P.V.’s AD fired up as Holsworth’s Heroes plan a trip to Sparta

Following a victory before a large home crowd in the first round of the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament on Feb. 26, the Passaic Valley boys’ basketball team will face a big-time test on Feb. 28 when it travels to second seeded Sparta for a quarterfinal round contest.

Rob Carcich’s team won’t be venturing on the long trip up Route 80 by itself, however. The Hornets will have a busload of fans heading to Sussex County, as well, in what could be  “White Out” conditions.

“The fan bus is almost to capacity,” said Passaic Valley athletic director Patty Lynch. “There are a few tickets left for tomorrow morning, for any student interested. After I got administrative approval, Amy (my secretary) and I were able to pull it together with help from the Varsity club, who agreed to pay for the bus. We made tickets, a permission form , made announcements and got chaperones all in record time—-and in the name of PV spirit! The Green and White is gathering momentum and I couldn’t be happier !!!”

Lynch’s enthusiasm for the Green and White has always been genuine, but has amped up even more as a result of the new phenomenon at PV, better known as “Holsworth’s Heroes”, a fan base of students that got its start from PV assistant coach Jim Holsworth. A first-year teacher at PV, Holsworth challenged his students to get on board and support the Hornets early in the season, when the big gym in Little Falls was three-quarters empty, and too quiet, gaining the unenviable moniker of The Library.

So, as the Hornets prepare for a big game on Feb. 28, the team will be buoyed by their fans, probably all wearing white shirts again and boasting that championship belt.

 

 

 

 

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By mike051893

Andriani, Trombetta, Armagno among favorites at Region 4

So here we are, at the best weekend of the high school wrestling season, at least in my opinion.

The Region 4 championships begin tonight at West Orange High, continue on Friday and conclude Saturday with the semifinals, third place bouts and the 14 championship matches. The top three wrestlers in each weight class at Region 4 will join the top three from each weight class in the other seven regions around the state from March 8-10 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Obviously, getting to A.C. is the goal for every wrestler who has qualified for the regions. But there’s something special about the regions, especially on Saturday afternoon when the third place bouts are contested. The winner of the third place match is assured a trip to Boardwalk Hall, the loser will need a ticket to gain entrance.

While the region finals are always exciting, both of those wrestlers know they’re headed to the state championships. The third place bouts have a finality to them, and the knowledgeable fans in attendance have come to respect and enjoy those matches almost as much as the title bouts.

With that said, let’s take a look at all 14 weight classes at Region 4 and a prediction for the winners.

106-Nutley’s Anthony DeLorenzo gained the top seed, and he’s certainly capable in what should be a very competitive field. Watch out for DeLorenzo’s rival, Rocco Genova from Belleville, who is seeded second in the lower bracket and Caldwell freshman Dean Caravela, the District 13 champ. The choice: Caravela.

113-Having covered Passaic Valley a good part of this season, I think Tyler Tepe could win this. Michael Russo of St. Peter’s Prep is the top seed, but again this is wide open. Many of the coaches I spoke with think Jean DuBois of Clifton is the best in this class, and I have to agree. The choice: DuBois.

120-Assuming he’s healthy, Robert Trombetta of Nutley, who is the top seed, is the favorite. Watch out for Tommy Heller of Livingston, who is seeded third and could face Trombetta in the final, which would be a rematch of last weekend’s District 14 final, which Trombetta won in the closing seconds. The choice: Trombetta.

126: There are a few weight classes which seem to be heavily weighted to one wrestler. This is one of them. Anthony Giraldo of North Bergen, the top seed and a two-time state medalist, is the clear-cut choice.

132: Another class where the top seed is the hands-on favorite. Livingston’s Jason Estevez should win this, but I’m eager to see how Passaic Valley’s Tom Dunphy does here. Dunphy is the fourth seed, meaning if form holds, he’d face Estevez in the semifinals. The choice: Estevez.

138: Who knows? Ryan Burkert of St. Peter’s Prep is the top seed, and deservedly so. But a guy like Mike Dalla Riva of Caldwell, a senior, could be an interesting choice, as could P.V.’s Jala’a Darwish, who is just a freshman. The choice: Burkert.

