There’s a difference between bad and incompetent officiating

Let’s get a few things straight when it comes to officiating on the high school level in New Jersey.

I’d say 90% (maybe a little more) of the officials who work games give an honest and forthright effort.

Is every call perfect? Of course not.

Are these officials up on every rule? Probably not.

Do they try and provide the athletes the best venue possible to enjoy the experience of competing in interscholastic athletics? Yes.

But then again, there are some who should not be anywhere near a whistle in a high school event. These men or woman are few and far between, but they’re out there. Their sole purpose is to collect a pay check. They couldn’t care less about the kids who are competing, are clueless about the game or think the game should revolve around them.

I’ve seen my share of games throughout the state, dating back to 1975. I’ve often said that the best games are the ones where you don’t even realize an official is working the contest. Such was not the case last night at the Passaic Valley-Lakeland boys basketball game at a louder-than-usual Library in Little Falls.

To say the two men who worked this game were bad is an insult to bad officials. These two clowns, in plain language, STUNK. They had no right being on that court. When fans are more consumed with the numerous non-traveling calls and lack of 5-second violation infractions than the game itself, it’s clear something needs to be done.

Passaic Valley coach Rob Carcich received a technical foul in the first half for comments he made TO HIS OWN PLAYER.

Did Carcich swear? No.

Did he direct venom to the officials? No. He was speaking to one of his players when Mr. Rabbit Ears walked by and deemed Carcich’s comments inflammatory and issued a technical.

Late in the game, Passaic Valley’s Stefan Minic hit what was clearly a 3-point basket to give his team a 36-32 lead. The official ruled it a two point field goal.

Unless Minic has a size 22 foot, there’s no way his foot hit the 3-point line.

With PV leading 35-34, a missed foul shot on the front end of a one-and-one prompted a time out by the Lakeland coach. There was 5 seconds left when the shot clanked off the rim.

“Time out,” yelled the coach.

“Time out,” the coach said again.

“Time out,” a third time.

From five seconds, the clocked ticked down to 1.5 seconds remaining. After conferring and counting on their fingers from 5, the official said the clock should be re-set to 2 seconds.


So, Lakeland gets the ball with 2 seconds left. They devise a pretty good play to launch a pass, a la Grant Hill to Christian Laettner, to its 6’8″ center in front of the basket. The pass was perfect. The center catches the ball, was then mugged in an open court, and the two officials did nothing, except run off the floor.

A perfect ending to a night of incompetency.

Gentlemen, you should be ashamed of yourselves for putting on an officials uniform last night.

You stunk, plain and simple. And when I get your names, I’ll  make sure to publicize them early and often.

Will the NJSIAA do anything about it? Probably not.

For example, you had to see the clown who worked home plate in the Livingston-Hunterdon Central Group 4 softball semifinal last spring. He was awful. And when I tried to get an answer from the assigner as to how someone so bad was given a home plate assignment in a state semifinal, I was generally ignored. Most people told me this dope has been doing this garbage forever and the assigner continually protects him.

Believe me, you’ll be reading much more on the good ol’ boy system that seems to permeate high school officiating at times.

Again, most of the officials are good. Even if they have an ‘off’ game, they work hard and give a solid effort.

The two last night didn’t do that.

Again, they stunk.

By mike051893

Finn Tournament a testimony to greatness on, and off, the mat

Roselle Park captured the team championship at the 10th Paul J. Finn Jr. Memorial Wrestling Tournament today at Millburn High, but the real winners were the fans who enjoyed some good wrestling and, most importantly, the foundation formed in memory of a great wrestler.

Finn Jr. was a NJSIAA champion in 1978 for Millburn High, winning the heavyweight title over perhaps the best field of wrestlers, ever, in that category in New Jersey. Among the contestants vying for the state championship 35 years back were eventual Olympic champion, Bruce Baumgartner, a four-time medalist, including a pair of gold medals in 1984 and 1992; former Dallas Cowboys great Jim Jeffcoat; Scott ‘Bam Bam’ Bigelow, who would be a professional wrestler for over 10 years and Paul Modugno, whom Finn defeated in the ’78 championship bout.

Finn was undefeated that season and is the only wrestler in state history to win a state championship, while pinning every one of his opponents.

The ‘Gentle Giant’ died suddenly in April, 1999. A husband and father of two, Finn was enjoying a successful career when tragedy struck.

Finn’s father, Paul Sr., along with his wife Laurie, began the tournament in 2004 to honor their son’s memory, as well as continue to promote high school wrestling, a sport Paul Jr. loved.

Among the good the foundation accomplishes are a $2,000 college scholarship to a Millburn High wrestler, a constant since 2001. There are also scholarships to summer wrestling camp for a Millburn grappler, as well as the Jerry Sachsel Camp Scholarship to a visiting team’s wrestler, the Dr. William Miron College Scholarship to a student that attends the Region 3 tournament, as selected by the officials, the Paul Serruto Outstanding Wrestler Award, the Robbie Smith Achievement Award and funding equipment purchase for the Millburn wrestling program.

