Earlier in the year, an article introducing new Kingsway Wrestling Coach Mike Barikian was printed in this newspaper. In the article, Barikian’s background was detailed, and his expectations were laid out. His concluding remark stated how he was excited for this opportunity and ready to take on the unexpected.
Well, his excitement and enthusiasm certainly helped provide the unexpected, as Kingsway recently shocked the South Jersey wrestling community to win the South Jersey Group 4 championship, the program’s first South Jersey title in 10 years and eighth in program history, defeating conference rival Hammonton in the final, 34-28. Senior Atlee Cullison came up big in the final match, winning 13-2, to clinch the title for the Dragons.
This follows their improbable run through the Tri-County Conference Royal Division to win the divisional title.
Kingsway ultimately concluded its playoff run in the state semifinals against perennial state powerhouse Phillipsburg, losing 41-21. They finished with a record of 15-12, taking on a schedule packed with many of the best teams in New Jersey.
This caliber of competition ultimately prepared the Dragons for their post-season run, as well as their subsequent foray into districts, regions, and individual states.
While their present success has been extraordinary, the future looks extremely bright. Many of its key cogs return, and its strong junior program is sending reinforcements up next year.
“This is only the beginning,” said Barikian. “Our kids learned how to compete on the big stage during the South Jersey finals. The house was packed, and the pressure certainly was on. Even our experiences against Phillipsburg in the state semis will pay off down the road.”
“Now we know what we are capable of doing at the state level, and we are intent on making it our reality. We are excited.”
Once again, Barikian’s excitement is primed to pay huge dividends.
By Christian Lynch