145: As is the case at 126 and 132 pounds, this weight class has a noticeable favorite in Mike Marotti of West Essex, the top seed. Hard to dispute that.

152: This one should be very interesting.  Livingston’s Brad Krosser, a two-time District 14 champ at this weight class, is the top seed, but John Faugno of Glen Ridge, whom Krosser defeated in the Essex County final, is coming off an impressive run to the District 13 title. Then there’s Carlo Zazzara of West Essex and Becton’s Tyler Loughlin, both of whom have advanced in the state tourney before. One of those four won’t be wrestling in Atlantic City. The choice: Krosser.

160: Passaic Valley coach Joe Benvenuti made an interesting choice last week, moving Nick Armagno from his usual 152 pound slot to 160 for the districts. Armagno ended up second, losing in the final to Joe Velardi of West Essex in the final seconds. Nutley’s Brandon Keena is the top seed, and he is considered the favorite by most. Something tells me that Armagno, a state qualifier last year, will be primed for this weekend and he’s my choice to win this.

170: The top seed is James Kellner of St. Peter’s Prep in a class that’s as wide open as it gets. Hard to pick against Kellner here.

182: Only a sophomore, Vin Mainiero of Nutley made an immediate impact last year when he advanced in the state tournament at 170 pounds. He’s back now, a little bigger and clearly a confident wrestler as the top seed. He’s the choice here, but he’ll probably have to get by Verona’s Frank Greco in the title bout, which won’t be easy.

195: The only wrestler in this weight class with experience past the regions is Jake Regina of Rutherford, a senior, and top seed, who is the choice here.

220: Armond Cox of St. Peter’s Prep is the top seed, having advanced in the states last year at this weight class. He could face Vin Cordasco of Cedar Grove in the region final. Edge to Cox.

HWT: I really think Passaic Valley’s Patrick Andriani, who is seeded third, can win this. Last season, Andriani never got the chance to compete after being diagnosed with a weird skin ailment prior to the preliminary round of the regions. This year, he’s a district champion with a definite eye toward Atlantic City. The choice: Andriani.

So, there you have it. Looking forward to an exciting weekend at West Orange High.

By mike051893

Holsworth’s Heroes left their library cards at home, help Hornets advance, 51-30

Passaic Valley first-year assistant coach Jim Holsworth read an early season column in ‘From Margate to Cleveland’ about the lack of support for the boys’ basketball team at his new high school. Admittedly, I called PV’s massive home gymnasium The Library, because of the deafening silence, and low fan support, in some of the games

It didn’t take long for the ambitious coach to challenge his students to pick up the school spirit for a program that has consistently won for the past seven years.

Slowly but surely, the students in Holsworth’s social studies classes began showing up to home games, and then, some road games. And then tonight, ‘Holsworth’s Heroes’ showed up in droves, filling the now former Library with energy for a first-round NJSIAA tournament game between their seventh seeded Hornets and Tenafly, which gained the 10th seed.

The line was out the door for tickets 20 minutes before game time, and while the gym, which holds about 1,800, full capacity, wasn’t sold out, it certainly was at least 70% capacity. (The biggest crowd I ever saw at home was in the 2010 state tournament, when PV played Wayne Valley in the quarterfinals).

Even head coach Rob Carcich couldn’t help but look at over me just before tip off and say ‘I guess it’s not a Library tonight.’

The PV players loved the momentum from the crowd, most of whom wore white shirts, and when Stef Minic drained a 3-point basket to start the game, it was clear that this evening belonged to the Hornets. One fan even had a championship belt, which he held proudly over his head for most of the game.

On the court, the Hornets were paced by Minic’s 22 points while Mike Cirrincione had his best game on the varsity level, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Passaic Valley won, 51-30, to advance to North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 quarterfinals on Thursday at second seeded Sparta, which downed Wayne Hills.

Passaic Valley won this game because of defense. Playing its patented 2-3 zone to near perfection, it held Tenafly to 26 points, including just five in the first 7:30 of the fourth quarter before the Bergen school added a pair of layups in the closing seconds of the game.

