Passaic Valley is off to a quick start on the wrestling mat, taking a 5-0 mark into the annual Bloomfield Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29.
Joe Benvenuti’s Hornets have been impressive in victories over Lakeland, West Essex, Passaic Tech, Mt. Olive and Montville, the later three coming in a quad last Saturday. But the coach is quick to point out that the real wrestling takes place in February and March.
Nevertheless, he’s happy with what’s gone on, so far.
“We have a saying here, ‘good is not good enough'”, Benvenuti said. “We feel we have the capability as a team to have a special season. But that’s not happening without a lot of hard work.”
Benvenuti is an advocate of scheduling tough teams outside of the Big North. The Hornets already have a quality win opposite arch rival West Essex and will face another tough Essex County team in Nutley, on Jan. 4.
There are also out-of-conference battles ahead with the likes of St. Peter’s Prep and Delsea. Within the Big North, a huge matchup with Wayne Valley is set for Jan. 9.
Passaic Valley won the District 13 championship last season, edging West Essex, West Orange and Caldwell for the title. It figures to be another nip-and-tuck battle within the district come February.
“Our district has become very tough,” Benvenuti said. “You look at teams like West Essex, West Orange and Caldwell and it’s always going to be a tough battle. But our kids look forward to that. It’s why winning the district last season meant so much.”
Freshman Jala’a Darwish is off to a 7-1 start at 138 pounds. Heavyweight Patrick Andriani is 5-3 heading into the Bloomfield Tournament.
Thomas Dunphy (5-2) may be the Hornets’ most versatile wrestler thus far. Benvenuti has used him at 126 or 132 pounds.
Anthony Cruz (6-1), Billy Bici (5-2) and Tyler Tepe (4-4) give PV a lot of balance in the lower weights. Benvenuti is also optimistic about the efforts of Nick Armagno (6-1), David Cruz (5-2), Rob D’Antonio (4-3) and Muhammad Darwish (4-4) in the middle of the lineup.
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