After finding mild success during his freshman year, Dustin Zuzulock expected big things from himself as a sophomore. However, when the West Deptford High School wrestler returned to the practice room, he saw another talented wrestler eager to take his spot.
Griffin Bonner burst onto the lightweight scene as a freshman and suddenly the Eagles had two talented 106-pounders, but only one varsity spot. In the end, it was Zuzulock who spent most of the season wrestling at JV, left watching his friends and brother Evan win a Colonial Conference title.
“It was really tough seeing my brother do really well last year and me not really getting a chance,” Zuzulock said.
Zuzulock earned that chance this season and is making the most of it.
Now wrestling at 113 pounds, Zuzulock advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round of the NJSIAA District 29 Wrestling Tournament with a 3-1 win over Clearview’s John Seybold. He is now one win away from moving on to regionals.
“I just needed a chance,” Zuzulock said. “(Last year) just gave me more motivation to work harder and go as far as I can this year.”
Zuzulock, a No. 4 seed, scored a first-period takedown and made it stand up the entire six minutes.
“I was wrestling a pretty tough kid so it took a lot, but I just had to stay smart,” Zuzulock said. “It just means a lot to go to the next round.”
Zuzulock will have a bit of unexpected company in the semifinals courtesy of the night’s biggest upset. West Deptford’s Hunter Holmstrom, ranked sixth, stunned No. 3 Jake Pennington, of Gateway, 4-2. The victory was a reversal of the regular season bout between the two, won by Pennington by two points.
The Eagles’ Jarryd Ley also scored a mild upset, advancing as a No. 5 seed at 126. Ley pinned Deptford’s Vinnie Ferretti in 54 seconds.
While Pennington and Ferretti’s spot in Saturday’s semifinals came as a bit of a surprise, a victory by No. 1 seed Rory Bonner was more than expected. Bonner picked up his 99th career win with a pin over Clearview’s John Bonner. Griffin Bonner (106) and Mark Fischer (220) each recorded quarterfinal victories as No. 2 seeds, while third-seeded Tyler Kaminski (113) also moved on to the next round.
The attention now turns to reaching the podium and earning a place in the region tournament. The action resumes at Gloucester County College at 11 a.m. with the semifinals and continues with the consolations and finals, at 4 p.m.
Zuzulock is hoping the weekend ends with him earning a seat on the bus heading to regionals.
“It would just be amazing,” Zuzulock said. “It would be a great opportunity to wrestle all great kids all around our region. It would be an honor.”