A new and exciting theme for the Kathleen Walsh Classic includes a special field-naming for the late DePaul High standout student-athlete, on April 20

An annual event to honor the memory of a tremendous student-athlete at DePaul High will provide a wonderful addition in 2019.

DePaul softball coach Sue Parler is excited about the annual Kathleen Walsh Fundraiser, which is set for April 20, at DePaul’s home field.

“For the past 13 years, the DePaul Catholic softball team has humbly sponsored the Kathleen Walsh Classic — a game that involves the friends and family of Kathleen, the proceeds of which go to the Kathleen Walsh Scholarship Fund,” said Parler. “The scholarship is awarded to the graduating senior who best embodies the spirit of Kathleen as a student, athlete, and citizen.”

 

Kathleen Walsh, during her playing days at DePaul High. (Click on photo for larger image)

Walsh was a 2002 graduate of DePaul who died suddenly following a surgical procedure on Dec. 17, 2003. At the time, she was a student at the College of New Jersey.

“Kathleen was something special,” said Parler, who coached Walsh in softball in 2001 and 2002. “She was a huge Yankees fan and someone who loved life. She was so proactive at DePaul for school spirit and was a good athlete, as well.”

As far as the tournament, which honors Walsh’s memory, Parler wanted to amp it up a bit this year.

“For the past few years, we knew we wanted to do more,” said Parler. “For the 14th anniversary year, we have expanded the itinerary to include a new high school level tournament — The Greater Wayne Kathleen Walsh Classic. The tournament features the four Wayne high schools.”

The schedule on April 20 features a 9 a.m. game between DePaul and Wayne Hills while Wayne Valley faces Passaic Tech. At 11:00 a.m., the championship and consolation games will be played, and at the conclusion, Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano, will present the Mayor’s Trophy to the winning team.

At 2:00 p.m., the traditional Alumni and Friends game will be played.  If friends and alumni are interested in participating or contributing, please visit http://weblink.donorperfect.com/KathleenWalsh2019.

“Between the third and fourth innings of the Alumni and Friends of Kathleen game, we will be naming the softball field, the Kathleen Walsh Softball Field,” said Parler. “This is a once in a lifetime celebration of all that is Kathleen Walsh.  Please mark the date on your calendar and don’t miss it.”

While the Spartans will honor its past, a rich tradition of domination within the county will be one of the challenges facing a good DePaul high softball team in 2019.

Parler is beginning her 25th season as head coach, with some talented youngsters. But the coach is also working to fill some key spots in the lineup after last spring’s graduation.

The team captains are seniors Alexa Juchniewicz, a second baseman and outfielder, and Gianna DiPiano, who will play either first or third base.

“The scrimmage season has been a roller coaster,” said Parler. “There were some good things and challenges. Inconsistency is to be expected with this young team, but to be successful, we need to hit on all cylinders on a more regular basis. Nonetheless, we’re looking forward to better weather and some great games this season.”

DePaul finished 12-12 in 2019, which included a record seventh straight Passaic County Tournament championship, when the Spartans edged a feisty Passaic Valley team, 3-2, in the final.

“There is only one returner to the lineup that is in the same position she was in last year,” said Parler, referring to sophomore shortstop Laila Aponte. The coach also noted that Madison Peterson, is injured and will miss some time at the beginning of the season.

“We are young, very young,” said Parler. “We are young in game experience as well. This speaks well to the future, and is our present challenge. How fast we assimilate to a competitive mindset will determine our outcome.”

DePaul was scheduled to open the season on April 1, at Passaic Tech, starting at 4:15 p.m. On April 3, the team will visit Lakeland, at 4:15 and on April 5, the home opener will be against River Dell, also at 4:15 p.m.

 

By mike051893

‘A Day for Dina’ will honor a legendary Belleville High athlete, on April 13, at the Corino Softball Complex

Most of us who knew Dina DeAquino probably haven’t reconciled her passing, after a courageous bout with cancer, on June 17, 2018.

After all, she was just 52, a vibrant mom, daughter and dear friend to so many.

Dina DeAquino (right) joined by former teammate Donna Campana (left) and close friend Jackie Vitiello. (Click on photo for larger image)

In Belleville High’s rich softball tradition, there’s little argument that DeAquino was one of the program’s best all-around players, as she led the Bucs to back-to-back Essex County Tournament championships in 1982 and 1983.

