It’s no surprise that two local high school wrestling programs have coaches who not only excelled at the sport as scholastic athletes, but put an incredible amount of additional work into making the programs they now oversee an example of all that is right with high school athletics.
Recently, I had the chance to attend the end-of-year wrestling banquets for both Nutley and Passaic Valley High School. Both programs had outstanding seasons in 2012-2013, with Nutley winning a second straight Essex County and District 14 championship while Passaic Valley captured a Big North title and came within a half point of winning a second consecutive District 13 title.
Both programs took wrestlers to the ultimate tournament, the state championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Nutley coach Frank DiPiano and Passaic Valley’s Joe Benvenuti grew up in pretty much the same generation of high school wrestling. Both succeeded, with Benvenuti wrestling at PV before beginning his coaching career at West Essex while DiPiano starred for his father at St. Benedict’s before becoming an assistant coach at Nutley.
The two are the lead officers for Region 4, and it’s no surprise that their dedication to the wrestlers they serve, as well as their good humor and integrity, go a long way in establishing their region as one of the best in New Jersey.
As I said, I attended both dinners (Nutley’s was held on April 22, PV’s on April 17) and it wasn’t surprising to see many similarities in the way the events were managed. There were numerous thanks to the parents, as well as others who supported the programs, because both guys know what it takes to not only make a team successful, but to keep it that way.
And it wasn’t surprising to see the respective athletic directors, Nutley’s Joe Piro and PV’s Patty Lynch in attendance and seemingly very proud of what the teams accomplished. At Passaic Valley, Superintendent Dr. Viktor Joganow is always a presence at matches and at the post-season events while Nutley’s wrestlers were formally recognized by the Board of Education minutes before its dinner.
But most of all, it was the wrestlers themselves, dressed professionally in shirt and tie, and the seniors giving heartfelt speeches of their days as a Raider or Hornet that really stood out. That integrity, of course, is shaped in the earliest of years by parents, but later is enhanced by competing in sports, and learning from coaches who truly get it.
One thing I’ve always said about high school-aged athletes is they can spot a phony from a mile away. And they can also spot the real deal.
And when young men like Robert Trombetta of Nutley and Passaic Valley’s Nick Armagno go out of their way to not only say how they love their parents and family, but single out their head coaches for all they’ve taught them, not only about a wrestling move, but about life and how DiPiano and Benvenuti are ‘second fathers’ to their already great dads, that’s the ultimate compliment.
So, congrats to two excellent coaches and even better men, for providing young men the ability to thrive in a culture of pride and integrity.