Freshman point guard Jihad Wright had nine assists and seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Shawn Ulrich had four points, but it was a play he made early in the second quarter which turned the game squarely in PV’s favor. With the Hornets up, 13-7, an errant shot appeared to be heading out-of-bounds. But Ulrich made a great save of the ball, passing it to Dan Cirrincione, who was fouled on a layup attempt. A Tenafly player was assessed a technical foul on the play, giving the Hornets an additional two foul shots, and then possession of the ball, where Mike Cirrincione converted a layup to give the Hornets a 17-7 lead.

PV lead 23-9 at the half, thanks to a beautiful layup by Wright before the buzzer. Tenafly did make things a little interesting in the third, cutting PV’s lead to 31-21 after three, but the Hornets went back to work on defense in the fourth and pulled away to a big win.

Zach Damiano had another good game, scoring seven points and playing tenacious defense.

Success in the state tournament is nothing new to Carcich’s team. The Hornets have been to the last two state sectional finals and were a semifinalist in 2010. Back in 2007, the program won the sectional championship and went to the Group 3 final.

Following the game, most of Holsworth’s students reported to their teacher that they were indeed at the game.

“I saw at least 35 of my students, and there were probably more than that,” Holsworth said. “It was nice to see.”

And the Hornets live for another day in the craziness of the state tournament. Next up, a long trip to Sparta, where a huge assignment waits.

Let’s see if Holsworth’s Heroes travel well.

By mike051893

Region 4 Wrestling: Lengthy meeting yields top seeds, overall matchups

Whew.

Finally, it’s over. Over 6 hours after it started, the Region 4 seeding meeting is complete. Here are the top seeds for all 14 weight clases.

106-Anthony DeLorenzo, Nutley

113-Michael Russo, St. Peter’s Prep

120-Robert Trombetta, Nutley

126-Anthony Giraldo, North Bergen

132-Jason Estevez, Livingston

138-Ryan Berkert, St. Peter’s Prep

145-Mike Marotti, West Essex

152-Brad Krosser, Livingston

160-Brandon Keena, Nutley

170-James Kellner, St. Peter’s Prep

182-Vin Mainiero, Nutley

195-Jake Regina, Rutherford

220-Armond Cox, St. Peter’s Prep

HWT-Jose Marrero, Passaic Tech

I’ll have my predictions on the region coming up on Wednesday.

The Region 4 tournament starts Wednesday at West Orange High in a 6 p.m. start.

Wrestling continues on Friday with the quarterfinals, then concludes on Saturday with the semifinals, wrestlebacks and 14 championship bouts. The top 3 wrestlers in each weight class at Region 4 will move on to the NJSIAA championships at Boardwalk Hall, from March 8-10.

