Grappling with family: Morristown High will celebrate proud wrestling tradition, Dec. 20

By Colleen Purtell-Tappen and Dan Corcoran

The Morristown High School Wrestling Team has a tradition so rich with family history that it’s hard not to find someone who hasn’t followed in the footsteps of a brother, cousin or father.

In fact, the bond is so strong that even after MHS alumni have gone on to follow their own dreams, they still are somehow tied to the sport.

For the former 160-pound 1988 regional champion Mark McCullough, wrestling was something to keep him and his brothers, Joe and Jay, out of trouble. Mark finished fifth in the state in 1989, and Jay placed seventh/eighth in the state in 1990 at 140 pounds.

My father had a friend in Vietnam who was a wrestler,” he said. “My dad was a football player but he had a wrestler mentality. To honor his friend, he always said if he had a son he would get him involved in wrestling.”

Starting at the age of 8, Mark and his brothers wrestled for the Twin Town Tigers, a local youth wrestling club. Mark credits the sport with helping him face many of life’s challenges.

It mentally prepared me to take responsibility for my actions and gave me confidence,” he said.

Mark’s oldest son, who is a senior at Morris Hills High School, is looking to continue that wrestling tradition this year by tackling the 170-pound spot. Mark has also coached wrestling for his town’s local youth organization.

He has some weight to lose, and I keep on telling him how hard it is, but I think he can do it,” Mark said of his son.

The 2012/ 2013 Morristown High School wrestling team. Photo:

The 2012/ 2013 Morristown High School wrestling team. Photo:

Wrestling Alumni Night

As a way to honor Mark, and other Colonials wrestling alumni, the MHS Wrestling Boosters & Alumni Club will host its annual Wrestling Alumni Night on Friday, Dec. 20, at the high school auxiliary gym.

The event will feature a match of the junior varsity and varsity teams against Wallkill Valley.

The timeline:

  • 5 p.m. (Optional) Alumni-only, pre-reception; Network with fellow alumni in advance of the wrestling event. 
  • 6 p.m. JV Match. 
  • 7 p.m. Varsity Match

Refreshments will be served.

MoTown Grapplers Club

But the McCulloughs are not the only former MHS brothers who wrestled and are still involved with the sport.

In 2000, former MHS wrestlers Matt and Bryan Manahan joined forces with another former MHS wrestler, Dan Corcoran, to revive the Morristown junior wrestling program.

All three wrestled together for the Twin Town Tigers as kids and at MHS in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

mhs colonials wrestling logoThe trio started the MoTown Grapplers Club as a program for Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains kids from first- to eighth grades.

The organization’s goal is to teach kids sportsmanship, teamwork, and discipline while providing a good foundation for success in the highly competitive sport of wrestling.

Many recent MHS wrestlers started out with the MoTown Grapplers Club. Each year the club sends several wrestlers to the state tournament.

Matt Manahan, who is head of wrestling development for the MoTown Grapplers Club, added that sibling rivalry is good for wrestling development.

Being a brother myself, I will say that having family involved in wrestling makes it much easier,” he said in an email.

“Sibling rivalry can help create that competitive edge that wrestlers need. Also, having parents go through the ups and downs of the sport with an older child makes it a lot easier for them to handle when the younger kids start to wrestle. Getting encouragement from your brother who is sitting there in your corner is what wrestling is all about.”

Bryan is now a teacher at Frelinghuysen Middle School, where he is also the head wrestling coach. Dan serves as an assistant coach for the Grapplers.

Pin Cancer

And if you think the family tradition just stops with blood relatives, think again. The MoTown Grapplers and the MHS wrestling team will join forces this January to help raise funds for cancer awareness.

On January 16, 2014, at 7 pm, both teams will wrestle side by side at a dual match in the main MHS gym to raise funds for Pin Cancer.

This campaign is a call to action to help defeat cancer through the sport of wrestling. It was started in 2011 by two coaches from Northern New Jersey when both their mothers were battling cancer. All proceeds raised that night will be donated to Pin Cancer.

