Cozzarelli’s brilliance today links back to his wrestling career at Belleville High

As an athlete, you couldn’t find a more unassuming young man.

Belleville High School alumnus Bobby Cozzarelli gets pumped up after a victory. From 2003-2007, Cozzarelli was a fierce competitor on the mat for the Bucs.
Belleville High School alumnus Bobby Cozzarelli gets pumped up after a victory. From 2003-2007, Cozzarelli was a fierce competitor on the mat for the Bucs.

Confident, yet quiet. Talented, but always pushing himself to be better.

The attributes which made Bobby Cozzarelli a standout wrestler at Belleville High from 2003-2007 have carried him into a standout academic career at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, with a future as bright as the young man himself.

Cozzarelli is concluding his studies at Quinnipiac this spring. When he finishes those final 18 grueling credits, you may officially address him as Dr. Robert Cozzarelli, PhD, with a concentration in Physical Therapy.

It’s what Cozzarelli has dreamed about since his childhood, and he’s just about reached the finish line of an arduous path of study, whose attrition has claimed nearly half of his original class.

“It was a six year program when I began school (in the fall of 2007),” Cozzarelli said. “We’re down to about 62 left. You have to maintain a 3.0, or better, each semester. It’s not easy, but it’s been worth the hard work.”

Cozzarelli is quick to credit that work ethic, in which he is maintaining a 3.8 GPA in college, to his days as a wrestler for the Bucs. The son of Robert and Susan Cozzarelli and older brother of Rebecca (who was graduated Belleville High in 2008), Cozzarelli was an outstanding wrestler for Belleville.

cozzThe Cozzarelli family, (l to r) Bob Sr., Rebecca, Bobby Jr. and Susan.

But it was a weekend at the 2006 Region 4 championships which established Bobby as more than just a talent on the mat. It was that weekend when most casual observers learned of Cozzarelli’s fortitude.

As a junior in ’06, Cozzarelli had high hopes of making it to the NJSIAA championships in Atlantic City. However, on that Friday night at the regions, he was defeated in the quarterfinals, meaning Cozzarelli had to win three straight matches at Passaic Valley High School the next day if he were to finish third and qualify for the states.

Deeply disappointed that he wouldn’t be a region champion after most favored him to hold that distinction, Cozzarelli battled back and won three consecutive matches to punch his ticket to Atlantic City. When he had concluded his improbable run, he went into the stands where his mother, father and sister were in tears of joy over the accomplishment.

“Throughout Bobby’s wrestling career, he learned to never quit on himself, always believe in himself, and to conduct himself with confidence and pride both on and off the mat,” said Bob Cozzarelli, Bobby’s dad and himself a former BHS wrestler. “Foremost he was taught to always be a gentleman. We always told our son that someday wrestling will be over and to remember all the great moments, but to take from wrestling that ‘never quit attitude’ and carry it over to your everyday life.”

The following year, Bobby went back to the regions and emerged as the champion of his weight class, ensuring a second trip to the state championships. While an injury limited his time on the mat in A.C. in ’07, Cozzarelli had reached his expectations and the mental preparation needed to be a region champion has certainly helped him in his career endeavors.

Cozzarelli admits the challenge provided on the wrestling mat in high school keep him focused on his studies today. His final classes this spring include Neuro Pediatric Rehab, a Mulligan manual course, Advanced Clinical Decision Making, Community Health and Wellness as well as his Capstone Project. Bobby hopes to return to New Jersey to pursue his career, and while he hasn’t made a firm decision on his practice, he did say he has found a niche in orthopedics.

Cozzarelli’s upbringing in Belleville and his path through the township’s school system, is something his parents take great pride in. In these days where parents of talented student-athletes seem to search for private high schools, it’s good to see the value of an education in the Belleville public school system.

“My children have achieved their goals because of their principals, teachers and coaches,” said Susan Cozzarelli. “They supported and believed in them. Parents can only take their children so far, then we have to hope that others will continue to support and encourage them. The Belleville school district and Quinnipiac University really proved to be the right match for our son.”

That same discipline has provided a marvelous opportunity for Rebecca Cozzarelli, herself a standout track athlete at Belleville High. A 2012 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Becky is in her first year at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grenada.

While Bobby always wanted to focus on Physical Therapy, Becky’s dreams since her childhood, because of her love of animals, was to be a veterinarian.

“I am very fortunate to have two wonderful children, who continue to follow their passions and challenge themselves to pursue their goals and dreams,” Susan Cozzarelli said.

