2024 Team of the Year

We are excited to announce that Ridge High School is our 2024 Team of the Year. Ridge placed 3rd at the prestigious Virginia Duals, edged the defending Group IV Champs North Hunterdon in the Sectional Finals and stunned a very good Mount Olive team in the Group IV finals.

We sent Coach Dragon a series of questions and a to do list and he did an amazing job with his responses. You will get a behind the scenes look at the program he is building, hear about the amazing people that surround him, feel the passion he has for his wrestlers and team through his words and a fun fact about each of his varsity wrestlers.

We hope everyone enjoys our first Team of the Year.


Please provide us with a brief description of your wrestling and coaching background so that we accurately present all your credentials.

Wrestled for Bridgewater-Raritan HS. 148 – 12 with 111 Pins. 4x District Champ, 3x Region Champ, 3x State Place Winner, and 2x NHSCA All-American. In college wrestled D1 and started 2 years for Old Dominion University.

I was very lucky to be an assistant for 3 great head coaches: Roselle Park under John Ranieri, AL Johnson under Rick Ortega, and Northern Valley Demarest under Mike Dipiano.

I became the Head Coach at Hillsborough in 2018 and was there 3 years before taking a teaching and coaching position in Basking Ridge where I have been for the past 3 seasons. I have been lucky enough to win District Coach of the year twice, Region Coach of the Year this season, and am in the Region 5 HOF.

What does a typical practice at Ridge look like during the season?

Unfortunately, with how condensed the season is now there is not a lot of time for teaching. We are lucky to have enough assistant coaches to run two practices. The JV group spends most their practice time working on fundamentals and building towards wrestling live matches.

The varsity group comes right in the first day of practice and starts working on getting into wrestling shape. The first half of the season is mostly focused on individual tournaments and getting used to multiple day weigh ins and warming up and cooling down multiple times in a day. The second half of the season is more dual meet focused with an emphasis on making weight multiple times per week and earning or saving bonus points.

What impact did your high school/college career have on your coaching style?

I think that I can look back on the mistakes I made on and off the mat to hopefully help my wrestlers not make the same ones. Having been blessed to learn from so many great coaches, I try and remember what it was that made me connect with and respect them.

Are there any coaching tactics you find yourself using that you learned from your former coaches or current peers, whom you look up to for their success in both wrestling and the development of young adults?

As I mentioned I was lucky enough to have coached under some great head coaches. They continue to provide me support and advice. I think the biggest take away is how much work and attention to detail it takes to build a successful program.

The biggest person that shaped the way I interact with my wrestlers is my father who is currently my assistant coach. He never made my career about him and treated me the same win or lose. I try to do the same for the kids I coach.

For a team to win a group championship in NJ, coaching and planning have to start many months before the season begins. Of course, NJ rules limit what you and approved coaches can do with the team, but what was your summer and pre-season training program?

We always tell our wrestlers that it is our job to provide them opportunities and up to them to take advantage of them. We have some great volunteers especially Billy Schmidt, Rob Piper, and Francis Dunn who help us in the spring and fall. Along with our lifting and conditioning, it allows us to offer open mats to anyone who wants to supplement their club schedule and our newer wrestlers to build some technique. In the summer we get together for camps, lifts, open mats, and tournaments. This past summer we went out to Bucknell for camp. It is a great opportunity for the team to bond and get better.

When did you realize this year’s team had the potential to win a Group IV state title?

We were returning 12 starters from a very young team last season that started 7 freshman, 3 Sophomores, and 2 juniors. I think most people thought we would be better, but I do not think anyone thought this much better. Out of those 12 returners there was only 1 county finalist, 0 region finalists, and nobody who ever won a match at the state tournament. We were not getting any incoming freshman with wrestling experience and no transfers. To these kids credit the kids worked hard all off season to put themselves in this position.

I think a big turning point for us was going to the Virginia Duals and taking 3rd in the top division. We lost a hard-fought match to Nazareth, PA but we could see we were starting to put it together. The last match of the regular season we wrestled well against a strong Kittatinny team. I started to think we could win a sectional title if we wrestled like that, and if things fell right, maybe get to Rutgers. As far as winning a group title I don’t anyone outside our room thought it was possible until it happened.

How important were your assistant coaches and support staff in winning the Group IV Championship?

We have four great assistant coaches. My dad Roy Dragon Jr. and my cousin Steve Daubert Jr. handle a lot of responsibilities so that I can focus on getting our kids ready to compete.

Ron Rumsby and Taylor Boehmer run our JV practice and take them all over the state to wrestle. They also come in and help with anything we need and attend every varsity event. All four of them are great people who connect with our wrestlers and are a major part of why our program has found success.

Our Athletic Director Mike Mancino, athletic secretary Judee, trainers Aimee and Scott, Admins Dr. Lazovick and Mr. Graber, along with the entire Ridge High School and Basking Ridge community have rallied behind this team along our journey. We also have a great group of coaches who volunteer their time with our youth wrestlers and show up to support our HS team.

While the wrestlers and coaches are the main reasons for team success, you also need the support of the parents. Did you do anything special to obtain that support?

We have an amazing group of parents who are the backbone of Ridge Wrestling. Anyone involved in the sport at high level knows the demands of the year-round time and financial commitment. Our parents have bought in to not only to helping their kids but to growing the program.

When I came in and every year since I have told my parents the same message. Your child’s success is the most important thing to me but never at the expense of the program. I try to treat every kid the same, show that I genuinely care about them as a person, and hold them to high expectations on and off the mat.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your wife’s love for the sport of wrestling?

I do not think my wife is not too different than most wrestling coaches’. She supports me always, but it is a love/ hate relationship with the sport. We currently have a 3-month-old, a 2-year-old, and a 3-year-old. She has taken on so much extra responsibility to allow me to do what I do. None of this is possible without her. My wife has done so much extra to allow me to travel the country, leave early, come home late, and everything else that goes into building and maintaining a program.

List every wrestler who contributed on varsity this year and give us a fun fact about each wrestler.

106 – Tanner Connelly – had to cut weight this year
113 – Owen O’Leary – club soccer team goalie
120 – Cal Reynolds – loves chin whips
120 – Matt Cash – known as the secret weapon
126 – Lenny Paolillo – WR in football but can not catch a dodgeball
132 – Gavin Duran – likes his dad to hold his head gear
138 – Ryan Yang – loves video games and cotton candy
144 – Ryan Engle – worst shoes on the team
150 – Will Corbett – member of the Rowing Team
157 – Liam Thoma – apparently favorite athlete is George Pickens
157 – Joe Samaan – went to Dubai for World Cup
175 – Kevin Taylor – an eagle scout and motivational speaker
175 – Alex Muntyan – benches 325
190 – Nate Engdahl – slap fights in the weight room
190 – Anthony Valera – worst circle runner on the team
215 – Ray Kuper – can now shoot low singles
285 – Chris Oliver – attending Princeton to play Football

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