District 14: Belleville leads in close tourney; More breaks here than actual wrestling time

I’m here at the district which will never end.

Seroiusly, District 14 started at 9 a.m. and has already had two breaks which totalled OVER THREE AND A HALF HOURS….You really can’t make it up.

Anyway, the finals are set to begin at 4:30…Belleville has a slight lead over arch rival Nutley, with Bloomfield a close third. Belleville and Nutley will have three direct matchups in the finals, so this should be fun.

I’ll keep you posted.

By mike051893

District 14: Spaghetti Triangle a toss up as Nutley, Belleville and Bloomfield vie for title

With the semifinals completed at District 14 in Livingston, it’s a 3-way race for the team championship between defending champion Nutley, as well as old-time rivals Bloomfield and Belleville.

Nutley has the slimmest of leads, with 169 points, while Belleville is second at 168 1/2 and Bloomfield is third with 167. Livingston is still in the mix, too, with 133 1/2 points.

We’re at yet another break at District 14, which is totally ridiculous. The breaks have been longer than the tournament. The tourney begins again at 3:30 p.m. with the consolation bouts, followed by the 14 championship matches at 4:30 p.m.

(Seriously, this entire tournament could have been done by 2 p.m.)

Anyway, there are three matchups between Nutley and Belleville wrestlers in the District 14 finals, which could determine the team champion. Belleville’s Rocco Genova takes on Nutley’s Anthony DeLorenzo in the 106 pound final. Other Belleville-Nutley finals feature Stephen Scuttaro of Nutley taking on Belleville’s O’Brayan Ramirez in the 138-pound championship bout and Vinnie Mainiero of Nutley facing Kevin Llerna of Belleville for the 182-pound championship.

I’ll keep you posted as the tourney continues. Stay tuned.

By mike051893

Newark Academy’s Patrick Gerish reaches elusive century mark

Patrick Gerish of Newark Academy became his school’s fifth wrestler to reach 100 wins in a high school career.

Gerish, a junior, attained the century mark in impressive style, winning by technical fall, 16-1, in a match on Feb. 16, at home, against John Cummins of St. John Vianney.

Gerish (31-4) dominated on his feet in the 145 pound bout, leaving little to drama en route to a fall in 3:38.

“It’s a win,” the unassuming Gerish said afterward. “Beyond that, I just want to focus on getting ready for the districts. It does feel special to get to 100. I’ve been around this program my entire life, so I know how good the guys are that have already reached 100. I’m proud of that.”

gerishPatrick Gerish of Newark Academy.

Gerish is the middle son of Newark Academy head coach Jay Gerish. Older brother Joseph, who was graduated last spring, is currently fourth in school history with 102 victories. John Sternlicht is first on the all time win list at Newark Academy with 143 victories. Sternlicht was a 2008 graduate of Newark Academy and his 111 pins rank him third, all time, in state history.

Jerome Greco, a 2004 NA graduate, is second all time in wins with 124. Greco was also a state medal winner in his senior year. Jim Avola, who graduated in 2003, is third with 123 victories. Avola later had a standout collegiate career at Davidson College.

Jay Gerish was very proud of his son’s accomplishment.

“Not many wrestlers this season have gotten 100 in their junior year,” Gerish said. “He’s looking for good things next week in the districts and beyond. But this is a nice step for him.”

Patrick Gerish has an excellent chance of becoming Newark Academy’s all time winningest wrestler next season.

By mike051893

Roger Crowell: An American Hero, a Belleville legend

A father. A husband. A son. A brother.

