Following the conclusion of the 2021-’22 NJSIAA State Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City earlier this month, Clearview’s Ty Whalen left the Shore town without the individual state title he’d sought at the beginning of the season, falling just short of achieving consecutive individual state championships.
The top-seeded Whalen had won via technical fall in each of the first four rounds of this years tournament, before losing 10-9 in the championship match of the 144 pound division to Boonton senior Joe Fongaro. That earned Whalen a second-place spot on the podium.
But the senior’s final season, much like his overall career with the Pioneers, can still be considered an overwhelming success as Whalen prepares to head to Princeton to continue his wrestling career. A 37-3 record this season helped him amass a 132-9 total in his four years with the Pioneers.
During his Clearview career, Whalen was a three-time District 29 champion, three-time Region 8 champion and three-time state medalist, having placed fourth in 2020 before winning last year.
For that, Whalen is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2021-’22 boys Wrestler of the Year.
While he would have liked to accomplish his goal of repeating as a back-to-back champion — after becoming just the fourth state champion in Clearview history last year — Whalen said the Atlantic City loss ultimately serves as inspiration as he prepares to wrestle at the next level.
“It stings,” he said. “It’s something that will always sting when I look back at it. I was confident and I believe I did everything that I could up to that point. But after some reflection following that loss, I’m happy that it happened to me … I really am.
“It’s all a part of the plan and, I don’t think, but I know that it’s going to help shape me as a better wrestler and as a better man,” Whalen added. “I have a fire inside of me that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t lose that last match.”
Whalen has been invaluable to the Clearview program during his high-school career, according to coach Steven Turi, who named Whalen a captain in all three of his years in charge of the program. While he believes he asks for a lot from his captains compared with other players, Whalen went above and beyond.
“I told Ty once the season was over, that I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done at Clearview if it wasn’t for him,” Turi said. “We sent three guys to states this year, and that has a lot to do with who [he] is as a captain. He organizes the guys in the offseason and he absolutely stepped up in that role over the past three years.”
While the senior believes losses help shape a wrestler, he’s been fortunate to experience very few over his high-school career. If not for an abbreviated COVID season last year, Whalen could have become the winningest wrestler in Clearview history, something he said he doesn’t think about much. But Whalen nonetheless leaves having made his mark on a program that has meant much to him over the past four years.
“I wanted to kind of leave my mark and leave the program in a good spot for after I left,” he said. “I want Clearview to be a well-known wrestling school like it was years ago. I did everything that I could to prepare for each season and every match, while really making sure to embrace the moment each time I was out there.”