DeAqunio’s legacy will shine even brighter on April 13, when a series of high school softball games will be played at the Corino Softball Complex, at Clearman Field, to remember DeAquino.

Dina enjoyed a stellar collegiate softball career at Montclair State. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Belleville High softball coach Chris Cantarella  announced that ‘A Day for Dina’ will feature the following lineup of high school games.

Montclair vs. Lyndhurst at 9:30 a.m.

Belleville vs. Leonia at 11:30 a.m.

A celebration will follow the Belleville-Leonia game, with a few speakers talking about Dina, including Carl Corino. 

Cedar Grove vs. Union Catholic vs. Cedar Grove at 2 p.m.

Fair Lawn vs. Hanover Park, at 4 p.m.

There are plenty of affiliations with the teams that will compete on April 13. DeAquino, of course, played at Belleville High and grew up in the township. She was also the athletic director at Leonia and once coached softball at Fair Lawn.

The 1982 Belleville High softball team won the school’s first county title in softball. Dina (third from right, middle row) was the winning pitcher, hurling a shutout in the title game, as the Bucs defeated Livingston, 8-0. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Meanwhile, Cedar Grove’s assistant coach is Cheryl Marion, who was a teammate of DeAquino’s at Belleville High while head coach Nikki Velardi also played at Belleville High. Hanover Park coach Jamie Galioto is also a Belleville graduate and went to school with DeAquino during the same era, albeit three years apart.

A large crowd is expected for what should be an emotional day, but also one filled with smiles and laughs, because that’s what ‘Dina De’, as I always called her, exemplified.

Cheryl Marion, an assistant softball coach at Cedar Grove and educator at Belleville High, was a teammate of DeAquino, from 1982-1984. (Click on photo for larger image)

A number of Dina’s family will be in attendance, including her legendary dad, Tony DeAquino, a long time educator and coach at Belleville High. Also expected to be there will be Carl Corino, for whom the softball complex at Clearman Field is now dedicated.

“It should be a special day,” said Cantarella. “Dina was an incredible player, a good friend and did so much for softball. We all thought it would be something special to remember her contributions and to honor her legacy.”

Jamie Galioto, here with his championship softball team at Hanover Park, also attended Belleville High and was a standout athlete for the Bucs. (Click on photo for larger image)

By mike051893

Phil Delgado off and running with new coaching challenge at Bloomfield College; successful Florida trip begins what should be a good season on ‘The Island’

Next sound you hear !

On the softball diamond at Bloomfield College, that sound will probably be new head coach Phil Delgado barking out instructions, offering some direct criticism and then following it up with encouragement.

Welcome to the world of Delgado, whose ability to spin magic with his coaching style has worked well on the high school and club level of softball. Delgado’s ‘NJ Fight’ team for players as young as 10 and into their early college years, has put together some impressive performances over the summer and fall and Phil’s work at Montclair High in 2015 and 2016, along with a good stint as an assistant at William Paterson University the past two years, has him in good line to run an NCAA Division 2 program at Bloomfield.

Delgado is excited about the opportunities that await him at Bloomfield College. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Delgado took his team to Florida to open the 2019 season and the results were pretty good.

“Could we have won a few more games?” Delgado mused after returning home on March 10. “Probably. But we also played pretty well. And you know me, I’m more concerned about what gets done in April and May, not so much in late February and early March.

“These kids are working hard, and that’s the bottom line for me right now. They’re a tremendous group, with a great attitude and enjoy playing. I’ll take it from there.”

Delgado’s coaching influence was shaped a great deal by the late Anthony LaRezza, the legendary IHA softball coach who passed away in 2016. (Click on photo for larger image)

The Bears opened on March 3, against Stonehill College, in Florida and lost a 1-0 decision. There was another 1-run loss and a 2-run setback, en route to a 2-7 trip in the Sunshine State, covering five days. The two victories came against Clarion University, 7-6, and Notre Dame College of Ohio, 3-0.

Upon the team’s return, the Bears had a bit of a break, before resuming play on March 17, with a conference doubleheader at Jefferson, in Philadelphia. The Bears won the first game of that twin-bill, 5-2, to improve to 3-7.

One of Delgado’s tremendous coaching accomplishments came in 2016, when he guided Montclair, which opened its season 3-13, to the Essex County Tournament’s championship game. (Click on photo for larger image) 

B.C. plays in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, which has a highly competitive brand of softball.