By mike051893

12 years later, Dubuque Saturday still resonates at Region 4

Having done my share of writing for nearly 38 years, I will admit there are a few stories that resonate for a lifetime. When it comes to high school wrestling, there is, by far, one which stands out. It happened 12 years ago and comes to mind specifically this weekend, as the Region 4 championships are once again contested in Northern New Jersey.
To set the stage for this story, I’ll throw in a little ‘Honeymooners’ analogy. Do you remember the episode when Ralph Kramden thought Alice might be stepping out on him, and was planning a strategy with his pal, Norton, to catch her in the act? Ralph’s classic line was, ‘Oh, I’m going bowling, Norton. But I’m NOT going bowling’. Norton was clearly befuddled.
Okay, fast forward a few decades to March 2, 2001 and if Glen Ridge’s Joe Dubuque could see into the future, he might have said to some close friends on the New Jersey high school wrestling circuit, ‘I’m going to win states, again. But I’m NOT going to win the regions.’
Confused? Okay. But after reading this story, you’ll learn a little more about determination, some incredibly good luck and a bit of fate that not only won Dubuque a second state title, but quite possibly changed his life’s direction. Enjoy.
Long after the final whistle sounded, and the cheering ended on a wrestling mat in North Jersey, three friends remain tied to each other, in part due to a weekend 12 years ago that will forever bond them.
This is the story of Joe Dubuque, Anthony Montes and Anthony Messina, wrestlers from neighboring Essex County high schools in Glen Ridge, Nutley and Bloomfield, respectively, who formed a triangle at Passaic Valley High in Little Falls, which has transcended time.
It’s what makes high school wrestling, and its subsequent competition, so special. And while the friendship amongst the three had begun long before a fateful weekend in March of 2001, what occurred over a seven day period a dozen years ago has forever changed their lives. It’s a story of courage, raw emotion and the ultimate victory which would alter Dubuque’s life and strengthen a friendship already cemented in respect.
In 2001, Dubuque was a senior at Glen Ridge, having won a NJSIAA championship at 112 pounds a year earlier. He was rolling through his senior year at 119 pounds, undefeated, and for that matter, unstoppable. Dubuque had won his fourth straight Essex County Tournament championship earlier in the 2000-2001 season, and had just turned in a dominant effort at District 13, for his fourth straight title there.
Even in elementary school, Dubuque was a wrestling fanatic. His idol growing up? Belleville High’s Anthony Conte, a 1996 state champion and Belleville’s lone four-time NJSIAA medalist, to date.
“My friend, Joe Schoch, was a big Rami Ratel (from Bloomfield) fan and I was a Conte fan,” said Dubuque, today the assistant wrestling coach at Princeton University following a successful stint in the same capacity at his alma mater, Indiana University.  “When Anthony and Rami wrestled, we’d go to the match together, but sit on opposite sides of the gym while they had their match. After they finished wrestling, we’d sit together again. It was that intense, even for us kids.”
mon jpegAnthony Montes (center) with Joe Dubuque (left) and Anthony Messina following the Region 4 championships on March 3, 2001.
Regions, March 2-3
On Friday, March 2, 2001, Dubuque won his Region 4 quarterfinal at Passaic Valley. Already a three-time region champion, he was scheduled to wrestle Messina, then a sophomore who was just beginning to gain credibility in the sport, the following morning in a semifinal. He was also excited about having just set a new state record for takedowns in a season, eclipsing the mark of 204 by perhaps the best high school wrestler, ever, in New Jersey, Damian Hahn of Lakewood
“I remember going to bed that night and thinking I had to wrestle Joe the following morning,” Messina recalled. “I knew I didn’t have much of a chance, but I was also looking forward to wrestling him. I figured, no one was expecting me to win and I had nothing to lose. What’s the worst than can happen? I lose? Okay.”
Dubuque Saturday
The two stepped on the mat around 9:15 a.m. on March 3. Messina planned to be aggressive and see if he could gain some momentum.
“Right off the bat, I caught him with a high crotch and thought I got the two points, but (referee, Mark) Sherman said my foot was out of bounds,” Messina recalled. “We’re walking back to the center of the mat and I’m thinking ‘(Joe) is going to kill me now.”
Dubuque was a devastating wrestler on his feet and would often shoot toward opponents’ legs to gain leverage. As Dubuque moved in, his head collided with Messina’s forehead and Dubuque crumpled to the mat, losing consciousness for about 20 seconds.
“My friends had nicknamed me ‘Rock’, because I have a hard head,” Messina said. “When we hit, I didn’t feel anything, but then I saw Joe lying there.”
Dirk Phillips, Glen Ridge’s wrestling coach at the time and today the Glen Ridge High School principal, recalls the moment like it was yesterday.
“I remember him lying on the mat, and I’m saying ‘Joe, Joe, you okay,'” Phillips said. “He wasn’t responding, but he eventually started coming out of it. Back then, while we had trainers, the response to head injuries is not nearly what it is today. The trainers would not let him continue, and a doctor who was at the match wouldn’t allow him to continue without being examined first.”
Messina, admittedly confused by what was happening, suddenly had his hand raised in victory, marking Dubuque’s first loss of the season.
“At first, I was happy because I won,” Messina said. “But I was more concerned at that point about Joe. I went down to the locker room and apologized, but Joe was quick to say there was nothing to apologize for and that it was a part of the sport. It happens. Still, it was weird.”
Dubuque left Passaic Valley quickly, hoping to get a doctor’s clearance to continue wrestling. Having lost, he would need to wrestle back for third place if he any hope of winning a second consecutive state championship. His first wrestleback would be 90 minutes after his loss to Messina, so time was critical.
