Two Montclair High School wrestlers punched their tickets to Atlantic City and the NJSIAA state championships this past Saturday, as seniors Sam Mellow and Kasson Quince-McGee both landed in the top four of their respective weight classes at the NJSIAA Region 3 tournament in West Orange.

Despite fighting through exhaustion, due to an illness Friday night, Mellow (32-3) pinned Bloomfield's Adam Lutick early in the second period, while Quince-McGee had to win twice after losing his first match Friday night. However, Quince-McGee kept on surviving and advancing, first with a win over Becton High School's Joe Lesho, then with a 4-3 decision over Warren Hills' Nicolas Galka.

Mike Freedman, Mellow's coach, had been concerned the night before when it became apparent his wrestler wasn't feeling well.

"He won (Friday night) but you could see that he was sick," Freedman said after Mellow's Saturday-morning win. "It's hard at this level to wrestle when you're not 100 percent. He found a way and he looked better today, and that's what I was most nervous for."

"After the match (Friday), I just felt so bad, so tired," Mellow said. "But now, after the pin I'm feeling so good. It's a great feeling."

For Freedman, seeing Mellow advance to the State tournament was a great payoff for all the hard work his wrestler had put in.

"He's come so far. This was a guy two years ago who was under .500 for us. He always knew wrestling but he finally grew into his body and he worked his tail off this off-season between football and before that with lifting - he's just having a great season."

Montclair's Kasson Quince-McGee (blue) grapples with Warren Hills' Nicolas Galka. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.
Montclair's Kasson Quince-McGee (blue) grapples with Warren Hills' Nicolas Galka. Staff photo by Andrew Garda.

While Mellow had to win just one match to make the State tournament, Quince-McGee had a tougher task after losing a match Friday. Still, he went into the day feeling confident.

"I knew I was going to make it. I had no doubts. I was ready," he said after the decision of Lesho. "Last year I lost in the second round, so this year I'm excited to go to states."

The rest of the afternoon didn't go quite as well, with Quince-McGee falling to Caldwell's Christian Dalla Riva while Mellow was swiftly pinned by human buzzsaw and Outstanding Wrestler winner Robert Melise of Phillipsburg in the 220 finals.

Still, that wasn't dimming any joy for either athlete with Mellow capturing the runner-up in his weight category and Quince-McGee placing fourth in the 182 class -- both good enough to be sent to state.

Both wrestlers showed determination and will in their morning victories, Mellow overcoming exhaustion and Quince-McGee overcoming long odds after his early loss. That's a trait which should serve them well as they take on some of the best wrestlers in New Jersey March 3-5.