“It’s a good league,” said Delgado. “There are some really good teams, so we’ll have to continue working on the things that will make us better down the road.”

Delgado often kids about being on an ‘Island’, so to speak, when it comes to his style of coaching. It’s worked well for him. He learned from some good coaches, especially the late Anthony LaRezza, who taught Phil a lot about the inner-workings of coaching before his untimely loss in Feb. 2016.

“I’m always out on that island, but my team is first and foremost,” said Delgado, with a laugh. “These kids and this school are what matters to me. I’m all in.”

The ‘Island’ is never too far away.

Delgado’s personality makes him a natural for the all-important recruiting process. His top two offensive players, so far, hail from California and Hawaii, in Arlene Flores and Jerae Keli’ikoa, who are hitting .385 and .333 respectively. Keli’ikoa also had a homer and 4 RBI through the first 10 games.

Lauren Booth, who hails from South Jersey, led the team in runs scored, with 6 and was batting .261 while another California girl, Brianna Johnson, was hitting .286 with a .429 slugging mark and Mariah Wysocki, from Voorhees, NJ, led the Bears in RBI, with 5.

The West Coast has also provided the Bears a top flight pitcher in Taylor Galyean, who was 2-0 with a 1.43 ERA in the early going, as well as 25 strikeouts in 29 innings of work.

A lot will change during the course of the season as Bloomfield and Delgado become more acclimated with each other. But the early signs are good for an extended stay on The Island.

Next sound you hear.

 

 

By mike051893

Remembering the late F. James White, a legendary coach at Bloomfield High who finished with a 665-251-57 record coaching 2 sports for the Bengals

F. James White, or ‘Jim White‘ to most of the people who knew him at Bloomfield High, was remembered as a legendary educator and coach, as well as a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Mr. White died on March 9, at the age of 81.

I remember the first time I encountered Jim, in January of 1982. He had taken over as the girls basketball coach at Bloomfield High in the 1981-82 season, and found some immediate success, leading the Bengals to the Essex County Holiday Tournament championship in Dec. of 1981, upsetting a heavily favored Belleville team, 64-48, in the final, at Livingston High.

Back in those days, Bloomfield basketball wasn’t very good. The program had actually begun in the early 1900’s, according to the records held by Bloomfield High athletic director Steve Jenkins. Edith Russell would coach the program for many years, as early as 1914 through the mid 1940’s. When records were officially kept, starting in the early 1970’s, Bloomfield would be a combined 16-101, with no winning seasons, before White took the reigns in 1981.

White would instill a winning attitude immediately, beginning with that holiday tournament victory against Belleville, which was, at the time, one of the better teams in Essex County. The Bengals went on to its first-ever winning season, 13-8, which included an appearance in the state tournament.

Anyway, getting back to that first meeting I had with Jim, I wanted to interview his talented senior guard, Angela Tennaro, who had a tremendous game against Belleville in the tournament final. I explained to Jim who I was, he proceeded to look at me like I had three heads, then grumbled, ‘okay, I’ll let Angela know.’

Tennaro would come by and say hello a few minutes later, and the interview went great.

Jim White (back row, far right) and his 1988-1989 Bengals, which won an Essex County, NNJIL, North 2, Group 4 and later a Group 4 crown. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Fast forward into another season, and the more I got to know Jim, the more he would open up a little, and actually smile. There were even games where I’d be sitting near his bench, and he’d start telling me what he had planned during a game. It was actually fun, because Jim White had quite the sense of humor. I’d attend the annual GALS dinner, from time to time, when Jim was honoring his respective teams, and had some great talks with him.

As the years blended, Bloomfield girls basketball went from being a good team to a marvelous program. There would be three straight state sectional championships, beginning in 1987 and the ultimate ride, in 1989, when the Bengals won the school’s first-ever Group 4 championship and participated in the inaugural NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

As the top-seed, no less.

And it wasn’t just basketball, either. Before taking over the hoops program in 1981, White was already an established boys soccer coach for the Bengals. He would coach that team from 1964-1990, and had a record of 324-139-57.

Nine years after soccer, he would finish coaching the girls basketball team, putting together over 300 wins there in 18 seasons and an overall mark of 341-112. The Bengals finished above .500 every season during White’s run, including three county, three state sectional and one group championship. There were nine seasons of 20 or more victories for Bloomfield during Jim’s tenure, as well, including the last four years he held the job.

