First things first for Cedar Creek wrestler: District 32 Tourney

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Eric Hanusewicz Eric Hanusewicz Cedar Creek High School senior wrestler Eric Hanusewicz has his future after high school planned.

He will defend his country as a member of the U.S. Army.

“I’ve already signed up and got sworn in,” he said.

His immediate future holds a weekend trip to the District 32 Wrestling Tournament at Absegami High School starting Friday Feb 22.

“I think I can win Districts, place in Regions and advance to States,” said the 138-pound senior. He was referring to possibly competing at the Region 8 Tournament held at Egg Harbor Township High School, and NJSIAA State wrestling championships in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall.

If he does advance to the state tournament, he would be the first wrestler in Cedar Creek’s short history to achieve that feat.

He is the only Cedar Creek wrestler to ever reach the Region 8 Tournament.

“Eric has a good chance of winning the 138-pound weight class at Districts,” said Cedar Creek head coach John Cheatham.

Cheatham, who admits it is hard to find kids who want to wrestle nowadays, is proud of the team he has right now.

The seniors are the same kids who have been on the team since Cedar Creek’s wrestling program began in 2010.

At that time, they had just 12 wrestlers.

Now a team of 24 guys, the Pirates wrestling team is growing and improving and they rely on the example set by Hanusewicz.

“In the room, he sets the tone at practice,” said coach Cheatham. “He’s one of the hardest working kids on the team and the other guys kind of follow his work ethic most days.”

Hanusewicz began developing a work ethic for the sport at age 6.

"He is the guy on our team who has the most wrestling experience," the coach added.

He wrestled his freshman season at Oakcrest High School. In his sophomore season, his first at Cedar Creek, he won 22 matches, placed third at Districts and became the first Cedar Creek wrestler to ever compete at Regions.

Last year, Hanusewicz placed second at Districts behind Absegami's John Willette and again made it to the Regions, where he lost in the first round.

This season, his only loss in-conference was to Buena’s Billy Ward who bumped up from 126 to take a match with the 138-pounder.

“He moved up to wrestle Eric for that match,” Cheatham said with a grin. “That’s a long time grudge since they were kids.”

Ward (23-3) is a standout at 126 pounds. He has over 100 career wins and is a top wrestler in Region 8 and the entire state at his weight.

Hanusewicz has compiled a 22-4 record this season, earning wins in a variety of ways.

When his team needed him to keep his match close he’s done it. If they needed team points he’s gone out and earned victory by technical fall.

‘He’s not the most flashy wrestler you’ve ever seen,” said Cheatham. “He’s not always going out there for the quick pin. He goes out there to do what he has to do to win his matches.”

While advancing through districts seems likely for the Cedar Creek senior, Regions will surely be a tougher draw, where competitors like Timber Creek’s Brandon Keller (18-1) and Paulsboro’s Ronnie Gentile could await.

Going into this weekend, Hanusewicz has his eye on his competition. He foresees a tough match from Holy Spirit’s Brandon Bower (13-1).

“He’s a tough kid.” he said respectfully, referring to Bower, whose only blemish was a 2-1 loss to Deptford’s Ray Feigenbutz.

If he doesn’t lose that match, there is still something Hanusewicz could lose. This season, he could lose the distinction of being the only Cedar Creek wrestler to advance to the Region 8 tournament.

Pirate teammate Tommy Rheault (15-8) who wrestles at 195, narrowly missed joining Hanusewicz at Regions last year, according to coach Cheatham.

Cheatham referred to a consolation match that Rheault lost. “He had the match right where he wanted it, tried to force a couple moves and gave away points,” said the coach. “He could have easily won that match. I think that opened his eyes a little bit; he knows he has a chance this year.”

Rheault has the endorsement of Hanusewicz. who was quick to agree with his coach’s prediction at 195 pounds.

Both wrestlers will begin their quest to make Cedar Creek wrestling history when District 32's 12 teams meet at Absegami High School beginning Friday Feb 22.

Area Wrestlers to watch at District 32 Wrestling Tournament

Holy Spirit’s Pat D’Arcy (106) Record: 20-1 (12 pins)

Mainland’s Justin Bishop (106) Record: 22-9

Absegami’s Yanni Patsaros (113) Record: 17-7

Oakcrest's Conner Stabile (126) Record: 21-6

Egg Harbor Township Sean Bryant (132) Record: 19-3

Cedar Creek’s Eric Hanusewicz (138) Record: 22-4

Holy Spirit’s Brandon Bower(138) Record: 13-1

Absegami’s John Willete (145) Record: 18-4 (11 pins)

Mainland’s John Fitzpatrick (152) Record: 26-4

Atlantic City’s Cesar Balmaceda (160) Record: 23-1 (6 pins)

Oakcrest's John Bernard (182) Record: 22-6

Absegami’s Tiger Kirvay (220 ) Record: 13-7 (9 pins)

Egg Harbor Township Nigel Toussaint (220) Record: 23-2 (12 pins)

Holy Spirit’s Ray Ellis HWT Record: 24-6

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