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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Apr 01, 2020

Tyler Klinsky and Middletown North Wrestling Team End Season with Wins

By Tim Morris

Middletown High School North senior Tyler Klinsky

Tyler Klinsky’s state wrestling championship was about far more than individual success.

The senior wanted to win it for his school, Middletown High School North, as much as anything. After all, the Lions hadn’t had an individual NJSIAA champion since Ken Hopfensperger won the 115-pound championship in 1974; that was before Middletown split into North and South high schools.

“It had been 40 years [since Hopfensperger’s championship],” Klinsky said. “I was doing it for the team. You’re wrestling for the team, all the guys in the wrestling room.”

Klinsky’s 6-3 victory in the NJSIAA Individual Championships 113-pound final in Atlantic City over Don Bosco’s Kelly Dunnigan broke the drought for North and concluded a year of single-minded purpose for the Lion grappler.

The year before in Atlantic City, Klinsky lost in the finals, and that defeat defined his 2019-20 season. It was championship or bust.

“From the first practice, [the state championship] been my goal,” Kinsky said. “All year I was driven to win. I stayed more focused. It finally happened. Looking back, I accomplished my goal. To go out and end your high school career with a state championship, there’s no better way to end it.”

North Head Coach Matt Sirchio saw Klinsky’s dedication pay off.

“He put all the pieces together. He found that little extra,” said Sirchio. “All year he kept plugging away.”

In addition to fulfilling his personal goal and winning one for his teammates and the Middletown North program, it was a historic season for the Lion, one that saw him become one of the Shore Conference’s all-time greats.

Klinsky finished the season with a 49-1 record, and those 49 victories established a new single-season record for wins by a Shore Conference wrestler. He also ended his career with the most wins in conference history, 169.

For his part, Klinsky is enjoying being part of history. He pointed out that when people search wrestling websites, they will see his name and learn that he was a great high school wrestler. His records and videos are there for all to see. His records, he noted, are the benchmark for those who follow.

“I wanted to leave a legacy,” he remarked.

Looking back on his career, Klinsky recalled how his goals changed over time.

“In eighth grade, my goal was to win a district championship in high school,” he said. “Next, it was to win a region championship. The goals kept getting higher.”

Klinsky would become a rare four-time district and region winner during the season, and he added state gold to the silver medal he won the year before.

Besides his place in history, Klinsky’s finals opponent from Don Bosco Preparatory High School provided him with the opportunity to avenge his only loss of the season. Kelly Dunnigan had decisioned him, 10-5, during an in-season tournament.

“In the first match, I went in for a shoot, and I paused and he caught me on my back,” Klinsky recalled. “I fought back but couldn’t rebound. It was a wake-up call for me. I knew I had to wrestle smarter. In the final, I knew I had to be smart and consistently be on the attack.”

In attack mode, Klinsky got the all-important first takedown and rode that advantage all the way to the state championship. Experience helped.

“Last year, I was awed by the crowd,” he noted. “I was more focused this year.”

Klinsky is equally proud of the success Middletown North wrestling achieved during his career with fellow seniors Fred Luchs (120), Thomas O’Keefe (126) and Chris McCarthy (145), who all qualified for the state championships with him. Luchs also medaled, finishing eighth in his weight class.

“We wanted to make the program better and be role models,” Klinsky explained.

North went 25-2 (second most wins in a season in school history), won the B North Division title for the third time in four years and advanced to the NJSIAA state sectional semi-final round. The wrestling coaches voted them No. 19 in the state. In 2019, the team captured its first NJSIAA District title in 17 years.

“Our senior class was special,” said Sirchio.

While he indeed was single-minded throughout the wrestling season, Klinsky is still a teenager with a life away from the mat.

“I still watch baseball and hang out with my friends,” he explained. “I’m hoping that we’ll still have the prom.”

However the school year ends – prom or no prom, with the seniors walking at commencement or not – Klinsky has a college wrestling career to look forward to. He’s headed to Rider University in the fall with new goals to set.