In fact, the following year, with Jenkins taking over, the Bengals won another county and sectional championship, en route to a school-record 25-3 season.

A key player on that legendary 1989 team was Jennifer Lipinski. She recently contributed to an article I wrote on the 30th anniversary of that team. This time, she commented on the emotions she felt in Coach White’s passing.

“I was so saddened to hear about his passing,” said Lipinski. “I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to play for him. He was way more than a coach to so many of us. The memories I made with him, and the girls I played with remain as some of my fondest. Rest in peace Coach White – and thank you for everything over the years. Words cannot describe how much you meant to so many of us – especially me. #bengalpride

Jim White was a Bloomfield original. A BHS graduate, who later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University, Mr. White did his job well, as a husband of 61 years, a father of four, a grandfather to multiple children, as well as an educator, coach (665-251-57 overall record) and friend.

He was a man’s man. You always knew where you stood with him, and that’s why a friendship would mean so much to me, because you had to prove yourself to Jim, and that proof was being yourself. He’d pick out a phony right away.

I’ll remember watching Jim coach some memorable games, perhaps none bigger than the 51-47 win, at Belleville High, over John F. Kennedy, which moved Bloomfield into the 1989 Group 4 final and snapped a 58-game winning streak for the Paterson-based school, the state’s number one team, dating back nearly two years. If you were lucky enough to be there that night, the fan’s reaction when the game ended was a scene out of the movie, ‘Hoosiers’.

Jim would win games with humility and accepted defeat with grace.

It will be hard to find another like him. Rest well, Coach White. And thanks for the memories.

 

 

By mike051893

He’s Baaacckk !!! 25 years after arriving at Passaic Valley, Chet Parlavecchio is fired up as ever, returning for another football season in Hornet-Land; PV also looking for possible game the week of Sept. 20-21

It might be mid-March, but don’t tell that to most high school football coaches, when it comes to preparing for a new season. Practice can begin for most teams in early June, as soon as the high school spring season concludes.

At Passaic Valley, that means Chet Parlavecchio is in top form, as the head coach prepares for his 10th overall season in Little Falls, in his second tenure, in 2019. Parlavecchio’s first term was from 1994-1998. He returned to the job in 2015, and led the Hornets to its first post-season appearance in four years last season.

Chet Parlavecchio will be back for his fifth season and 10th overall at Passaic Valley in 2019. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Overall, PV is 53-32 in Chet’s first nine seasons, which includes four playoff appearances and a trip to Giants Stadium for the North 1, Group 3 championship game in 1996. There were also two undefeated regular seasons (1995 and 1996) and the first 6-victory season for the program in 11 years in 2017. Passaic Valley has been .500, or better, in regular season play in eight of Parlavecchio’s first nine seasons.

Parlavecchio’s soon-to-be 10th season at Passaic Valley is his longest at any high school since he began coaching in 1987. There were four seasons at Bloomfield (1987-1990), two at Irvington (1991-1992), five at Clifton (1999-2003) and four at Elizabeth (2006-2009).

Chet and his grandson answered questions after a PV victory in 2017. (Click on photo for larger image) 

This season marks 25 years as a high school head coach for Parlavecchio, which includes a career-record of 119-112-1, and a state championship in North 2, Group 4, at Elizabeth, in 2006.

The number 25 has an extra special significance this fall at PV. Paralvecchio’s first year with the Hornets was in 1994.

“I didn’t think of that,” said the coach. “But you’re right, it’s been 25 years. That’s crazy.”

When he began coaching at PV, Jean and Chet Parlavecchio’s children, Chet and Nicole, were 6 and 4 respectively. Today, Chet Jr. and his wife now have a young son and Nicole and her husband will welcome their first child this coming May.

Chet’s first coaching assignment was in 1987, at Bloomfield High. Mike Carter was on that staff and later succeeded Parlavecchio as head coach after the 1990 season. Carter is still at the helm for the Bengals and the two men remain close friends to this day. (Click on photo for larger image) 

“I’ll be a grandfather for the second time soon,” said Parlavecchio, with pride. “And here I am, still loving my time at Passaic Valley. It’s been a great time here, and I’m really excited about what we can do this season. We’re young, but we have pretty good size and the work in the weight room is going well.”

Passaic Valley opens its season, at home, on Sept. 7, against High Point. The schedule also includes the usual conference games against Lakeland, Wayne Valley, Fair Lawn, Wayne Hills, Indian Hills and West Milford, along with a cross-over game against Paterson Eastside.

