Vinnie Russo is one of the best high school wrestling officials in New Jersey. He’s also a fun-loving guy, who elicits smiles from all those who get the chance to speak with him.
Russo was on hand for the inaugural NJSIAA regional wrestling championships for females, on Feb. 17, at Red Bank Regional High School.
Mr. Russo is not only an administrator for high school officials, but works many a match himself, and he couldn’t have been more impressed with the tournament.
Belleville High’s Alisa Safforld is joined by her coaches after finishing second in her weight class at the inaugural regional tourney for females. (Click on photo for larger image)
With his eyes ablaze when I asked Vinnie what he thought of the day, Russo was quick to reply.
“Three words,” he said to me. “Energy, exciting and decibels.”
“Yeah,” said Vinnie. “Between the crowd noise and the kids’ excitement after winning a match, it was pretty loud. I’ll tell you what. My guys (the officials assigned to the tournament, all of whom are top-notch) all said ‘this is one of the best tournaments I’ve ever been a part of.’
“And I couldn’t agree more. This is a first-class environment. I’m talking the coaches, the officials, the venue, and most importantly, these young ladies. I’m so glad I’m here, not only as an official, but as a fan of this sport.”
Vinnie Russo, here officiating a championship match, couldn’t have been happier with the way the NJSIAA regional tourney for girls was contested on Feb. 17. (Click on photo for larger image)
Having never been to Red Bank Regional High School for an event myself, I couldn’t believe how spacious the gym was. There was plenty of room for eight mats, and with a big crowd on hand, easy maneuverability from mat to mat for the fans.
The matches were fun to watch. Win, or lose, the girls hugged each other after each bout. There were bumps and bruises, laughter and tears, but most of all, a lot of appreciation for the efforts of the wrestlers.
A number of coaches said how much they enjoyed working with the girls in this first year of state-sanctioned wrestling for high school females in New Jersey. The maturity of the wrestlers, not to mention the tenacity and determination was obvious, as the top three wrestlers in each of the 10 weight classes, from the Northern and Southern parts of the state, 60 in all, punched their ticket to the NJSIAA championships, which the girls will share with the boys at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, from Feb. 28-March 2.
Regardless of how a wrestler does in Atlantic City, all of the girls will stand on the ultimate podium at Boardwalk Hall, when their weight class is called, and be presented a medal, from an NJSIAA official, from sixth place to first.
The public address announcer at Red Bank said, before the final round of bouts, that history had been made. There was a new face of wrestling in New Jersey.
Those new faces include the 60 young ladies headed to Boardwalk Hall. They made history. Here they are:
Sydney Petzinger, Alisa Safforld, Randi Miley, Isabel Saire, Daniela Tacuri Andrade, Katy Ayala, Christine Gavasheli, Sheridan Torres, Stephanie Andrade, Melanie Sancho, Veronica Whitacre, Hailey Budney, Amanda Pace, Gabby Miller, Jewel Gonzalez, Donna Walker, Erin Emery, Sandra Guerrero, Kiera Hubmaster, Elise Harrison, Jazmine Aizley, Anmarie Lebron, Chlo Ayres, Johnae Drumright, Bella Serrano, Mia Bruno, Olivia Mena, Angelina Romero, Kayla Gregory, Angelina Vitola, America Garay, Emma Matera, Paige Colucci, Olivia Heyer, Diane Johnson, Madison Pesavage, Mia Lazaurs, Jordyn Katz, Joelle Klein, Sarah Mireles, Quanizja Legagneur, Julia Manolas, Rebecca Brown, Devon Kueny, Makenna Cooper, Jess Johnson, Brandi Rado, Katherine Bott, Kerly Borbor, Kaila Mungo, Breanna Cervantes, Shannon Gulick, Najee Cuevas and Casandra Auletta.