As Tommy Dunphy concluded his third place bout with a win at 138 pounds, his parents, Leah and Jim sat in the stands, watching.
Leah’s face told the story, as she yelled, cringed and ultimately broke down in tears. Jim? His look never changed. As Leah hugged everyone in the Passaic Valley section of the stands, Jim never took his eyes off what his son had just accomplished.
It was, again, the story of perseverance. Tommy Dunphy had started the season with a serious knee injury that would require surgery. He was now qualifying for the NJSIAA championships in his senior year.
Amazing what can change in a few months.
The same stories could be told of the other 13 kids at Region 4 in West Orange who qualified for the states after finishing third in their weight class. There was drama, last-second wins and the obligatory agony of defeat, too.
Never was that more apparent as when Newark Academy coach Jay Gerish watched from the sideline as his son, Patrick, lost in the third place bout at 152 pounds. Jay was the coach, but he’s a father first, who needed to console his son the best he could in his final high school match. As devastated as Patrick was after dropping that final match, he and his father shared an embrace that only a true wrestling fan will ever understand.
Patrick Gerish had devoted a great deal of time to not only succeed, but be a great wrestler. One bad day won’t take that away from him, but try telling that to a 17-year-old kid. When the smoke clears, he’ll be known as his school’s winningest wrestler, as well as a three-time District 14 champion and a qualifier at the 2013 NJISAA championships. He’ll go on to college, where he’ll most likely continue his wrestling career (the University of Maryland is high on his list now) and will succeed in life, due in part, to dealing with adversity and learning from that weekend at Region 4.
The Region 4 championship bouts will be contested later today. The winners and losers of those matches are both assured of a trip to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City next weekend.
But for those kids who took third, they can sit back now, smile, and say they’re going to the big show, too.
Just ask Leah Dunphy.