The team also has an opening for a game the weekend of Sept 20-21.

Parlavecchio’s playing career included a stint with the Green Bay Packers, after a standout four years at Penn State. Chet was later an assistant coach with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, from 2011-2013. 

“If there’s a team out there that has an opening for that weekend, please contact me at Passaic Valley High,” said Parlavecchio. “Call me, or (PV athletic director) Joe Benvenuti.

As for the long-term future, Parlavecchio, who will be 59 this year is, pardon the cliche, taking it one season at a time.

“At this stage of my career, I want to enjoy each season as it comes up,” the coach said. “I’m ready for this season, first and foremost. I really like these kids, a lot. They work hard, they’re getting better each and every day, and as a coach, I’m thrilled with that.

‘I’m like what I’m doing, and that’s all you can ask in life.”

 

 

 

By mike051893

Bloomfield College falls short of 8th CACC title in last 16 years in conference final, but Coach Gerald Holmes already looking ahead to more success next season; Kavione Green named CACC’s Player of the Year and former star Dabney enshrined into Hall of Fame

The respect factor among coaches in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference’s (CACC) men’s basketball fraternity is broad, with many in the conference holding the positions for well over a decade.

Such was the case in the CACC championship game on March 10, at Caldwell University, as Dominican College won its first league title, defeating what many consider the gold standard in the game, Bloomfield College, 70-55.

As the clock ticked down to :00, Dominican coach Joe Clinton and Bloomfield’s Gerald Holmes began to make the walk toward each other as Clinton’s group started celebrating near mid court. The handshakes between opposition coaches can range from an impromptu almost non-existent shake to a sincere embrace, and such was the case as the two spent at least a minute talking and embracing, before the teams lined up to shake hands.

“Joe’s a tremendous coach,” said a disappointed but proud Holmes. “Dominican played great today. They deserved it, no doubt.”

Bloomfield was aiming for its eighth conference championship over the past 16 seasons, the most of any school in the league since 2000. The Bears (and one-time Deacons) have also been a factor in past NCAA East Regionals, as well as making a deep run for a national title.

But this season, it looks like a post-season bid to the NCAA’s won’t happen, even though Bloomfield finished 21-10 and were 17-2 in the CACC. Dominican will earn the automatic bid for winning the conference crown and it’s doubtful no at-large opportunities exist.

BC senior Kavione Green was named the CACC Player of the Year, as well as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year while Holmes was named the CACC’s Coach of the Year. In addition, the program’s past was honored as maybe it’s best player, ever, Andre Dabney was inducted into the conference’s Hall of Fame.

Andre Dabney was inducted into the CACC Hall of Fame in 2019. Enjoying the ceremony are BC athletic director Sheila Wooten, CACC Commissioner Dan Mara (center) and head coach Gerald Holmes. Photos courtesy of CACC. (Click on photo for larger image)

Green played in all 31 of his team’s games and averaged a double-double, with 19.3 points-per game, and nearly 11 rebounds a game. Keith Washington led the Bears in scoring, with 19.5 ppg., and assists, with 178 on the year. Rich Chapman averaged a little over 14 points a game and Dontay Julius averaged close to 11 points a game.

Matt Lajeunesse had a good year for BC, averaging nearly 10 points a game and leading the team with 44 blocked shots.

Gerald Holmes, here with CACC Commissioner Dan Mara, was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. (Click on photo for larger image)

It didn’t take long for Holmes to start thinking about the 2019-2020 season. He has been the team’s head coach for 17 years after a season as an assistant at BC and has taken the team to nine NCAA regional appearances.

Joe Clinton and Gerald Holmes meet after the CACC title game. (Click on photo for larger image)

“We’ll be back,” said Holmes. “I have no doubt about that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By mike051893

March 7, 2001: Good friends Joe Dubuque and Anthony Montes wrestled a match for the ages, but it was in the Super Regions, instead of a state final

It was a wrestling match for the ages.

But it came four days earlier than anticipated.

For those NJ high school wrestling fans who remember the dreaded ‘Super Regions’, it was the one day of the calendar year which just about everyone despised. The Super Regions were generally held at four high school venues throughout the state, and were contested a few days after the regional championships, and in advance of the state championships, at either Boardwalk Hall or, in this case, the Meadowlands Arena.