The family bond has indeed benefited Bobby Cozzarelli.

“Having supportive parents really helped make the journey possible and enjoyable for me,” Cozzarelli said. “And I’m so proud of my sister, too. She’s going to do great in veterinarian school.”

So as he tackles the final semester in what was indeed a monumental challenge, Bobby Cozzarelli can look back on a day seven years ago, when the odds said he had no chance of making it to the state tournament, but his will and heart dictated otherwise.

It’s the same resolve which will take him into greatness in his career endeavors, and it gained a foothold on a wrestling mat at Belleville High School.

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By mike051893

DiPiano, Benvenuti, Garamella: Prime examples of coaches that do it correctly

I’ve covered more than my share of sporting events since I began writing for a newspaper back in 1975. I’ve often said the reason why I still enjoy going to games and matches is the rapport built with the athletes, and the relationships developed with the coaches.

I’ve also been doing this long enough that a number of athletes that I covered as ‘kids’ are now coaches themselves. That either means I’m getting older (aren’t we all?) or that time does fly by (which goes hand-in-hand with getting older, I guess).

Anyway, with all that said, I’ve always had a special affinity for the wrestling season. It is, by far, the longest season in high school sports. Practices generally last 3 to 4 hours a day, there’s a high rate of injury and for a coach, it takes a special man to keep athletes motivated, especially as the season hits early February.

Last weekend, I covered the 39th Essex County Wrestling Tournament and saw Nutley repeat as champion. As a Belleville guy, I still despise when Nutley wins at anything, but that’s just because it’s in the blood. I’ve always said I’ll never wear anything with a Nutley Raider logo, but as a grown man, I’ve come to respect good kids and quality coaches, and this Nutley team has both.

From the coaching perspective, I am a big fan of Nutley’s head guy, Frank DiPiano. He does it right, plain and simple, and there’s a reason why Nutley, which had never won a county title since the inception of the ECT in 1974 until last season, has now won a pair of crowns.

Frank comes from a legendary coaching family, led by his father, Michael Sr. The DiPiano coaching tree also includes older brother, Mike Jr., who did a great job for the Nutley girls’ soccer program this past fall as its first-year head coach and is in his second season at Northern Valley, Demarest as that school’s wrestling coach. Middle sister, Michele is an accomplished high school softball coach, as well as a successful elementary school teacher.

The biggest compliment I can ever give Frank is that I’d trust him coaching, or teaching a child of mine any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

fdFrank DiPiano (left) with legendary dad and Hall of Fame Coach Mike DiPiano, Sr.

That same sentiment goes for Passaic Valley wrestling coach Joe Benvenuti. I first knew of Joe when he was a student-athlete at Passaic Valley High School. I later covered his wrestling teams at West Essex and now have seen him continue a winning wrestling tradition at P.V.

‘Joe Ben’ only knows one speed, and that’s full throttle. But as intense as the practices are in the Hornets wrestling room, there’s a compassionate side of this man who wants his athletes to succeed to their fullest potential. And not because it will improve his won-loss record, but the firm belief that wrestling can develop a young man’s character and lead him to success long after his final high school match.

While still a young himself, Benvenuti has been coaching long enough now that some of his former wrestlers have joined his staff. He also takes pride in coaching against former wrestlers, because he is proud to see those young coaches giving back to the next generation of wrestlers.

I’ve also seen Joe become a doting father and loving husband. He epitomizes what it means to be a man.

PVwrestlingteam_0225_TDJoe Benvenuti, a father, husband, son and outstanding coach.

One of my all time favorite wrestling coaches is Caldwell’s Gary Garamella. Gary has been Caldwell’s top Chief for about 14 years now. A teacher and literally, the Chief of the local Fire Department, there is never a time when the word class and professionalism haven’t reigned on this man.

I’ve often said that Garamella’s entire coaching staff looks like they’re headed to an IBM board meeting, as opposed to a wrestling match. But dressing the part goes a long way in sending the message that a Caldwell wrestler will work hard in practice and conduct himself like a man on, and off the mat.

Trust me, there are many more men like Frank, Joe and Gary, but I wanted to express my appreciation to them for making the reporter-coach relationship so beneficial all these years, and hopefully that will remain for many years to come. They aren’t in this job for the money, they’re in it for all the correct reasons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaldwell’s Gary Garamella, a Chief on and off the wrestling mat.