“I was determined to wrestle back,” Dubuque recalled. “It was a freak accident, but that stuff happens. It certainly gave me a new perspective on the sport.”
Dubuque’s older brother, John, hurried Joe to an Immedi Center-type facility to get a clearance, which was obtained.
“That could never happen today,” said John Dubuque, who is now the head football coach at Belleville High. “There would have had to be a battery of tests first and of course, Joe would not have gotten back in time to wrestle that day.”
Dubuque returned to the gym in time to face Angel LaPorte of Kearny in the first of two wrestlebacks he would need to win to clinch third place. Montes, then a junior who had won the other 119-pound semifinal, remembers well watching Dubuque try and wrestle LaPorte.
“I didn’t think he should be out there,” said Montes, one of Dubuque’s best friends to this day. “He was wobbly throughout the match. I remember when I was wrestling my semifinal at the same time Joe and Anthony were on the mat and all the commotion when Joe got hurt.”
Dubuque’s eyes were red and he appeared to wobble at times when standing up. But somehow, he caught LaPorte, who in his wildest dreams never thought Dubuque would be in a wrestleback, for a pin in the third period. What probably saved Dubuque’s season that day was referee Joe Luongo, a seasoned wrestling official who was keeping a close eye on him.
“When you’re officiating at that level, you have to know the kid,” Luongo said. “I had worked enough of Joey’s matches to realize he could wrestle his way through it. I handled him with kid gloves that day, but also knew how tough Joey was. I had to give him the opportunity and didn’t want to stop it, especially after he was cleared to go. This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation for a kid. You don’t want to stop it and the kid turns out to be okay.
“However, if I saw any indication he was in jeopardy, I was stopping it. With Joey, he always talked a lot during his matches, so I had a few conversations with him in that particular match. When he’d go out of bounds, I’d ask him ‘how are you’ and ‘what day is it’, stuff like that, and he was responding like usual. It also helped that I had a good relationship with his head coach, Dirk. We had spoken before that match and Dirk seemed okay to let Joey go out there. Ultimately, it was still my decision and I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
After beating LaPorte, Dubuque had another hour to try and recoup before he faced Lou Rabelo of North Bergen for third place. Only the top three wrestlers from each weight class advance to the state championships, so there was just one way for Dubuque to qualify. The extra hour seemed to do him some good. His eyes were much clearer and he seemed more focused.
Dubuque put on a typical take down show against Rabelo, building up a big lead before registering a fall to clinch third place.
As the day’s events at Region 4 were concluding, Dubuque received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 2,000 at Passaic Valley. Dubuque was somewhat overwhelmed by all the attention. He even garnered some votes as the tournament’s outstanding wrestler, which was unheard of for someone who finished third.
“Honestly, I still don’t remember a thing from that day,” Dubuque said recently. “The entire day was a blur, literally.”
The injury affected other wrestlers in different weight classes at the region. Pat Trabucco of Livingston, an eventual four-time Essex County, District 14 and Region 4 champion, as well as a four-time NJSIAA medalist, was noticeably down after winning his fourth region title.
“Joe and I are best friends,” Trabucco said that day. “We were supposed to be winning this together.”
Trabucco, who was head wrestling coach at his alma mater through the 2010-2011 season, also recalled the day Dubuque was injured with a vivid memory.
“The reason why we’re all pretty close today is the bond we formed as competitors back in high school,” Trabucco said. “Montes, Frank DiPiano (the current Nutley head coach) and I were all at Joe’s wedding and they were at my wedding. Wrestling is that bond. To be honest, I never doubted Joe’s ability to come back that day and eventually be a champion again. He was that cocky and that good. He just had to get a doctor to clear him.”
There were two newsworthy events going on at Passaic Valley that afternoon. One was Dubuque’s injury and the other was a massive snowstorm which was supposed to hit the local area. The predictions were for more than two feet of snow for early the following week, with 40 mile-per-hour winds that could produce five foot drifts. (If you knew then Passaic Valley coach Nick Zarra, he gave the best description of the storm, with that raspy voice).
On spec, the NJSIAA pushed the next round of wrestling, then called the super regions, back a day to March 7, in deference to the storm. Because Dubuque finished third in the region, he would need to win his first match at the super regions to assure himself a trip to Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands that weekend for the state championships, then win a second time that evening to assure himself a chance at winning a second state title.
The aforementioned snowstorm never occurred. But the extra day off for the super regions would help Dubuque’s recovery. This is also where the friendship between Montes and Dubuque took another turn.
Super Regions, March 7
Dubuqe and Montes had hoped to wrestle each other in a state championship final in 2001. A year earlier, Montes had made it to the 112-pound semifinals before losing and eventually finishing sixth in the state. Dubuque, who was wrestling in the other semifinal that year, went on to win the state championship at the Meadowlands.
“We had come pretty close to facing each other a year earlier for a state title,” Montes said. “So we both felt that it would be our year. When Joe got hurt, it changed all the matchups for the super regions. There was even talk after he originally got hurt that maybe I’d medically forfeit the region final, so we would avoid having to wrestle each other in the super regions.”