Paul and Laurie Finn, as well as their children and grandchildren, are active participants in the annual tournament. There are smiles, tears and most importantly, a sincere love of wrestling and appreciation to those who come out and watch the event. Once again, there was a large crowd on hand to watch the eight schools participate.

“I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative Paul and I are for the support we receive from everyone,” Laurie Finn said. “Every year, it seems like the turnout gets better and this year was a wonderful event. The Millburn High administration, principal Miron and athletic director Ted D’Alessio are great partners and can’t do enough for us. Thanks to everyone.”

As mentioned, Roselle Park won the championship, downing Caldwell in a well-contested final. Seton Hall Prep and defending champion Haddon Heights competed for third place while Edison and Whippany Park were in the 5-6 bout. Millburn finished seventh, edging Summit in the third bout of the day.

It was Roselle Park’s first appearance in the tourney and its victory marked the fourth different champion since 2010. David Brearley High has won five consecutive titles (2006-2010) while Caldwell won the first championship in 2004. Other winners were Millburn (2005), Seton Hall Prep (2011) and Haddon Heights last year.

And of course, the real winner was the Paul J. Finn Jr. Tournament.

I’m sure the Gentle Giant is smiling once again.

By mike051893

Finn Tournament: No place like home

I’m at the 10th Paul J. Finn Jr. Memorial Wrestling Tournament, at Millburn High.

The tourney honors the memory of Paul Finn, a 1978 graduate of Millburn and that school’s last NJSIAA wrestling champion, to date. Finn won the ’78 heavyweight title with a performance for the ages. He was 28-0 that season and won every match he competed in by fall. (He had one victory by forfeit).

Finn is the last New Jersey wrestler, entering the 2012-2013 season, to win all his matches by fall en route to an undefeated season.

There are eight teams here, including defending champion Haddon Heights, as well as Essex County stalwarts Seton Hall Prep, Caldwell and the host school.

Beyond the quality wrestling is the amazing reception that Paul Jr.’s family provides everyone upon their arrival here. Paul Finn Sr., and his wife Laurie began the tourney in 2004 to honor their son’s memory. Paul Jr. died suddenly in April, 1999. He left behind a wife and two small children.

Laurie Finn has been thrilled by the strong turnout of fans.

“It’s been tremendous,” Laurie said. “Both gyms are full.  We’ve got some tremendous teams competing once again.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover every Finn Tournament since 2004 and it’s easy to why the day is such a big success.

As Laurie said, the wrestling is top quality. The scholarships and recognition to the wrestlers at the conclusion of the event, speaks for itself. But what may be the top moment, every year, is the ‘Gentle Giant’ video, highlighting Finn’s incredible 1977-78 season. All eight teams sit on the mat, while the fans in the stands enjoy the 15 minute film following the first round of competition. You generally can hear a pin drop during the emotional film.

Being here is being home for me and so many others who have devoted their time to this event over the last 10 years.

Here’s hoping the next decade is just as successful.


By mike051893

Paul J. Finn Jr. Memorial Tournament to celebrate 10th gathering on Jan. 12

It seems like yesterday.

On Jan. 24, 2004, I attended the inaugural Paul J. Finn Jr. Memorial Wrestling Tournament at Millburn High School.

For me, it was kind of a surreal day. Two days earlier, my father had died after a long illness and on the following day, my family and I attended his funeral. It’s safe to say I was a little numb on the morning of the 24th.

My editor at the time, Bruce Moran, had assigned me to cover the Finn Tourney for the Star-Ledger earlier that week. Bruce had offered to take me off the assignment in deference to my family’s loss, but I said I wanted to go, mainly because I didn’t want to sit around, and I enjoy wrestling matches.

I had known the legacy of Paul Finn Jr., a 1978 Millburn High School graduate and that school’s last NJSIAA wrestling champion, to date. Finn Jr. won all his heavyweight matches in ’78 by fall, including the state final. He’s the last wrestler to accomplish that feat.

Paul was enjoying a good life following high school. He and his wife were raising a young family when in 1999, Paul died suddenly at the age of 39.

His passing left a huge void to those who knew the ‘Gentle Giant’, or were just familiar with his athletic prowess.

So, anyway, in 2004, the Finn Family, led by Paul Sr. and his wife Laurie, began a wrestling tournament to honor their son’s memory, as well as promote the sport that Paul Jr. had loved and committed his life to. Olympic champion Bruce Baumgartner, who competed in the ’78 NJSIAA heavyweight championships as well, was there to sign autographs and offer his support.

Four teams, Millburn, Passaic Valley, Caldwell and Westfield High were a part of that first tourney.

When I went into the gym that afternoon, I met Paul Sr. and he was quick to embrace me, even though we had never laid eyes on each other before. Paul talked about his son, became emotional at times, but was firm in his love of wrestling and what he hoped would be accomplished by having this tournament.

As the years went on, I always made it a point of covering the event, which now has eight schools competing. This Saturday marks the 10th annual event, with a 10 a.m. starting time at Millburn High. Defending champion Haddon Heights will be back, as well as Caldwell High, Edison, Roselle Park, Seton Hall Prep, Summit, Whippany Park and of course the host school, Millburn.