Let’s hope the fans of Nutley, Passaic Valley and Caldwell High wrestling appreciate their coach as well.

By mike051893

Remembering astronauts who gave their life for a better country

If you grew up in the same era as I, then watching the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space missions on television was almost routine.

We recall with admiration the work of John Glenn as the first man to orbit the earth in 1962, Alan Sheppard as the first man in space, President John F. Kennedy’s declaration in the early 1960s that our country would have a man on the moon before the end of the decade, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in July, 1969 and all the amazing work from NASA for the decades to follow, including the space shuttle and space stations.

The incredible work by these space warriors has been credited with the technology we take for granted today, such as cell phones, GPS, PC’s, the Internet and so much more.

But with all the successes, there was tragedy along the way.

Forty six years ago today, astronauts Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Edward White were preparing for the first mission in the Apollo era, scheduled for mid February of ’67. The three were in the rocket’s capsule when a fire engulfed and instantly killed them.

TheCrewThe Crew of Apollo 1, 1967.

Despite the tragedy, the Apollo mission continued a little over a year later with Apollo 7, and ultimately the historic flight of Apollo 11 in the summer of ’69 and man’s first steps on the lunar surface. Five more Apollo missions would successfully land on the moon and return while a sixth, Apollo 13, never made it to the moon, but avoided certain tragedy and returned home safely.

The fate of Grissom, White and Chaffee should never be overlooked. The three men were the trailblazers of a new generation, Grissom, in fact, was a member of the original Mercury 7 (remember the move ‘The Right Stuff’?).

Nineteen years and a day after the deaths of the original Apollo astronauts, a new generation of youngsters was undoubtedly glued to a television on Jan. 28, 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle took off for what was considered a ‘routine’ flight.

We would soon learn that no flight involving space travel was ever routine. The Challenger had flown nine missions with near flawless success, beginning in 1983 and most recently in Oct., 1985.

But the tenth flight, as we all know, would be the last, as the Challenger blasted off, but soon exploded, killing all seven on board. Do you remember the flight members on that fateful day? I’m sorry to say I didn’t remember all the names, but I looked them up. Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith and Dick Scobee lost their lives that day and a nation grieved.

Challenger_flight_51-l_crewThe Challenger Crew, 1986.

Seventeen years and four days after Challenger, America witnessed another tragedy in space when the shuttle Columbia was destroyed during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven on board. The members of that crew were Rick Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Llan Ramon.

columbiaThe Crew of Columbia, 2003.

So on, or around the anniversary of three tragic flights, we should all say thanks to the many men and women who served and gave their lives for our country.

We should never forget.

By mike051893

Essex County Wrestling: History re-written as Trombetta, Estevez win 4th crown, Calas captures 3rd

WEST ORANGE: It’s not often when an Essex County Tournament wrestling championship garners a great deal of historic significance, but such was the case today at the 39th rendition of the event at Codey Arena in West Orange.

For the second time, ever, two wrestlers were vying for a rare fourth consecutive county championship. Nutley’s Bobby Trombetta and Jason Estevez of Livingston were considered strong favorites to become just the eighth and ninth wrestlers to accomplish the feat. They would also be the first duo to claim four golds on the same day since legendary wrestlers Joe Dubuque of Glen Ridge and Livingston’s Pat Trabucco were victorious in 2001.

Mike Kwapniewski of Caldwell (1988-1991), Marc Lombardy of Millburn (1990-1993), Dubuque and Trabucco (1998-2001), Angelo DiLeo (2002-2005) and Lou Mascola (2008-2011) of Seton Hall Prep and Belleville’s Filiberto Colon (2005-2008) were the only four-time Essex County champions heading into today’s finals.

Trombetta and Estevez were up for the challenge, although their respective opponents in the final weren’t about to assist in making history. Trombetta pinned a game Paul Scully of Verona in 4:53 to win the 126-pound championship.

“It means a great deal,” Trombetta said afterward. “When you look at the names on that list who have won four, it’s pretty nice to be among them. This is why you do all that training, to have the chance to be a four-time county champ.”

Estevez closed out the match at 132 pounds with a hard fought 5-3 win against Seton Hall Prep’s Anthony Canfora. (The finals began at 138 pounds so that the last three matches, featuring Brenden Calas, Trombetta and Estevez would highlight the event).

“I’ve always wanted the chance to win four,” Estevez said. “My (former) coach, (Pat) Trabucco did it when he wrestled for Livingston, so that makes it extra special.”

