, this year he has his sights set on bigger things right from the start.
“Last year on the first day I won a match and was happy to be getting ready for the next day,” Gildner said. “Then I had to wrestle the top seed at 220. I got nervous and made some stupid mistakes. This year I am hoping it will be different. Being a fourth seed will be better.”
Gildner earned a fourth seed for the Region 7 tournament, while Tan was a third seed.
“Last year was a good experience,” Gildner said. “I know I was good enough to get to regions and this year after districts and winning it I am thinking so much more is possible and I can get to the states.”
That would be yet another step forward for the always-improving Gildner.
“My freshman year I was not good at all,” Gildner said. “I think I ended the season 7-10 and didn’t have many matches. Last year my wins jumped a great amount to 26-7 and this year I am 32-4. So I just keep working and hoping I can get better.”
Having the region tournament in their own gym is an added bonus for the Ravens, for both those who will wrestle and those who won’t.
“We love hosting the tournament and try to make it the most fan friendly event we can,” Hughes said. “We want people to keep coming back. It is a lot of work but we love the work and I hope I get to continue to be a part of it for many more years.”