Montes didn’t forfeit the Region 4 final. He defeated Messina, 13-8, for the 119-pound title. But that meant he would most likely face Dubuque in the super regions at Union High School, assuming Dubuque defeated Roselle Park’s Dan Appello in the preliminary round earlier that evening.
“I couldn’t forfeit a region final,” Montes said. “You have to understand that when we competed back then, wrestling was everything to us. That’s the way it was meant to be (12) years ago. I always kid (Messina) that he messed everything up that year. In a way, the best thing I ever did was wrestle Joe that night in Union. I’ll never forget it.”
Nor, would the large crowd in attendance that evening at the super regions.
Dubuque won his first round match over Appello, ending Appello’s season and setting the stage for his match with Montes later that night. Both guys were assured of a trip to the Meadowlands, but the victor would be advancing to the winner’s bracket.
Dubuque, who was back in good health, won a 7-5 decision. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the two embraced and Dubuque raised Montes’ hand in victory, even though Dubuque had won. Many in the crowd had tears in their eyes. The standing ovation lasted at least two minutes.
“There were other matches going on, and most of those matches stopped for a few seconds,” Montes said. “It was unbelievable. The crowd was so loud. Our A.D. back then (Angelo Franicola) often talked about what an incredible level of sportsmanship that match had represented. I’ll never forget it, and I had lost. While you never like to lose, I felt good in that I had wrestled really well that night.”
Dubuque would later say, and continues to reiterate today, that there was no loser in that match.
“We had wanted to face each other in the state final,” Dubuque said. “But I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
State Championships, March 10-11
Now at the Meadowlands, Dubuque would not be stopped. On March 10, he won by technical fall in a bout that lasted just four minutes. The following day, he started with a 15-5 victory in the semis, setting the stage for the state final opposite Matt Anderson of South Plainfield, himself a state champion in 2000 at 103 pounds. Dubuque would wrestle a vintage match in the finals, recording four take downs en route to an 11-5 victory. As the final horn sounded before nearly 14,000 fans that day, Dubuque broke down and cried.
“If you knew Joe, you’d know he wasn’t the type to be emotional,” Phillips said. “But he had been through so much that week and to realize he was a state champion again meant the world to him.”
Dubuque called Anderson the nicest person he had ever met in the post-match press conference. He thanked his family and friends for their love and support. He would stand on the top deck of the podium that afternoon, and Montes would stand on the podium as well, having finished seventh in the state at 119 pounds.
“When you deal with an injury that could end your season, it puts things in perspective,” Dubuque had said at the time. “I got a second chance, and I’ll never forget it.”
That second title meant so much more to Dubuque in the subsequent weeks.
“If he was unable to continue after the injury,” Phillips said, “I doubt he would have had the college career he did. At the time, Joe wasn’t known, nationally, as a great wrestler. But winning in 2001 gave him a chance to compete in the senior nationals, and he won there as well.”
Aftermath
Dubuque received a scholarship to wrestle at the Indiana University. In 2005 and 2006, he would win a pair of NCAA championships.
“Winning two national championships was great,” said Dubuque, who finished his high school career with a 134-7 record. “But I’m not sure any of it happens without winning that second state title. It changed my life.”
Phillips admits to this day that he’s still not sure he did the right thing in allowing Dubuque to continue wrestling at the regions back on March 3, 2001.
“It still have doubts,” Phillips said. “Obviously, it turned out good for Joe, but I wonder if I should have let him continue. For sure, if that kind of injury happened today, there’s no way he could have continued. There are so many safeguards in place now for head injuries and a lot more awareness.”
Messina, whose season ended at the super regions in 2001, also wouldn’t trade the experience of that weekend.
“I remember watching the state finals with some friends on television that year and hearing them announce Joe’s name and that his record was 30-something and 1, and my friends saying ‘yeah, his only loss was to you,'” Messina said. “I know he was the better wrestler, and I wish he hadn’t gotten hurt, but it does mean a lot to me, today, to know that I was a part of that story.”
Montes would go on to earn a third state medal in 2002 and today is the assistant wrestling coach at Nutley High.
“Messina and I are great friends,” Montes said. “He works out with some of our kids on the mat, but it’s funny, we’ve never gotten back on the mat and wrestled each other, even for fun. We’ve left those experiences to memory.”
Looking Back
“There were so many good wresters from that era in New Jersey,” said Dubuque, who today is a husband and father of two. “I think of guys like Montes, Messina, DiPiano and Trabucco and how talented they were. To be a part of that experience was something I’ll never forget. I’m still close to all those guys because of that and I’ll always be grateful.”
Dubuque won his second state title on March 11, 2001. Many will recall what happened six months to the day later as a timeline in their own lives.
“Things were really different,” Dubuque said of his high school days in the pre 9-11 era. “The times were less complicated. Yeah, there were cell phones and computers, but it wasn’t like now. I’m glad I grew up when I did. I’ll never forget the little things which made that time special. As close as we were off the mat, when we wrestled, it was a battle. When it was over, we were back to being friends. And that will continue for the rest of our lives.”
And thus, the legend of Dubuque Saturday, March 3, 2001.
By mike051893