As for Calas, he won his third straight county title with a 1-0 win opposite Livingston’s Tommy Heller at 120 pounds. Calas’ lone defeat in the ECT came in the 2010 final at 103 pounds, when he lost a one point match to Trombetta when both guys were freshmen.

Calas, of course, has gone on to win a pair of state championships in 2011 and 2012 and will be among the favorites for a three-peat this season.

Trombetta, who missed a month because of an injury, was also thrilled that his team repeated as county champ.

“We started the season slowly with all the injuries,” Trombetta said. “Now, to be back at the top of the county makes it even nicer for this team.”

Nutley garnered 207 points and outlasted second placae West Essex, which tallied 189. Caldwell was third with 156 points, West Orange (125) finished fourth and Cedar Grove (124) took fifth in the 23 team field.

Other Essex County champs included Nutley’s Anthony DeLorenzo (106), Brandon Keena (160) and Vinnie Mainiero (182), Newark Academy’s Brandon Seyfried (113), Mike Dalla Riva of Caldwell (138), Mike Marotti (145) and Marc McDonald (195) of West Essex, Livingston’s Brad Krosser, who repeated at 152 pounds, Verona’s Joe Cordasco (170) and Vin Cordasco (220) and Columbia heavyweight Rodney Cenat.

The Outstanding Wrestler award was shared between Trombetta, Estevez and Calas, a move which, in this writer’s opinion, was beyond silly.

 

By mike051893

Livingston’s Estevez and Nutley’s Trombetta seek 4th straight ECT title

Seedings for the 37th Essex County Wrestling Tournament were held on Thursday night at Nutley High.

Among the top seeds in their respective weight classes were Livingston’s Jason Estevez at 132 pounds and Robert Trombetta of Nutley, who was tabbed first at 126 pounds. Both wrestlers will seek a rare accomplishment this weekend as they attempt to win a fourth straight Essex County championship.

Mike Kwapniewski of Caldwell (1988-1991), Marc Lombardy of Millburn (1990-1993), Glen Ridge’s Joe Dubuque and Livingston’s Pat Trabucco (1998-2001), Angelo DiLeo (2002-2005) and Lou Mascola (2008-2011) of Seton Hall Prep and Belleville’s Filiberto Colon (2005-2008) are the only four-time Essex County champions. And only once have a pair of wrestlers accomplished the feat in the same tournament, that coming in 2001 with Dubuque, an eventual two-time state champion and later a two-time NCAA champ and Trabucco, a four-time state medalist, four-time Region 4 and District 14 winner as well.

The other top seeds in the 14 weight classes included two-time state champion Brenden Calas of Seton Hall Prep at 120 pounds, along with Dean Caravela of Caldwell (106), Mike Panzarino of West Essex (113), Caldwell’s Mike Dalla Riva (138), Mike Marotti of West Essex (145), John Faugno of Glen Ridge (152), Nutley’s Brandon Keena (160) and Vinnie Mainiero (182), Kyle Christiansen of Bloomfield (170), Nick Kumburis (195) and Vin Cordasco (220) of Cedar Grove and Columbia heavyweight Rodney Cenat.

Wrestling begins at 6 p.m. on Friday night at Codey Arena in West Orange with pigtail matches, followed by the pre-quarterfinals. The tournament resumes on Saturday at 10 a.m. with the quarterfinals, wrestlebacks, semifinals and ultimately, the 14 championship bouts, which should commence around 3 p.m.

Nutley won its first team title last year and will seek to repeat this weekend behind a balanced lineup. Expect Caldwell, West Essex, Seton Hall Prep and West Orange to be among the contenders for the title in what most coaches feel is a wide open tournament this year.

By mike051893

46 years later, Art Abramoff’s legacy is firmly intact

He served his country without hesitation. He was a father, husband and son. He loved his country and volunteered for a mission that he knew was dangerous.

He lost his life in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967, and while Arthur J. Abramoff’s service to his country as a pilot in the United States Air Force will resemble the bravery and heroics of so many other men and women, his legacy hits home for me a little more because he was my uncle.AJA Memorial Day

I was 8 years old on Saturday, Jan. 21, 1967 when a knock on the door of my grandmother’s house in Margate, NJ would change our family’s life forever. My parents decided to visit my grandmother, as well as my aunt and two young cousins for essentially, the day. It was about a 2 hour drive from our then-home in the Ivy Hill section of Newark to Margate, and in January, there’s not much traffic on the Garden State Parkway, so the drive was uneventful.

