Evan Mougalian may have been the last one in Boardwalk Hall to realize he was a state champion.
The Kinnelon sophomore took down Brick Memorial’s Anthony Santeniello and was awarded two points right at the third-period buzzer to take a 3-1 decision and the NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopaedic 106-pound state title to complete a 44-0 season.
“I had no idea what the time was. I just wanted to shoot because I’m always looking to score," Mougalian said. "I didn’t want overtime either so I wanted that takedown.
"At the end I locked behind the back for two and I didn’t even know I scored the two until I looked over at my coaches. They were going nuts and celebrating. It was the best feeling.”
Neither wrestler, who both came into the bout unbeaten on the year, could break a scoreless tie through the first two periods but Mougalian finally erased the zero on the scoreboard with an early escape in the third period. Santaniello tied it up when Mougalian was hit with a stalling penalty but, even with the tie, the mindset never changed.
“That kid is an animal. He gave me a hell of a match. I have to treat every match the same, like I’m going against a Santaniello every time."
The gold medal completes a year-long journey, who became Kinnelon’s first ever state champion. Last year Mougalian didn’t make it out of regions, finishing fifth in Region 1 behind a stacked group that had St. Joseph (Mont.)'s Joe Manno, Pope John’s Shane Perecelay, Don Bosco Prep’s Kelly Dunnigan and High Point’s Clayton Utter move onto Atlantic City.
It was through that disappointment that Mougalian knew what it took to become a state champion. And a year later that dream was realized on the biggest of stages.
“The day after regions I came right back,” Mougalian said. "My goal was to be a state champion so I had to work like a state champion. This is exactly what I imagined a year ago.
"Now I have to work even harder to defend the title.”
Andrew Koob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKoobHS. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.