Wrestling Families in Morristown

MHS wrestling has many wrestling families. Below is a list of some of them:

  • Dave Flynn: Two-time district champion, state qualifier (‘00); Matt Flynn, region qualifier(‘04), both captains; Michael Flynn (‘06),  Casey Flynn (‘08) district champ, and Ryan Flynn (‘12).
  • Diego Alvarado (‘01), state qualifier and Marco Alvarado (‘98), region qualifier.
  • Michael Conway (‘99) regional qualifier, Bob Conway (‘03), Pat Conway (‘09), region qualifier.
  • Raymond Dungee (‘08),state qualifier and Darren Dungee (‘ 10), fourth in state.
  • Patrick Murphy (‘11) state qualifier, son of Pat Murphy (’80), regional champion), and nephew of Rob Murphy, 7th/8th place state place winner, (’89).
  • Desmond Towns (‘11), son of Clayton Towns (’76), second place, districts.

MHS Wrestling Through the Years

Morristown High has produced state, regional and district champions over the years. Here are some wrestling success stories stretching back to 1960 :

1960s — Gary Wikander (state title winner ‘60), Wayne Backus (second in the state ‘60), Al Sica (second in the state in ‘60). Vince Sica (three-time district champion), Jim Gervasio (two-time district champion), Jim Jones (two-time district champion), Pete Worth (two-time district champion), Ron Steward (two-time district champion), Clarence Reeves (two-time district champion), Jim Bellas (two-time district champion), Stu Wong (two-time district champion).

1970s — Renard Haskins (third in the state in ‘69, state title in ‘70 and ‘71, two-time regional champion, three-time district champion), Greg Scarano (top eight in states in ‘79, two-time region champion, only four-time district champion), Robert Stark (third in states in ‘72, region champion, district champion), Donnell Speights (fourth in state in ‘77, top eight in ‘76, region champion, district champion).

1980s — Dorian Ritchie (third in state in ‘87, region champion, two-time district champion), Teddy Jones (top eight in ‘87 and ‘89, region champion, two- time district champion), Mark McCollough (fifth in state in ‘89, region champion, two-time district champion), Rob Murphy (top eight in state in ‘89, two-time district champion), Jay McCollough (top eight in state in ‘90, two-time district champion.

1990s — Omar Mann: state qualifier (‘92, third region), Bryan Manahan (second region ‘91, third region ‘92: two-time state qualifier), Dave Flynn (third region, state qualifier), Mike Trippler (third region, state qualifier ‘00).

2000-present — Mohammad Abdelhady (third region, state qualifier ‘06), Shelomi Hahn (second region, seventh in state ‘07), Chris Lloyd (third region ’07, second region ’08, two-time state qualifier), Raymond Dungee (third region ‘09, state qualifier), Desmond Towns (two-time district champion ‘11 and ’12; third region ’12, state qualifier), Pat Murphy (third region ’12, state qualifier), Aaron Velasquez; (first wrestler to 100 wins at MHS, district champion ’08, second all-time wins at MHS), Frank Crippen (current MHS leader in wins with 117).

Winning Season

For the 2013-2014 season, MHS wrestling is looking to recapture some of the momentum it gained last season, when it compiled the most wins by an Colonials wrestling team in 25 years. MHS won 10 straight dual meets and finished the season with a 17-10 dual meet record. Eight of the team’s  defeats were by teams that qualified for the sectionals.

MHS also pulled out an exciting come-from-behind, one-point victory last year against a Pequannock team that ended its season at 20-7, losing in the North 1 Group 1 semis to eventual winner Kittatinny.

Another highlight came when senior Frank Crippen, a 126-pounder, joined 2011 grad Darren Dungee as the only MHS wrestlers with 30+ wins in two seasons. With 33 wins, Frank was within four victories of tying the MHS single season win record set by 2007 grad and NJSIAA seventh-placer heavyweight Shelomi Hohn, who finished 37-5.

More Information About MHS Wrestling Alumni Night

To RSVP for the MHS Wrestling Alumni event, please contact Colleen Purtell-Tappen at or Melanie Pye at 

Check out the MHS Wrestling & Alumni Boosters page on Facebook at

If you have a local business and are interested in being a sponsor for the 2013-2014 MHS wrestling team, please call Booster President Greg Campbell at 973-214-8990.


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