Mgatephoto1966I’m standing at the far right, with my uncle Art to my left. Also in photo (left to right) my grandmother, Betty, my father, Elias, Aunt Jane, Cousin Billy, my mother Marilyn and cousin Karen. This was the last photo taken before Art left for Vietnam.

We may have been at the house on Iroquois Avenue in Margate no more than 10 minutes when the doorbell rang. All I remember is my aunt saying to the man, who turned out to be a Military Chaplain, ‘oh, you’re in the wrong house’.

Any military wife knows who the Chaplain is and why he, or she, would be at the front door, especially during war time.

The Chaplain delivered a letter, essentially saying that the aircraft which 1st Lt. Arthur J. Abramoff was piloting on Jan. 20, 1967, was shot down over Vietnam. Despite valiant attempts to save him, Lt. Abramoff was killed in action. His body was recovered and would be flown back to the United States. A second crewman aboard that flight, a United States Army officer, survived the crash.

Mgate old school

The rest of that day was kind of numb for all of us. I remember we stayed the next two nights in Margate, but my father wanted me to get back to school by the following Tuesday, so he drove me back to our home in Newark on the evening of Jan. 23.

My uncle and I were pretty close, and even though I was barely 8 when he died, the memories remain strong to this day.

On May 1, 2006, New York University, my uncle’s alma mater, dedicated a portion of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life to Art’s memory. I had the chance to meet a lot of my uncle’s classmates and friends that day.

I also met now retired Col. Devere Henderson, who, like my uncle, was a young pilot stationed in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967. Col. Henderson was on the rescue mission that day in an attempt to save my uncle. It was an honor to meet Col. Henderson, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy that day, and I’ll always be grateful to him for his service and valor.

I always find watching video of Super Bowl I to be surreal for me, because it was played on Jan. 15, 1967, just five days before Art’s final flight. Every time I see that tape of Green Bay playing Kansas City, it’s like ‘wow, he was still with us that day’.

Art Abramoff was 25 years old. He left behind a wife, Jane, daughter, Karen, son, Billy, sister, Marilyn and his mother, Betty.

I’ll never forget his service, nor the countless other Americans who have fought and died for our freedoms.

Thank you.

By mike051893

Gift of Life Duals a huge success at Nutley High

Nutley High School hosted the third Gift of Life Wrestling Duals on Jan. 19. Having been to the previous two, I can safely say this year’s tournament was the best, yet, and that’s saying something pretty special considering the hard work that went into getting the event off the ground in the first place.

The main idea behind The Gift of Life Duals was to bring more awareness to organ donation and how important it is for people to consider being organ donors, simply by indicating as such on their driver’s license.

Michael DiPiano, Sr., the legendary Hall of Fame wrestling coach is himself a recipient of a new pancreas and kidney which saved his life back in 1998. DiPiano helped get this event off the ground in 2011. He gave a stirring speech this year about his new lease on life and how someone he never knew saved his life simply by agreeing to be an organ donor.

DiPiano also introduced a number of friends who received either a heart, liver, or kidney, and are now thriving in their day-to-day lives.

Nutley athletic director Joe Piro paid honor to the donors.

“We may not know who they are, but they are true heroes,” Piro said. “Their gift saved the lives of others, including my brother-in-law.”

Six schools took part in the event, with Delbarton repeating as team champion. The Morris school defeated West Essex in the title bout, 51-16 while Demarest, coached by DiPiano’s eldest son, Michael Jr., edged Nutley, coached by DiPiano’s youngest son, Frank, for third place. Bergenfield and Garfield rounded out the competition.

DiPiano, Sr., pointed out how all six programs had an affiliation with organ donation. West Essex assistant coach Mike Markey gave a beautiful talk about how a new liver saved his life at the age of 23.

A very emotional moment occured when DiPiano introduced Karyn and Raymond Glover to the audience. The Glovers’ son, Dan, died in Feb. 2012 at the age of 24 in a car accident. Dan Glover was a standout wrestler at Bergenfield High, and because of Dan’s willingness to be an organ doner, his liver saved the life of Glover’s former baseball coach at Bergenfield, Ed Mooney.

Karyn Glover is also a recepient of bone marrow which saved her life, and the couple was more than eager to be a part of this year’s event.  When DiPiano, his voice cracking, introduced the Glovers, they were greeted by a long standing ovation which brought tears to most in the gym.

