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.