Belleville native Roger Crowell was all of the above. And if you ask anyone who knew him, he was a really good guy.
And hopefully, after reading this, you’ll remember Roger Crowell as an American hero.
A 1965 graduate of Belleville High, Roger was remembered by his dear childhood friend, Joe Cervasio, as a phenomenal athlete.
“I’m telling you, when we were kids, there wasn’t a better athlete in town than Roger Crowell,” Cervasio recalled last week. “He was as good as there was in football, basketball and baseball. As friendly as I was with him, he and Lenny Luongo went to grammar school at number 5 together. Those two were really close.”
RCA photo of Roger from the Belleville High School Yearbook, 1965…
Luongo recalls a spirited rivalry, as well as a close friendship with Roger.
“He was always a nice kid,” Luongo recalled. “We were both pretty good athletes growing up, and man did we have some rivalries in anything we played. We used to be some of the last guys standing in dodge ball games during gym class. He and I both won our share of games. It was like that growing up in Belleville back then. But again, most importantly, Roger was a special friend.”
Crowell, Cervasio and Luongo were part of the first graduating class at the building now commonly known as Belleville High School, on Passaic Avenue. Prior to ’65, the high school was located at the facility on Washington Avenue known to most of us today as the Middle School. It was also around 1965 that Mike Marotti constructed the now legendary Little League field located on Mill St, off Franklin Avenue.
“Roger was a tremendous baseball player,” said Luongo, a standout athlete at Belleville High who later gained Hall of Fame accolades. “I played on the Cubs back in those days while Roger was on the Giants. We’d end up playing in some big games back then. Those were great times.”
Cervasio recalled Crowell’s versatility as an athlete.
“He could do anything on a field,” said Cervasio, himself a Hall of Fame Belleville athlete who went on to play football at Cornell University. “He was so fast on the football field and that speed made him a great basketball and baseball player, too. Only problem with Roger was, by the time we got to high school, he stopped growing.”
Crowell remained friends with Cervasio and Luongo throughout high school. After graduation, Joe and Lenny went on to college. Roger later married his high school sweetheart, the former Gail Corino, a 1966 BHS grad, and joined the Army.
The son of Mellville and Grace Crowell, he served in the 1st Platoon, C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and was deployed to Vietnam.
On Jan. 31, 1968, Roger was Killed in Action when an armored personnel carrier he was driving was hit by rockets. He was 20 years old and left behind his wife and infant son, Roger.
Roger Crowell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
His name, of course, appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial to New Jersey’s fallen heroes, in Holmdel. You can also see Roger’s name on a memorial plaque at the Marotti Little League field, located behind the centerfield fence.
“When I stop by the field, I always look for Roger’s name,” Cervasio said. “It gets very emotional for me. I was away at school when word came that Roger was killed in Vietnam. I remember my father reading about it in the Belleville Times. I don’t think Roger ever met his son, because I think his wife was pregnant when Roger left for Vietnam. I did have the honor of meeting Roger Jr. a while back. It was quite a moment for me and he’s such a nice man today.”
Cervasio, a highly succesful author, recalled when writing his first book, ‘Bad News On The Doorstep’, he created a character named Roger Bush, which was, in part, due to Crowell.
“I have a composite character in my first book. His name is Roger Bush. He is really a combination of two of my Belleville friends, Roger Crowell and Billy Rush. Both left us too soon. Roger on the battlefields of Vietnam, Billy on the battle fields of life. What else did they have in common besides their basketball prowess? Vietnam took its toll. You can read about Roger Bush in the book, but on pages 404-405 the epilogue, tells the rest of the story, and not far from the truth. We miss them both.
“He was my nemesis,” Luongo said with a wistful laugh. “He was quicker and faster than me. What a great athlete, but more importantly, a great guy.”
Roger Crowell’s yearbook photo had a simple caption underneath. It read ‘one cannot help but like him.’
Forty five years after his final mission, I’d like to say thank you, Specialist (SP4) Roger Crowell for your service and sacrifice for our nation’s freedom.
By mike051893

Demikoff and Wayne: Perfect together, in name and title

The Wayne Board of Education made official what most in the community were hoping was a foregone conclusion for the past few months.

Wayne Demikoff is the new head football coach at Wayne Hills High School.

Demikoff, an assistant on the staff for the last 14 seasons, replaces the legendary Chris Olsen, who guided the Patriots for the last 26 seasons to incredible successes, including eight NJSIAA championships and a 55-game winning streak which spanned from 2004-2009.

I’ve written plenty about Wayne on northjersey.com and the Wayne Today newspapers, but wanted to just say how proud I am of him. Wayne and I go back a while and I’ve been fortunate to cover a lot of Wayne Hills football games the past few years, as well as having the chance to be in the inner sanctum of coaching meetings.