Passaic Valley follows Benvenuti’s lead and competes with class as Dunphy and Andriani win gold

Okay, so Passaic Valley didn’t repeat as District 13 wrestling champion.

It lost by a half a point. Yes, half a point.

And to West Essex, of all teams.

And as head coach Joe Benvenuti said afterward, there’s no one to blame.

“You can’t look at one instance and say that’s why we won, or lost,” Benvenuti said. “We had plenty of opportunities to win this. That’s the way this sport goes and that’s what competition is all about. West Essex did an outstanding job.”

There was no one more disappointed than Benvenuti as he made his way to congratulate West Essex head coach Greg Ruggiero. And when a Hornets fan made a comment about a stalling call which didn’t go Patrick Andriani’s way in the heavyweight bout, Benvenuti put a quick end to that discussion.

“None of that,” Benvenuti snapped. “That’s not what this is about. That’s not what we teach here.”

Period. End of discussion.

For Benvenuti, this was about Andriani and Tommy Dunphy winning district titles. It was about Nick Armagno, Tyler Tepe, Anthony Cruz, Jala’a Darwish, David Cruz and Christopher Armagno advancing to the regions, with Darwish and Chris Armagno making it as freshmen.

And despite the difficulty of losing by such a slim margin, it once again enhanced a wonderful rivalry with West Essex, a school where Benvenuti began his head coaching career and where his legacy as a classy young coach took hold. Two West Essex assistant coaches, Mike D’Urso and Rick Nappi wrestled for Benvenuti at West Essex and are now up-and-coming coaches at their alma maters.

“It’s great seeing those guys doing well as coaches,” Benvenuti said recently. “We have a nice rivalry with West Essex.”

The coach wouldn’t have it any other way.

By mike051893

West Essex and Nutley garner district titles in Essex County wrestling

West Essex won in classic manner in District 13 while Nutley pulled away in the championship round for a solid victory to repeat as champion in District 14 on Feb. 23.