Also on hand were Laurie and Paul Finn. The Finns lost their only son, Paul Jr. in 1999 at the age of 39. Paul was a 1978 NJSIAA heavyweight wrestling champion at Millburn High. In 2004, the Finn family began a wrestling tournament to honor their son’s memory.

The 10th Paul Finn Jr. Memorial Wrestling Tournament was held last weekend in Millburn.

“We wanted to be here to support a wonderful cause,” Laurie Finn said. “We love wrestling and when we heard about this tournament, we felt it would be nice to meet Michael DiPiano and congratulate him on what he’s doing. Our son was an organ donor and he was able to save someone’s life when he died. It means a great deal.”

The theme of the Gift of Life Duals is ‘Organ Donation is a Major Decision’.

It certainly was the ultimate winner today.

 

 

By mike051893

Carcich Meter constantly changing at Passaic Valley

Good job.

Are you kidding me?

What were you thinking?

Are you kidding me? (again)….

Way to go !

Get him out of there, now !

Okay, better.

A typical day for a player who wears the Green and White of Passaic Valley and plays boys basketball will generally run the gamut with coach Rob Carcich.

A Hornets player will hear just about all of the above, and maybe more, from their high-energy coach. The range of emotions could run from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, or in some cases, minute-to-minute.

Not everyone can play for this man, and Carcich readily admits it.

“I’m not for everyone,” he says with that sinister laugh. “I expect a certain intensity. We’re pretty young this year, so I do get on them a little more because that mental toughness isn’t quite there yet.

“But it’s coming.”

The ‘Carcich Meter’ can go anywhere from low cool to white-hot. There is an occasional in-between, when the meter levels out. Strangely enough, the meter was actually stoic when his team was at its worse on Jan. 19 in a game against Bergen Catholic at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament in Paterson. The Hornets trailed, 40-27 in the third quarter.

satisfaction-meter-mdThe Carcich Meter can run in many directions.

Carcich called time out, took his handy-dandy erase board out and like a doting father, quietly displayed what he expected. He looked almost docile.

Two minutes later, the meter was up a few octaves, and that was after the Hornets had cut into the lead. He pulled a player out of the game for turning the ball over.

“What were you looking at,” he asked in bewilderment. Two minutes later, the player was back in.

That 40-27 B.C. lead in the third never had a chance. The Hornets would go on a 27-8 run to essentially end the game. P.V. won, 54-50 to improve to 9-5.

“We’ve really won two varsity games,” said Carich, who is nearing his 200th career victory. “I know we’ve won nine, but really our last two wins (against Lakeland and B.C.) were the first time we stepped up and got a little tougher down the stretch and played varsity-type basketball. I haven’t seen that until now. That’s a good thing.”

The meter has a comedic side, too.

“You know what it’s like in the summer when you’re outside at night and those bugs are constantly around?” Carcich said, in a well placed deadpan. “Our team is like that, too. We keep hanging around these games when it looks like we’re out of it. That toughness is starting to show itself a little.”

On Jan. 22, the Hornets will need that inner perspective when it travels to arch rival Wayne Valley. Carcich’s teams have never won there, but a victory on Tuesday would put P.V. in solid control of its first-ever conference championship in the Carcich era.

The meter will be fluctuating, for sure.

By mike051893

My Top 10 Favorite ‘Sopranos’ Episodes

My buddy Chris Orlando, author of the new blog ‘Back Points and Take Downs, an in-depth look at Union County Wrestling’, and I have always been big Sopranos fans. From the first episode in 1999 to the season finale eight years later, we’ve quoted just about every classic line, from Junior’s ‘what are we, in the Navy?’ to my favorite character, Richie Aprile and all the great shows in between.

(Oh, and Chris did ask why I won’t marry Loretta, since she and I have been seeing each other (on and off) since the George HW Bush Administration. After thinking it over, I can’t do it !)

We were talking about our top 10 favorite episodes of the landmark show, so I decided to give it a go this evening….We both agree that most of the shows that made our lists were from seasons 1 through 3.

Here we go, from 10 down to my favorite show.

A few Honorable Mentions….Commendatori, with the scenes in Italy and Don Vitorio, was great….Another Toothpick with Mustang Sally was hysterical, Irregular Around the Margins, when Christopher calls Vito a parade float and throws a sandwich at him was outstanding and Full Leather Jacket, with Carmela trying to get Meadow into Georgetown while Richie gives Tony the famous jacket, was great. (It’s the Jacket !!!)

