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.