This time, it was Old School in a big way.
Passaic Valley heavyweight Patrick Andriani welcomed the chance to finish tonight’s match against DePaul. With his team trailing, 32-27, Andriani needed at least a technical fall to forge a tie, but the junior had other ideas and locked into a cradle for a dramatic second period pin which gave the Hornets a scintillating 33-32 victory over the newly crowned Passaic County champions.
“It’s old school, because the match ended with the heavyweight bout,” said an elated PV head coach Joe Benvenuti. “That was special, beating a quality team like DePaul and it coming down to the final match.”
Most wrestling fans know that high school matches always ended with the heavyweight bout, but a few years ago, a new system went into place where the opening match would be decided by a random draw, as opposed to the lightest weight kicking off the match.
“That’s the way it should be,” said PV assistant coach and former Hornets great Michael Bastante. “The heavyweight match should end it. That was classic.”
Passaic Valley improved to 16-5 on the regular season. It was scheduled to face Ramapo on Friday night, but with the pending blizzard, it’s safe to assume that match won’t be held. Instead, the Hornets will now prepare for the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament, beginning at home on Feb. 13 against the winner of Monday’s bout between Sparta and Paramus. Passaic Valley, which won the sectional championship in 2010, is seeded second behind Northern Highlands.
The match began at 106 pounds with a tremendous match up between the county finalists. DePaul’s Will Kui had edged Passaic Valley’s Anthony Cruz, 2-1, in the title bout, but this time, it was Cruz who took control on his feet and won an impressive 3-1 decision.
“We told Anthony, you win, and we’ll win (as a team),” Benvenuti said. “Simple as that. Anthony has really stepped up his performance over the last three weeks. He was focused tonight and got us off to a great start.”
The Hornets led 8-0 after Tyler Tepe won by technical at 113, but DePaul (11-6) stormed back to take a 22-8 lead with wins in the next five weight classes. Despite the setbacks, the Hornets were able to keep the bonus points at a minimum, which proved crucial when Marc Vender registered a fall for the Hornets at 152 pounds, cutting the deficit to 22-14.
Benvenuti then made a few adjustments in the lineup, bumping Nick Armagno, David Cruz, Christopher Armagno and Matt Patten up a weight class.
Armagno went up to 160 pounds and won a key 5-2 decision over Nick Carey, setting the stage for Cruz’s 17-7 major decision at 170 that cut DePaul’s lead to 22-21. DePaul extended its lead to 28-21 when the Spartans’ Nick DePalma registered a pin at 182, but the Hornets got the points back at 195 pounds when Christopher Armagno pinned Joe Perkins in 3:52.
“I knew there was a chance I’d bump up to 195,” said Armagno, who weighed in at 182. “I was able to get a half in and it felt great to get those points back.”
It appeared DePaul got a key bonus point when Scott Lavelle won by major decision over Patten at 220, extending the lead to 32-27, but there was that heavyweight match and Andriani wasn’t about to leave anything to chance.
“I got him with a double up,” Andriani said. “I knew what was out there. It was just a matter of finishing the job. It feels good heading into the states to get this win.”
Benvenuti noted it was another team effort.
“Marc Vender, unbelievable job at 152,” Benvenuti said. “David Cruz was outstanding at 170. Nick Armagno and Christopher Armagno had big wins after bumping up. We got points in places we didn’t expect and that made up for a few matches where we thought we’d get points and didn’t. It was a great effort.”