However, there was never a true team championship inside the confines of Hudson County to call their own. Sure, winning a team title at the District 16 tournament could constitute a team title, but those victories are won by the individual wrestlers achieving within their own weight classifications, and the team title is achieved by points accumulated by the individuals.
It's a lot different when the entire team is involved in the process.
Such was the case last Saturday at the first-ever Hudson County Duals, which were held at Kearny High School. All eight of Hudson County's high school wrestling teams were slated to compete in the one-day tournament. However, St. Peter's Prep had to withdraw from the tourney because some of their wrestlers had developed some sort of a skin infection, and Prep officials didn't want to jeopardize the health and safety of their wrestlers and their competitors.
It marked the second straight year that the Marauders were plagued by some sort of a skin infection. They suffered from an outbreak of impetigo at the start of last year that forced the school to shut down the entire program for almost a month and sanitize the entire wrestling area.
This was a mild outbreak, and Prep athletic director Rich Hansen assured that the team will be able to compete again in the very near future.
"We didn't even know what this was," Hansen said. "But to be on the safe side, we decided to cancel our dual meet [against Orange] and to withdraw from the Hudson County Duals."
The absence of the Marauders turned the tourney into a seven-team field, with the seeding determined by the latest NJSIAA power points, which were released earlier last week.
Courtesy of receiving the top seed, the Bruins had a first-round bye, then had to defeat Hudson Catholic in the semifinals and then faced Kearny in the finals.
The Bruins came away with a 42-25 victory and secured the first-ever Hudson County Duals championship.
"I think it was a great idea to get all the teams together, and it was fun for the coaches," said North Bergen head wrestling coach Jerry Maietta. "A few of the coaches came up with the idea. Having an individual tournament would have been redundant with the Districts coming up [at the end of the month]. So this was a good way for us to compete against each other."
The Bruins were impressive in their lineup top to bottom, proving that they are much more than state-ranked 130-pound senior Bobby Dabal, who did manage to win twice via first period pins to improve his record to 25-0.
"He's just one kid," Maietta said. "We have 14 weight classes. The whole team can't be just one kid, even as good as he is. The other kids are stepping up and doing well."
One of the top Bruin wrestlers is 160-pound senior Jio Vazquez, who won twice at the Duals to improve to 24-2 overall. Vazquez was fourth at Region 4 last year and was a runner-up at District 16.
"We're hoping that he can improve on that this year," Maietta said.
Vazquez's brother, John, is the Bruins' mainstay at 135 pounds. John Vazquez missed most of last season due to injury, but he came back strong at the end of the year and finished fourth at Region 4 like his brother. John Vazquez has an 18-3 record thus far.
Freshman Julian Quintero has been a pleasant surprise this season at 125 pounds. Quintero has only two losses all season (22-2) and earned a hard-fought victory over Hudson Catholic's tough 130-pounder Gabe McAuley in the semifinal round Saturday.
The Bruins are blessed to have two solid wrestlers at 103 pounds in Jorge Reyes and Vin DeMartino. Both have double figures in victories this season.
Sophomore Angel Quinones is the team's 112-pounder. Senior Justin Cabrera mans the 119-pound slot. Both have won more than 15 times this season.
That combination gives the Bruins a lot of talent and depth among the lighter weights. Those wrestlers jumped out to huge leads against both Hudson Catholic and Kearny and never looked back.
Heavyweight Julian Torres, also a senior, got off to a slow start this season because of an injury suffered during football season. But Torres has recovered nicely and is making his presence felt with a 16-3 record.
Maietta said that he was happy for his team that they captured the county title.
"It's good for the kids to get recognized for their accomplishments," Maietta said. "They won the Bayonne Tournament to start the year and finished fourth at the Bergen County Coaches Tournament. This was another good competition and their hard work is paying off."
It also paid off in terms of the upcoming NJSIAA state sectionals. The Bruins (16-4 as a team) earned the No. 2 seed and will play host in the sectional semifinals later this week. The Bruins will face the winner of Passaic Tech and Hackensack in the first round. It marks the first time that North Bergen will host a state sectional match since 2001.
"We're happy we won the Duals, and it was good for Hudson County wrestling," Maietta said. "But we have to keep going from here. It's good to see that the kids' hard work is paying off. This was the first real team test that we had."
And obviously, the Bruins handled the challenge well.