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.