Apex Wrestling School’s Anthony Giraldo earned his first state championship this past weekend. Below is the video from his state finals match and then the article from Star Ledger:
Anthony Giraldo (North Bergen) vs Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield)
Guttenberg Wrestler Earns North Bergen’s first individual state championship in 30 Years
Anthony Giraldo weaved his way through a first-floor hallway in North Bergen High School, walked around the outer rim of the gymnasium and down a dark stairwell that leads to the boys locker room.
A Guttenberg resident and junior at High Tech, Giraldo spends little time at North Bergen High School outside of wrestling season. But when he returned to the Kennedy Boulevard school yesterday for the first time since winning the 126-pound state championship on Sunday, his peers greeted him with a hero’s welcome as he passed through the building.
He shook hands, received pats on the back, and heard plenty of “Congratulations!” The three-time district and regional champ already occupies his fair share of real estate on the school’s wrestling wall of fame, which lists the accolades of former and current wrestlers. Amid the wall of achievements hangs a single gold placard signifying the school’s first state champion.
Soon there will be a second.
Giraldo (39-2), a mild-mannered lightweight, capped his stellar season with a 3-1 decision against South Plainfield’s Corey Stasenko in the 126-pound final at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He became only the second wrestler in school history to win an individual state title, joining John Bott, who won the 171-pound crown in 1983.
“When I look up there, I just see other people’s names, and I respect them just because I know all the work they put in,” said Giraldo, whose career record stands at 116-10.
“I know what they went through.”
Ranked No. 11 in the nation at 126 pounds by websites InterMat and Flowrestling, Giraldo picked up the sport when he was 8 years old from his close friend and former North Bergen lightweight Luis Gonzalez, who transferred to Don Bosco Prep this year and won the 113-pound state title.
Giraldo got his first glimpse of state championship wrestling and its wild intensity at 11 or 12 years old when he trekked down to Atlantic City with Gonzalez and the former Bruin’s father, Howard.
When he returned to Boardwalk Hall as a freshman participant in 2011, Giraldo took fourth place at 112 pounds. Then after claiming district and regional crowns for a second consecutive year last season, aspirations of a 120-pound state title materialized.
“He started to understand how good he is,” said North Bergen coach Jerry Maietta. “He definitely doubted at times whether or not he’s was good as he is.”
Yet, Giraldo would lose to Mike Magaldo of Watchung Hills in last year’s semifinals — a crushing overtime defeat that led to a disappointing fifth-place finish, which Giraldo called “the worst feeling ever.”
“You have kids that are happy to get down to Atlantic City. It’s like anything else is gravy once they get down there,” added Maietta. “You get kids that are going down there, their goal is to come home with a medal.
“Then you get the third group, kids like Anthony, whose goal is to stand at the top of that podium.”
Sure enough, the North Bergen wrestler scored a measure of revenge when he was matched up with Magaldo in this year’s 126-pound semifinals. Giraldo posted a 4-1 decision Saturday night and booked a spot in the final.
“He was always someone I was training to beat,” Giraldo said of Magaldo. “Once I beat him, I was pretty happy. I knew that I couldn’t get that excited. If you make it to the finals and lose, it’s just that much worse. I knew I had to stay focused on the final match, but it did feel good to beat him.”
And after a takedown in the final 10 seconds of his championship bout against Stasenko, Giraldo’s journey came full circle as he did something that no North Bergen wrestler had done in 30 years — he stepped atop Boardwalk Hall’s podium.
“I wasn’t excited until my hand got raised,” he said. “That’s when I was like, ‘I won!'”