Dylan Acevado and Benedict Arthur have very different wrestling backgrounds.
Acevado, a sophomore at Sayreville War Memorial High School, has been wrestling for eight years. He competes in the sport all year.
Arthur, a senior at Sayreville, didn’t hit the mat until high school. Even now, as a varsity wrestler, he does not wrestle all year.
Arthur’s main sport is football.
The two-way lineman, who helped lead Sayreville to the Central Jersey, Group 5 state sectional playoff title, hopes to play collegiate football at a Division 1 or 2 school. He is presently talking to coaches at multiple programs.
Yet, despite their different backgrounds, Acevado and Arthur are the pride of the Sayreville wrestling team. And they both won the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship in their respective weight classes on Jan. 26 at Piscataway High School.
In the 106-pound championship bout, Acevado earned a 3-1 decision over Old Bridge High School’s Vincent Nadera. In the 285-pound title bout, Arthur claimed a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker victory over East Brunswick High School’s Youssef Gamel.
“I didn’t achieve my goal here last year. I placed fourth and I knew I could do better,” Acevado said. “This felt really good. It was a better feeling than I’ve had during my eight years wrestling.”
“Ben was getting beat up every day his first couple years wrestling, but he never complained or quit. He just battled every day,” said Sayreville coach Marcus Ivy. “I told him last year, ‘Next year is your time to start beating people up,’ and he has capitalized.”
Acevado won his GMC championship with offense. In a 1-1 tie, he executed the game plan that Ivy laid out for him: attack. The sophomore wrestled Nadera to the mat and took a 3-1 lead.
Then, he just had to run around and survive the last 20 seconds of the match. He was like a boxer trying to avoid a knockout in the 12th round.
“He just had to be smart for the last 20 seconds, which he was,” Ivy said. “As a year-round wrestler, he has learned to be comfortable in any situation.”
“Last year I just tried to survive until the third period instead of going full force all the time. I’d get off the mat and say, ‘I’m not even tired.’ I wasn’t doing anything to be tired,” Acevado said. “Now I’m a lot better at attacking. I’m just more confident with shots and pushing the pace.”
Ivy also told Arthur to be aggressive in his title match. But in the second overtime, Arthur won by reversing Gamel’s takedown. The big lineman busted out of Gamel’s hold and slammed him to the mat, earning two points and the 3-2 victory.
The referee blew his whistle and held up Arthur’s arm. The football player won a wrestling championship with an expert wrestling move. Not bad.
“Ben has come a long way,” Ivy said.
For Acevado, the GMC title was likely the first of many high school wrestling accomplishments. The sophomore has a 51-15 record in less than two varsity seasons. He is on track to soar past 100 career victories.
Acevado also wants to win the District 17 title this year.
“I placed fourth at districts last year. That has haunted me,” he said. “My goal is to win it this year.”
Arthur is 22-2 this winter. In the postseason, the sky is the limit for him, too.
“With the type of kid Ben is, all he’s going to do is keep working,” Ivy said. “It has worked out well for him so far.”