Over the years, the Finn Family has practically taken me in as a member of their family. We’ve shared ribs from the greatest spot in the country, the Montgomery Inn. (I’m sure my friend Jim Hague will appreciate that). They’ve had me to their home for dinner and good company.

They are incredibly sincere and generous with their time and space.

At this year’s tournament, the foundation which runs the scholarship in Paul Jr.’s name will present the following awards.

A ($2000) college scholarship to a  Millburn Wrestler.

A ($2000) college scholarship (The Dr. William  Miron College Scholarship) to a participant at the Region 3 Tournament in March, 2013 – Selected by  the Referees of the NJSIAA.
A full camp scholarship to a Millburn wrestler.
The Jerry Sachsel Camp  Scholarship to a wrestler from a visiting team to The Paul  J. Finn, Jr. Memorial Tournament.
The Paul Serruto Outstanding Wrestler Award.
The Robbie Smith Achievement Award.
I’m certainly looking forward to reuniting with old friends on Saturday and seeing some great wrestling. Hopefully, there will be another large crowd on hand.
By mike051893

In a huge setting, Passaic Valley’s Schetlick gains first varsity pin

Tyler Schetlick of Passaic Valley certainly picked the ideal time to record his first varsity pin.
Heading into his 126-pound match, Schetlick knew what was at stake in his team’s match opposite its most intense rival in Wayne Valley. The Hornets held a 24-21 lead with four matches to go. With Wayne Valley a serious favorite to prevail in the final two bouts, P.V. needed bonus points.
Schetlick complied. And then some.
The sophomore, who came into his bout with a 3-8 record, recorded a fall in 4:34 over Bassel Chaghill to extend his team’s lead to 30-21. When Tom Dunphy won an 11-5 decision for the Hornets at 132 pounds to make it 33-21, Passaic Valley was assured at least a tie with two bouts left.
“I knew we needed the bonus points,” Schetlick said. “I got him with an under hook and worked through the hip. It felt good.”
Wayne Valley, which had won five straight against Passaic Valley dating back to 2008, rallied in the final two weight classes with a pin by Sam Tareky at 138 pounds. In the final bout, Muhammad Darwish of Passaic Valley avoided a fall in the third period before dropping a major decision to Sal Castiglia, giving the Hornets the decision, 33-31.
“If the match ended in a tie, we lose by criteria,” Passaic Valley coach Joe Benvenuti said. “They would have won eight matches to our six. Mo did a nice job against a very good wrestler. He gave us six solid minutes and we held on for the win.”
Passaic Valley last defeated Wayne Valley in the 2006-2007 season, a year before Benvenuti arrived to coach his alma mater.
“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Wayne Valley since I’ve been here,” the coach said. “They’ve had our number in football and wrestling for a while. We needed to get this one. Last year, they beat us by a point. It’s that kind of match just about every time we wrestle them. They’ve got a great program.”
For Passaic Valley, the win improved the team’s record to 8-2 and continued the trend where just about every Hornet contributes.
“That was a huge win by Tyler,” Benvenuti said of Schetlick’s victory. “What I like about this team is the way we pick each other up. Tyler had a rough go in last weekend’s quad. But tonight, he was ready and helped us to a big win.”
By mike051893

There’s a reason why PV’s gym is called The Library; More questions than answers on Galioto’s status as WO softball coach

I’ve been covering basketball since the mid 1970s and have seen more than my share of good teams and standout programs.

I’ve always commended Passaic Valley High School boys coach Rob Carcich for quietly building a solid program in Little Falls. The Hornets have been to the past two state sectional finals, where it lost to Teaneck, and have had six consecutive winning seasons.

And when you consider this program had lost 66 of its last 72 games before Carcich’s arrival, the success level at PV is even more impressive.

Having said all that, what I find totally incredulous is the lack of fan support at home games. That gym, folks, is maybe one of the largest libraries in Northern New Jersey. There is no atmosphere whatsoever. Silence is the norm. Few show up for the games, especially the day contests. There are no cheerleaders there and while the parental support is okay, it’s hard to imagine why this team, which plays top competition and does so at a high level of performance, doesn’t get any support.

I do get that the previous A.D. discouraged fans from cheering, or making noise in support of the team, almost to the point of throwing out spectators if they didn’t follow a certain code of conduct. And understand, there is an expected way for fans to conduct themselves, including not taunting opposing players, or officials.

But still, it really is a shame that the fan support for these kids is what it is. Let’s hope it gets better.

Onto West Orange High School, where its highly successful softball coach, Jamie Galioto, was informed on Christmas Eve, of all days, that his services would no longer be needed, despite a 19-9 record in 2012 and a 36-17 mark the past two seasons.

This is the same program that had no success before Galioto, a teacher at West Orange High, was named head coach in 2006. Galioto was told that a more qualified coach would take the reigns, but now we heard that coach has decided not to take the job, an announcement made at the last Board of Ed meeting.

Galoto’s current and former players were at the meeting to lend support. They’ll have to wait until the next meeting to see what’s-what. In the meantime, I’m anxious to see why the administration is trying to replace a man who seemingly has done nothing but good things in building a successful program.

Stay tuned….

By mike051893