The final countdown to Atlantic City begins for wrestlers

The seeding meeting is completed, uncle Eddie Roselle is back at practice, and now, the final few days of preparation begins for the 336 New Jersey high school wrestlers who will venture to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the final weekend of the 2012-2013 season.

When the tourney concludes on Sunday, 112 of those 336 will wear state medals, including 14 eventual state champs. With the addition of an extra round of wrestling this year, the final wrestlebacks for third, fifth and seventh place will be held a little later on Sunday morning than the usual 9 a.m. start. In essence, the round of wrestlebacks that are normally held on Saturday night, after the semifinals, are now on Sunday morning.

With the logistics pretty much set, the seeds in place, the wrestlers are back to work, getting in the final days of practice. I was at Passaic Valley High this afternoon, watching kids from P.V., West Essex, Wayne Valley, DePaul, West Orange and Becton working out. It’s funny, in a way. One moment, a lot of these kids are competing against each other for a district and/or region crown, and now they’re in the room, helping each other out.

It’s not only the current wrestlers, but it’s seeing the coaches, many of whom were accomplished grapplers themselves at one time. Steve Martell, a 2004 NJSIAA champion, was there, in his police uniform, since he’s not only a PV assistant coach, but also a Little Falls police officer. When Martell won the Region 4 title in 2004, he defeated Belleville’s Marc D’Elia. D’Elia is a teacher today in the West Orange school system and was at PV today, since he’s also an assistant coach at West Orange.

Mike Markey was there, too. He was a state medal winner in 2000 for Caldwell and today coaches at West Essex. PV coach Joe Benvenuti and West Essex head coach Greg Ruggiero were working with their kids. A generation ago, those two were direct competitors on the mat.

Wayne Valley and Passaic Valley have about as intense a rivarly as there is in Northern New Jersey, but on this day, their remaining wrestlers (each school is sending 2 to AC), all worked together. Same for another Passaic County rival in DePaul.

Caldwell has one wrestler heading to AC in freshman Dean Caravela.

“He’s something else,” said Caravela’s coach Gary Garamela. “Nothing rattles Dean. He works hard, never gets down, and I think he’ll go to Atlantic City and have a good time.”

With that said, Caravela approached us.

“I like where I’m at in the bracket,” Caravela said.

And before he could comment further, he headed to the locker room to get his bracket.

“That’s the kind of kid he is,” Garamela said with a laugh. “He’ll be studying that bracket for the next three days.”

Yes, it’s the final week of the season.



By mike051893

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