Mele, Haddad to Represent Governor Livingston at State Wrestling Finals
Friday, March 8, 2013 • 6:06am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It's been almost a year since Governor Livingston's senior wrestler Jon Mele last stepped foot onto the mat in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. The 120-pound grappler was one win away from getting a medal in the games before losing a heartbreaker to Delbarton's Christian Innarella.
Flash forward 12 months and Mele has already overcome the biggest challenge of his wrestling career. After both wrestlers moved up a weight class, Mele beat Innarella enroute to his Region 3 championship and state final berth.
"It felt great," Mele said of his first win over Innarella. "I'm just hoping that I could wrestle that good this weekend in the finals."
He joins Shane Haddad as the only two wrestlers to make this weekend's state final from Governor Livingston High School. Haddad, who also moved up a weight class to the 195-pound bracket, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Mele's goal this time around is to win his weight class, but if that doesn't happen, he will be happy with a top three medal.
"The goal is nothing short of the finals and winning the tournament," Mele said. "If that doesn't happen, I want to place as high on the podium as possible."
Jon has been working his entire life to get this far as a wrestler. While he admits that last year's loss was extremely upsetting for him, he thinks last year's experience under the bright lights will help him advance even further this year.
"The experience is a big part," Mele said. "Last year, the first match under the lights was nerve-wracking in the big arena. I will definitely be more calm and relaxed than last year."
While the bracket is in Mele's favor to make another deep run, he knows it is going to take everything he has to make it to the promise land. However, he has an extra incentive this year to win it all. Mele's wrestling coach of the last four years and mentor, Rick Iacono, will be retiring from coaching at the end of the season.
Mele said this is an exciting year because of Iacono and the fact that there are two Highlanders in the state finals.
"Coach Ianoco, it's his last year this year," Mele said. "We're excited to have two guys [in the finals.] We're going to take it one match at a time."
Haddad, who was a long-time football player, is making his state final debut. After several injuries kept him away from the gridiron, Haddad found himself a new comfort zone on the mats. He will be wrestling in the 195-pound weight class.
Both Highlanders, along with their coach, family and friends, will head down to the Atlantic City Boardwalk on Friday. The wrestlers continue their quest for individual state titles on Friday night at Boardwalk Hall.