Story and photo by Jay Cook
Steven Barsky’s junior season was one he would always remember. After making a name for himself as one of the top 195-pounders in the Shore Conference wrestling realm, Barsky had notched 66 wins after three seasons on Colts Neck’s varsity wrestling squad.
In 2016, he captured 30 wins along with bronze medal at the District 21 tournament, and was primed to have an even better senior year in 2017.
All of that was a reality until October 27, when Barsky saw his athletic career flash before his eyes.
“I got in a car crash and dislocated my left shoulder,” said Barsky, recalling the accident. “I was driving to school, it was just bad weather, and I hydroplaned and lost control.”
The car accident cut his high school football season short, where he played as a starting linebacker for the Cougars. Barsky would go on to miss games against Monroe Township High School and Hightstown High School, something that really left a damper on his football career.
Also on the back of his mind was the status for his wrestling career, which normally begins with practices just after the Thanksgiving holiday. With such a short amount of time before the season unofficially commenced, Barsky had to decide between two options of rehab.
“First I was told by my doctor that I was going to need surgery right away,” he said. “I then got recommended for a second opinion and that doctor told me I could do rehab with my trainer, and get back in time for wrestling. That was my goal.”
After about two and a half months of working the strength back into his left shoulder, through stretches and dumbbell exercises, Barsky was ready to return as calendars turned forward towards 2017.
In a quad meet on Jan. 7, Barsky looked to dominate his first opponents of the year: 195-pounders from Manalapan High School, Freehold Boro High School and Jackson Liberty High School.
His total amount of time spent on the mats that afternoon – four minutes and 53 seconds. Barsky wrestled two matches at 195, and had two pins. He also added a third pin while wrestling up in the next weight division at 225.
Only one thing was running through Barsky’s mind as he was warming up for the first set of matches in his senior season.
“I’m just thinking that I got to make a strong comeback to show that I’m back and ready to go,” he said.
Even without Barsky, the Colts Neck Cougars wrestling team, led by head coach Brett Jankos, has been one of the top Shore Conference teams over the past two seasons. So far in 2017, they have reached an outstanding record of 18-1, with their sole loss against the top consensus Shore team Howell High School. Even in the loss, Barsky shined as one of the Cougars’ top wrestlers, evident by his 52-second, first period pin to start the Friday evening match off.
Barsky has worked closely with Jankos and his friend, senior big-man Vinny Garguilo, the team’s heavyweight and fellow linebacker on the football team.
Between those two, Barsky has already reached a 5-1 record in the early portion of his season thanks to his aggressiveness on the mat. He noted that he doesn’t prefer the standard double-leg takedown over the single-leg; he’ll simply take what the opponent gives him. Yet when they get to the ground, opponents should be weary of his armbar, a move he used to turn over Howell’s Danny Schick on Jan. 13.
After the car crash, Barsky realized that his goal of reaching 100 career wins was unfortunately most likely out of reach. Missing over a month of matches pushed him back to a point where he would have to win 34 in an injury-shortened season.
On the other hand, Barsky believes a run through District 21, Region IV and the state tournament is possible with a continued dominance on the mat.
“Personally, as long as I’m healthy, I think I should be making a run at states and our team should be making a run at states,” he said.
This story was originally published in the January 19-26 edition of The Two River Times.
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