Before the 2013-2014 high school wrestling season began, Anthony Giraldo made three lofty goals that he aspired to attain.
Giraldo, a Guttenberg resident who is a senior at High Tech High School but wrestles for North Bergen, wanted to win the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in Delaware. He also hoped to finish the season undefeated, and wanted to win his second consecutive NJSIAA state championship.
The latter was certainly a difficult chore, considering that no Hudson County wrestler had ever won two state titles before.
But that’s no longer true, as the 132-pound Giraldo won his second straight state championship, defeating Mike Magaldo of Watchung Hills, 3-1, in the title bout Sunday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Giraldo won the 126-pound state championship in 2013.
Giraldo used a quick move in the second period to gain the upper hand on Magaldo, a wrestler who Giraldo has faced several times in his life, dating back to his youth wrestling days with North Bergen Recreation.
He shattered the old record for most wins in Hudson County history.
Hard work ‘paid off’
Giraldo, who has already signed his national letter of intent to attend Rutgers University in the fall and wrestle for the Scarlet Knights, was asked about his first reaction after winning the title.
“I guess it showed all the hard work paid off,” said Giraldo, who won his last 70 matches in a row and ended his high school career with an incredible 157-10 mark. “Every day of the season, I pictured myself on the podium as a state champion again. That was my motivation. I envisioned winning every day. That’s what I was thinking of after I won.”
“Anthony wrestled a smart, technical match,” said North Bergen head coach Jerry Maietta. “He kept his eye on the prize and did what he had to do.”
Giraldo ended the season with a perfect 41-0 record. His last loss came at the Beast of the East semifinals in November of 2012. Giraldo avenged that setback by winning the prestigious tourney last November.
“He set his goals and stuck to them,” Maietta said. “It’s definitely not easy to do.”
Giraldo has had a long history with Migaldo, who won the NJSIAA state championship at 120 pounds in 2012.
“In eighth grade, he won the state championship in the bracket I was in,” Giraldo said. “I lost in the semifinals to him. I always remembered that. He took first and I took third. My sophomore year, he beat me in the state semifinals in overtime.”
But the last two years, Giraldo has owned the upper hand. He defeated Magaldo in last year’s state tournament, got by Magaldo in a regular season dual meet (by the same 3-1 score) in January, and now the state final.
“There were a lot of good wrestlers in that [132-pound] bracket, but we sort of felt Anthony would get Magaldo again,” Maietta said. “We thought we would see him in the finals.”
Giraldo has a ton of respect for Magaldo.
“We’re friends during the offseason,” Giraldo said. “We even train together. But on the mat, it’s a different story. We even fooled around at the weigh-ins, saying, ‘See you in the finals.’ And that’s what happened. I think everyone had that in mind, the two of us in the finals.”
Giraldo was asked if he could believe that he’s a two-time state champion, the first ever in a county with a long and storied wrestling history.
“I think it’s beginning to sink in,” Giraldo said. “I realized it more when I got back to school and everyone was congratulating me. It feels pretty good. Last year was pretty awesome, because not too many people expected it. I guess there was a little more pressure this year, because people expected it more.”
Maietta said that Giraldo will be sorely missed.
“He kept his eye on the prize all the way and was very motivated to reach those three goals,” Maietta said. “He was someone you could send out there every time and never think about a loss.”
Giraldo is only the second wrestler in North Bergen history to finish the season undefeated. John Bott, currently a math teacher at North Bergen, won the NJSIAA championship at 152 pounds in 1983 and finished his career with a 104-12 record. Bott is also a former head wrestling coach at North Bergen.
With 157 wins, Giraldo shattered the old record for most wins in Hudson County history. The former mark was the 140 wins by David Cordoba of Kearny, another of the five wrestlers from Hudson County to win one state crown.
Now, there’s only one two-time state champion, a distinction that Giraldo embraces.
“When I was a kid, I dreamed of just getting to the state tournament,” Giraldo said. “Winning two state championships is pretty awesome. I hope that’s how I’ll be remembered.”