And don’t forget ‘You’re Gonna Build Beansie a ramp !!! (I’ll build him a ramp, then shove a Lionel train up his ass)…

Okay, here we go, starting with number 10….

10- The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti—-the scene where Tony reprimands Christopher for shooting the civilian in the foot at a bakery in Nutley, is epic. And you know what? I’m going with Full Leather Jacket in a tie for 10th place.

9- Boca—Uncle Junior is “in the muff” with his girlfriend while the boys plan their revenge on a certain soccer coach who has more than a casual interest in one of his players.

8- A hit is a hit—Meow.

7- College—“Are you in the mafia?”

6- Toodle-Fucking-Oo— “Veal Parmigana Sandwich? F**k You ! Next time you lay your hands on my niece, you won’t see my face.”

5- House Arrest—“Got any blow? What, I gotta go to the deli in Nutley? You don’t sell that shit on those routes. And don’t give me those Manson lamps”

4- The Happy Wanderer–The Executive Game with Frank Sinatra Jr. was a classic….’I’m losing my balls here and this guy’s playing Hazel?’ And Richie’s ‘how’d you get in here?’ is as good as it gets.

3- Made in America–Love it, or hate it, the final episode was memorable. Did Tony live, or die? And why can’t Meadow parallel park? Holsteins in Bloomfield will never be the same. Love the onion rings.

2- Employee of the Month –I’ve always said, the final 90 seconds, when Dr. Melfi nearly tells Tony she was raped, was riveting TV.

1- Pine Barrens—Too bad it wasn’t actually filmed in the Barrens, but this was a great show. Did the Russian get killed? Was he really an interior decorator? Were you eating steak? Gloria Trillo was amazing in this episode….

Let me know what you think and give me your top 10, if you’d like…

By mike051893

Life began anew for Mike DiPiano after a 1998 miracle

At 44 years old, Michael DiPiano had indeed entered the cross roads. With his health deteriorating because of diabetes, the Nutley native was on dialysis for kidney failure and had been read his last rites. He was a devoted husband and father of three, a well known wrestling coach and athletic director in New Jersey. But now, his life was seemingly coming to an end.

That was 18 years ago. Today, DiPiano is beginning the 62nd year of his life. What changed the course for this man?

“The greatest gift of all,” DiPiano said with a smile. “I’ll never be able to repay that gift.”

The gift was an organ transplant. In DiPiano’s case, it meant a new lease on life after receiving a kidney and pancreas on Oct. 25, 1998. The organs were donated by a man we’ll know simply as Sean, a 21-year-old who, on Oct. 24, 1998, was killed in an automobile accident. Sean had indicated on his driver’s license that he wanted to be an organ donor in the event of his death.

DiPiano had never meant Sean, but he lives life every day with the constant reminder that Sean is indeed a part of him.

“Back in 1995, I was told I would need a double transplant because of a nearly 30-year battle with diabetes,” DiPiano recalled. “I remember a year later, I was at the Olympics in Atlanta and I was told to get to a hospital right away. My sugar was high but I thought I’d be okay. Later that summer, when I was back home, I was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital and got so sick that (St. Benedict’s Headmaster) Father Edwin (Leahy) read my last rites and they were already planning my funeral at St. Benedict’s.”

At that time, Dr. Leon Smith stepped in, through a contact of Fr. Leahy’s. A renowned Internist who specializes in infectious diseases, he assessed DiPiano’s condition. “Whatever he did, he took me from a five to 10 percent chance of surviving,” DiPiano recalled. “He saved my life, because even Father Edwin said ‘if he can get to 10 percent, he’ll make it.'”

Having administered the last rites to DiPiano, Fr. Leahy knew a higher power was looking out for DiPiano.

“If it weren’t for Dr. Smith and the Grace of God, we would have lost him a long time ago,” Fr. Leahy said. “He went from a 5 percent chance of survival to the poster child for organ transplant. It’s a great overall story.”

DiPiano’s new lease on life will be recounted at the third Gift of Life Wrestling Duals, set for this Saturday at Nutley High. With a wrestling theme of ‘Organ Donation is a Major Decision’ as a backdrop, there will be six teams competing, including Demarest, which is coached by DiPiano’s eldest son, Mike, Nutley, coached by youngest son Frank, along with West Essex, Bergenfield, Garfield and Delbarton.

Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. with the finals set for 5 p.m.

