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.