I’ve had the chance to work closely with Wayne and Olsen over the last few seasons and can safely say, Wayne Demikoff will do a marvelous job for the Patriots.

I’m sure the players are thrilled, the parents are elated and a tired Demikoff will enjoy sleeping tonight.

“I’m tired,” Demikoff said to me tonight by telephone. “I can’t wait to get started now. We got a lot of work to do.”

Yes, I told him, but for now, enjoy this moment. Wayne has worked long and hard for this opportunity. Relish the moment for a little bit, pal. There will be plenty of time to watch film.



By mike051893

Cruz Control and a dose of Andriani heroics drive PV wrestlers to huge victory

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.”
By mike051893

Conference title secured, Carcich’s Hornets look to next hurdle

Rob Carcich had just witnessed his Passaic Valley Hornets capture its first conference championship since the waning days of the Jimmy Carter administration on Feb. 5 when someone asked him about the team’s upcoming game opposite DePaul Catholic in the quarterfinal round of the Passaic County Tournament.

“Are you kidding?” Carcich mused. “Not even thinking about it. We just put a banner on that (gym) wall. We’re conference champs. I’m going to enjoy this for a little while.”

Passaic Valley’s second 26 point win against Wayne Hills in the past three days assured the Hornets the Big North title while improving the team’s record to 13-6. It was something Carcich wanted for his team, big time, especially after a championship of any sort seemed remote following an embarrassing 60-41 debacle at Wayne Valley on Jan. 22.

Carcich was so aggravated during that game that he benched most of his starters for the second half.

“If you told me then that we’d win our next four games and win a conference, I would have said you were nuts,” Carcich said. “But the kids seem to finally understand what I’ve been talking about all season regarding intensity and being smart out there. They’re listening.”

Stefan Minic scored a career high 29 points in the Feb. 5 win against Hills. Freshman point guard Jihad Wright finished with 10 points and six other Hornets scored at least two points.

What the box score doesn’t indicate is the incredibly savvy play of junior captain Zach Damiano, the timely efforts of Alex Pezzino, Shawn Ulrich’s incredible potential and the ever improving play under the boards by Mike Cirrincione.

“I don’t think people understand what Pezzino has meant to this team,” Carcich said. “And Zach, that kid plays so hard every in every game, but now he’s making some incredibly efficient athletic plays on transition. Jihad is turning into a tremendous point guard. We’re getting contributions from just about everyone.”

That contribution has also been helped by a growing fan base, who took exception to the home court being dubbed ‘The Library’. The fans traveled well to Wayne Hills for the championship clincher. (Credit assistant coach Jim Holsworth for getting the fans on board).

So that brings us back to Saturday’s game with DePaul in the county quarter, at Paterson Kennedy, in a 3 p.m. start.

“Whew,” Carcich said. “We’re talking a different animal there. DePaul is good. They’re fast, tough and know how to play. We’re going to have our hands full. That’s all I’m going to say there.”

There’s also the NJSIAA tournament coming up soon. Passaic Valley has been to the past two Section 1, Group 3 finals, where it lost twice to Teaneck.

So while Carcich wanted to enjoy a championship, deep down, it’s clear the proverbial wheels are turning. And even though that now famous Carcich Meter may have leveled off, you can be assured it’ll be off the charts come game time on Saturday.

By mike051893

Verona and Bloomfield High wrestlers to support Alzheimer’s Awareness

When Verona High School hosts Super Essex Conference rival Bloomfield in a varsity wrestling match on Feb. 6, the event will have an extra special significance.

According to Verona head coach Don Morgenroth, the match, which starts at 6 p.m., will support Alzheimer’s Awareness and will sport a poignant slogan of ‘They May Forget, But We Never Will”.


“The whole idea came from one of our wrestlers, Mark Riggio, who always wears purple wrestling shoes,” Morgenroth said. “When we asked him why he wore those shoes, he passionately told us that it was the color for Alzheimer’s Awareness, and that he just recently lost his grandmother to the disease.”

Morgenroth’s father, Don, fought a courageous battle against Alzheimer’s before passing away three years ago.