DiPiano’s association with St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark is legendary. As the wrestling coach there, he amassed a record of 274-89 and was named the Coach of the Year by the Star-Ledger in 1987. He is a member of the St. Benedict’s Hall of Fame, as well as the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After coaching at St. Benedict’s, DiPiano became the school’s athletic director. Now retired as the A.D., he remains associated with St. Benedict’s.

In May of 2011, he received the school’s highest honor to a Lay person, the Medal of St. Benedict’s.

“Mike DiPiano helped build this place,” Fr. Leahy said of St. Benedict’s. “He must have held 1,000 different positions here. He was the spine of the school.”

DiPiano’s family, wife Karen, daughter Michelle and sons Michael Jr. and Frank had never given up on the rock of their family beating any kind of odds.

“My kids were incredible during the toughest times,” Karen DiPiano recalled. “We’re a close family and everyone took a part in being there for him. We all believed he’d get better.”

DiPiano was on dialysis for nearly two years, and at the top of the list for a transplant, before fate intervened in October, 1998.

“Back then, everyone used beepers to keep in touch,” DiPiano said. “I’m out with a friend and the beeper goes off, and I thought it was his. But he looked at me, and said ‘no, it’s yours’. That beeper was there only to inform me of a possible transplant match, so when I returned the call, I knew things would be happening quickly.”

When DiPiano was informed that there was a match for his kidney and pancreas, there was little time to get to know who the donor was. The surgery was scheduled for Oct. 25, 1998, a date which is clearly evident on Michael’s right arm in the form of a tattoo.

“The surgery lasted about eight hours,” DiPiano recalled. “I was in the hospital about seven days. The biggest concern after a transplant is that the body could reject it, but everything went well. I could tell pretty quickly how much better I was feeling. I don’t think I really knew how sick I was until after the transplant.”

DiPiano actually has three kidneys now. “They don’t remove the old kidneys, they kind of stored them in my body,” he said with a laugh. “The one working kidney is in the normal place.”

With a new pancreas, DiPiano’s diabetes is no longer the concern it once was. With his blood sugar near normal, he doesn’t need to take insulin, but is careful with his diet.

As his health improved, DiPiano returned to work at St. Benedict’s in January of 1999. “I might have gone back a little too early,” he said, “but I felt like I was ready.”

He also wanted to know more about Sean.

“Normally, the process with a donor is that it’s anonymous,” DiPiano said. “I have gotten to communicate with Sean’s mother through E-mail, and while I’ve never met her, I hope to one day.”

DiPiano’s passion is talking about the importance of organ donation. He has been to numerous high schools in New Jersey, where he usually begins by showing a film clip about Jason Ray, the 21-year-old mascot for the University of North Carolina basketball team who was struck by a car and killed in 2007 while walking to a diner on Route 4 in Ft. Lee. (Lee was there because the basketball team was in New Jersey for the NCAA Eastern Regional).

“Jason was a organ donor and that film really has an impact on the kids,” DiPiano said. “It goes on to show the many people Jason saved by being a donor. It’s very emotional.”

On the surface, DiPiano is a hard nosed individual, a man’s-man who takes no prisoners, so to speak. But he has no problems expressing his emotions on this subject. He recalls attending the first Transplant Games, for those athletes who are recipients of organ donation, in Minnesota nearly seven years ago.

“When I went to the first Transplant Games, it was such an overwhelming feeling for me,” DiPiano, his eyes welling, recalled. “That’s when I had the tattoo made, to honor Eric, the date of my transplant, as well as the initials of a very close friend, Peter Kupczak.”

DiPiano’s message has resonated well in Nutley, where the high school wrestling team will focus on the need for people to be organ donors.

Michael Sr. has been to numerous Transplant Games since 1998, both in the United States and abroad, including Thailand and Australia. DiPiano competes in athletic events at the games. He speaks constantly on the need to be an organ donor. He is very much involved with the work of the National Kidney Foundation, as well as the New Jersey Sharing Network, which procures tissues and organs.

“Over 110,000 people are waiting for an organ donation of some sort,” DiPiano said. “Twenty five die, waiting, each day. It is truly amazing what medical science can do when someone gets a new lease on life with a heart, lung, pancreas, kidney or liver. It’s amazing.”

Mike DiPiano is indeed an amazing man. He thanks his family, his friends and loved ones for the constant support. And he remembers a young man named Sean.

“I’ll never be able to thank him enough,” DiPiano said. “I just hope I can meet his mom one day and tell her that.”

By mike051893