The top three wrestlers in each weight class at Districts 13 and 14 will move on to the Region 4 championships to join those wrestlers who attained top three rankings in Districts 15 and 16. The regions begin at West Orange High on Feb. 27 with the preliminary round for grapplers who were second and third in their respective weight classes. Wrestling continues on Friday, March 1 with the quarterfinal round, where the district champions will compete, along with those wrestlers who won on Feb. 27. On March 2, the semifinals, wrestlebacks and 14 championship bouts will be contested.

The top three wrestlers in each weight class at Region 4 will move on to the NJSIAA championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City from March 8-10.

West Essex edged (and I mean edged) the defending District 13 champs, Passaic Valley, 173.5-173.0 in North Caldwell. The tournament came down to the heavyweight bout, where Passaic Valley’s Patrick Andriani won the title but missed out on a bonus point despite an opponent who appeared to be stalling.  Had he scored that additional point, PV wins the district.

“You can’t look at one instance and say that’s why we won, or lost,” Passaic Valley coach Joe Benvenuti said. “We had plenty of opportunities before the heavyweight match to win this. Andriani did his job. He wrestled well. That’s the way this sport goes and that’s what competition is all about. West Essex did an outstanding job.”

Joe Velardi of West Essex won a huge bout in the 160-pound championship, edging Passaic Valley’s Nick Armagno, 9-8 on a reversal as the final buzzer sounded. West Essex also got a one-point win over Passaic Valley in a title bout at 113 pounds where Mike Panzarino nipped Tyler Tepe, 2-1.

PV’s Tommy Dunphy was impressive in a tough weight class, winning the 132-pound championship.

Once again, we saw the intensity of the Passaic Valley-West Essex wrestling rivalry. The Hornets won the regular season battle, the Knights captured the post-season tussle. Last year, it was just the opposite, with West Essex beating PV by criteria in a dual match and the Hornets returning the favor a few weeks later in the districts.

And with the closeness of the schools and the familiarity among the coaches (Benvenuti was head coach at West Essex before returning to his alma mater and some of the West Essex assistant coaches wrestled for Benvenuti in high school) this rivalry has plenty of steam left for the 2013-2014 season.

Meanwhile, at District 14 in Livingston, Nutley rallied in the championship round to defeat upstart Belleville for its second straight district title. Belleville made a stand by advancing nine wrestlers to Region 4, but the Raiders stepped up in the final 14 bouts, winning three titles against Belleville opponents to pull away from the Bucs.

Nutley’s Robert Trombetta won the 120-pound title with a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Livingston’s Tommy Heller in what was clearly the match of the day. Anthony DeLorenzo, Stephen Scuttaro, Brandon Burbank, Brandon Keena and Vin Mainiero also captured gold for Nutley.

Livingston’s Jason Estevez was named the tourney’s Outstanding Wrestler for his dominance at 132 pounds while in District 13, Mike Marotti garnered OW after winning the 145-pound title for West Essex.

Next stop, Region 4. Can’t wait.

By mike051893

District 14: Nutley will repeat as champs

It’s not over yet at District 14 in Livingston, but Nutley is far enough ahead that From Margate to Cleveland is now projecting that Frank DiPiano’s Raiders will repeat as district champions. (Sounds very politicial, doesn’t it? LOL)

Nutley actually trailed arch rival Belleville heading into the final round, but the Raiders captured three head-to-head matches with their Buccaneer opponents and also got some bonus points in the form of pins by Brandon Keena at 160 pounds and Vin Mainiero at 182.

By mike051893

District 14: Nutley’s Trombetta wins a thriller at 120 pounds

Robert Trombetta of Nutley won a thriller, edging Livingston’s Tommy Heller, 5-4, in a tremendous match at Livingston High  for the 120-pound District 14 title.

Trombetta trailed, 4-3, before reversing Heller off the edge of the mat with less than 5 seconds remaining. Trombetta’s win also gives Nutley the team lead in a close tournament.

Nutley’s Anthony DeLorenzo won at 106 pounds while Brendon Seyfried of Newark Academy won the 113-pound championship.

More to come.

By mike051893