“I thought it would be great, as a team, to do a community project to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Foundation,” Morgenroth said. “So the gears were turning and we decided to design and sell a tee-shirt dedicated to Alzheimer’s awareness. Then, we thought it would be great to dedicate a match against Alzheimer’s. We reached out to Bloomfield and coach (Sam) Fusaro was honored that I thought of his team and they eagerly got involved.”

Both teams sold the purple tee-shirts, with the ‘They May Forget, But We Never Will’ slogan and according to Morgenroth, the teams hope to raise over $1,000.00 from the shirt sales, change collection and door fees at the match.

“I applaud both teams for getting involved,” Morgenroth said.

By mike051893

My Top 10 Super Bowls, from the Pack, the AFL, Jack Lambert, Montana and Grant, and the Rams

I’ve been around long enough to have seen every Super Bowl on television, starting with the first one, which wasn’t even called the Super Bowl in 1967, rather the NFL-AFL Championship game.

Most of us know that Green Bay won the first two Super Bowls, beating Kansas City in I, 35-10 and then Oakland the following year, 33-14. Had the Baltimore Colts dominated the Jets in Super Bowl III, who knows what the future of the Super Bowl might have been. By the time Kansas City won Super Bowl IV, 23-7, over Minnesota, the merger of the two leagues was imminent and the hype which has made the game a national holiday today was well underway.

We all have our favorite games, probably based on a favorite team, or player. As a Cleveland Browns fan, obviously I don’t have one to choose from, but I love watching and can still dream of the day my team finally makes it. (Maybe next year, at the Meadowlands!)

Anyway, here are my top 10 Super Bowls of all times. Most people feel that Super Bowl 42 was the best of all time, with the Giants beating the previously unbeaten New England Patriots, 17-14. To me, the Giants defense was the story of that game, but somehow Eli Manning was named MVP. I never agreed with it. In fact, if Eli’s last name was Jones and not Manning, a Giants defensive player would have gotten the award. Manning was average, at best, in that game and if Assante Samuel had made a relatively easy interception on the Giants’ last drive, New England finishes 19-0 and we don’t have to hear any more from Dolphins fans about their team being the only unbeaten in NFL history.

The same holds true with the Giants’ second Super Bowl win over New England last February. In that game, Wes Welker dropped what appeared to be an easy pass (for him) in the closing minutes that probably secures the Patriots fourth Super Bowl crown in that game.

Give Manning credit for connecting on a huge pass that set up the winning touchdown, and of course, the writers gave the popularity contest (better known as the MVP) to Manning.

Anyway, my top 10 Super Bowls are Pittsburgh beating Dallas in the ’76 game, 21-17, where the legend of Jack Lambert took shape, Pittsburgh’s second win over Dallas in ’79; San Francisco beating Denver, 55-10, because other than Eli, I never saw a more overrated quarterback than John Elway and I always thought Joe Montana was the best ever; San Francisco’s come-from-behind 20-16 win over Cincinnati in 1989, again because I thought Montana was the best, but also because my friend, David Grant played the entire game for the Bengals on the defensive line; Oakland’s 27-10 win over Philadelphia because I respected Jim Plunkett, the Rams’ 23-16 victory over the Titans in 2000 because that Rams offense was something special; Washington’s 42-10 rout of Denver because I always liked Doug Williams; the Jets’ win over Baltimore in Super Bowl III, because as a little kid, I loved the AFL and rooted big time for Joe Namath; Kansas City beating Minnesota, again because I loved the AFL, and Super Bowl I because it was the first one.

I remember watching that first game on Black and White TV (I don’t think I had color TV until Super Bowl V) but not really understanding what I was watching on Jan. 15, 1967. I do remember, however, that entire week after the Super Bowl, because it would be the last on this earth for one of the rare heroes in my life, my uncle Art Abramoff, who lost his life in Vietnam five days after the Packers beat the Chiefs. I often wonder if my uncle had watched that first Super Bowl, and when I see the footage on the NFL Network, I always think ‘wow, he was alive for that game.’

By Super Bowl II, I felt I was much more knowledgable about football. I remember the first game I had really watched was the Ice Bowl, which Green Bay won over Dallas on New Year’s Eve, 1967, 21-17, to make it to Super Bowl II.

What are your favorite games? Let me know sometime, and thanks for reading.

By mike051893