Finn Tournament: No place like home

I’m at the 10th Paul J. Finn Jr. Memorial Wrestling Tournament, at Millburn High.

The tourney honors the memory of Paul Finn, a 1978 graduate of Millburn and that school’s last NJSIAA wrestling champion, to date. Finn won the ’78 heavyweight title with a performance for the ages. He was 28-0 that season and won every match he competed in by fall. (He had one victory by forfeit).

Finn is the last New Jersey wrestler, entering the 2012-2013 season, to win all his matches by fall en route to an undefeated season.

There are eight teams here, including defending champion Haddon Heights, as well as Essex County stalwarts Seton Hall Prep, Caldwell and the host school.

Beyond the quality wrestling is the amazing reception that Paul Jr.’s family provides everyone upon their arrival here. Paul Finn Sr., and his wife Laurie began the tourney in 2004 to honor their son’s memory. Paul Jr. died suddenly in April, 1999. He left behind a wife and two small children.

Laurie Finn has been thrilled by the strong turnout of fans.

“It’s been tremendous,” Laurie said. “Both gyms are full.  We’ve got some tremendous teams competing once again.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover every Finn Tournament since 2004 and it’s easy to why the day is such a big success.

As Laurie said, the wrestling is top quality. The scholarships and recognition to the wrestlers at the conclusion of the event, speaks for itself. But what may be the top moment, every year, is the ‘Gentle Giant’ video, highlighting Finn’s incredible 1977-78 season. All eight teams sit on the mat, while the fans in the stands enjoy the 15 minute film following the first round of competition. You generally can hear a pin drop during the emotional film.

Being here is being home for me and so many others who have devoted their time to this event over the last 10 years.

Here’s hoping the next decade is just as successful.

 

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By mike051893

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