ATLANTIC CITY–Christian Barber approached his final interview as a high school wrestler the same way he approached his final match.
The Westfield senior didn’t concede on the mat and he certainly wasn’t going to concede in the open area next to the portable stands on the east end of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
“I knew it would be a close match because the last four with (Brearly’s Devin Geoghegan) were,” Barber said. “I had to do what I could at the end when I was holding onto the leg.
“I don’t know if (a loss to Geoghegan) in the Region 3 final helped me. I don’t know if it was to my advantage. I got that loss out of the way and it didn’t mean anything. I still got the same seed in this tournament. Maybe it got my mind to focus a little bit on the fact that I’m not going to let him take away my title.”
Barber became the first state champion from Westfield since 1976 as he beat Geoghegan 3-2 in a tiebreaker at 152 pounds in the NJSIAA State Individual Finals on Sunday afternoon. In what was an overall successful weekend–the Blue Devils had a pair of wrestlers reach Atlantic City, including junior Mike Kalimtzis who went 1-2–Barber’s effort is a reason from the entire program to be proud.
“You can talk about 1976 but that’s not what we were thinking about,” head coach Glen Kurz said. “He won this match because Christian Barber deserved it. He put in the time for years, this has been a long time coming and all I can say about this is its good to see hard work payoff. That’s something our entire program can take out of this.
“I’m really happy with the way Mike wrestled as well. He’s a junior and he’s going to come back with experience. He had two losses to kids that finished fifth and sixth. I think he watched what Christian did and will say ‘that’s what I’m going to do.' ”
What Barber did was exactly what he set out to do after he committed to a game plan on Saturday afternoon that followed a 4-3 win in a tiebreaker over Brick Township’s Connor Brennan. Brennan, it should be noted, took third place at 152.
“I needed to limit his points,” Barber said. “I needed to limit his escape points and riding points.”
“I think if you really look at it, Christian maybe scored three times on offensive takedowns this weekend,” Kurz said. “He’s a defensive wrestler that waits for mistakes and he executed almost to perfection.”
Down 1-0 in the third period, Barber scored first as he got a reversal with 1:18 left in the period. He gave up an escape with 52 seconds left and then had to find a way to win on overtime. After a scoreless first overtime, Barber escaped in his offensive half of the tiebreaker. That’s when his defensive skills learned over the summer when he focused on the top position paid off as he prevented beat Geoghegan from escaping over 30 seconds of tense action.
“No one was going to take this title from me,” Barber said.
And now no one ever will.
Westfield Resident Places fifth
Anthony Pafumi of St. Peter's Prep, a Westfield resident, defeated Allentown's Ross Scheueman, 1-0, for fifth place on Sunday in the 171-pound bracket. On Saturday, Pafumi defeated Mathew Cosgrove of Paulsboro in the 171-pound quarterfinals, in a 4-2 decision, before losing to Tevin Shaw of Piscataway, 3-2. Pafumi then fell to Dane McDermott of St. Joseph, 5-1, in the consolation semifinals to put him in the fifth-place match.