Before a wrestler who finished second or third in the regions could get to the big show, they had to get through that Super Region bout. A region champ was assured of a trip to the championships, but still had to wrestle once at the Super Regions, mainly for seeding purposes. But those second and third place kids had to win their first bout that night, to clinch an appearance at AC or the Meadowlands. It’s the equivalent of what is now termed the preliminary round of wrestling on the first night of the state championships. And today, a wrestler gets at least two bouts in A.C. Back then, a loss in the prelimns, at the Super Regions, would end that wrestler’s season in a high school gym.

So, this gets me back to what happened on March 7, 2001, in the Super Regions, which made up wrestlers from Regions 3 and 4, at Union High School.

Defending state champion Joe Dubuque of Glen Ridge High, a 3-time Region 4 champion, had finished a surprising third at Region 4, due to an injury a few days earlier, in the 119-pound semifinals, which had forced Dubuque to wrestle back for third place, which he had accomplished.

Perhaps Joe’s best friend, Anthony Montes, of Nutley, had won the Region 4 crown that year. Joe and Anthony had long hoped to wrestle each other in a state final, and a year earlier, they came within one match of doing so, at the Meadowlands.

Dubuque had won his 112-pound semifinal, against Bob Stinson of Camden Catholic. On the adjoining mat, in the other semifinal, Montes lost a tough match to Jon Mankovich of Wallkill Valley. Dubuque went on to win his first state title and Montes ended up winning the first of three straight NJSIAA medals, taking sixth in the state at 112 pounds.

Fast forward a year later, and Dubuque had to win his first match at the Super Regions, against a really good wrestler in Dan Appello, of Roselle Park, and he did, to gain a bout against Montes, in the next round of the Super Regions, which, in essence, was a state pre-quarterfinal bout.

The winner would move onto the quarterfinals, at the Meadowlands on Saturday, March 10, and continue a quest to be a state champ while the fallen would also advance, but take part in the wrestlebacks, with the hope of finishing no higher than third place.

“We had come pretty close to facing each other a year earlier for a state championship,” Montes recalled. “So we both felt that (2001) would be our year. When Joe got hurt, it changed all the matchups for the super regions. There was even talk after he originally got hurt that maybe I’d medically forfeit the region final, so we would avoid having to wrestle each other in the super regions.

Joe Dubuque (l) and Anthony Montes in this March 3, 2001 photo following the Region 4 championships at Passaic Valley High. (Click on photo for larger image) 

“I couldn’t forfeit a region final. You have to understand that when we competed back then, wrestling was everything to us. That’s the way it was meant to be (18) years ago.”

If you’ve been to the Super Regions, the respective venue was usually way too crowded, and there were multiple matches going on at the same time. Basically, a 3-ring circus.

But something happened when Dubuque and Montes stepped on that mat, with a number of other bouts going on simultaneously. Everything else seemed to stop. For six minutes, that match went in slow motion, and the crowd all seemed focused on that one bout.

Dubuque would win that night, 7-5. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the two embraced and Dubuque raised Montes’ hand in victory, even though Dubuque had won. Many in the crowd had tears in their eyes. The standing ovation lasted at least two minutes.

“There were other matches going on, and most of those matches stopped for a few seconds,” Montes said. “It was unbelievable. The crowd was so loud. Our A.D. back then (Angelo Franicola) often talked about what an incredible level of sportsmanship that match had represented. I’ll never forget it, and I had lost. While you never like to lose, I felt good in that I had wrestled really well that night.”

Dubuque would later say, and continues to reiterate today, that there was no loser in that match.

“We had wanted to face each other in the state final,” Dubuque said. “But I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

It would be the last time Dubuque and Montes wrestled each other in high school.

Dubuque went on to a second straight state championship in 2001 and Montes would stand on the podium with him, with a second straight state medal. A year later, Montes won his third state medal and concluded a fabulous career and eventual enshrinement in the Nutley High Hall of Fame.

Eighteen years have passed, and Joe and Anthony remain good friends to this day.

The Super Region concept was discontinued after the 2002 season, and most fans are grateful for that. But for one evening, 18 years ago, that was a special night.

Who would have thought a match in the Super Regions was memorable?

Thank you to a pair of great wrestlers for putting on a show that will never be forgotten.

 

 

By mike051893

3 NJSIAA wrestling champions, Joe Dubuque, Anthony Perrotti and David Cordoba continue to give back to the sport they love

Long after their final match, many New Jersey high school wrestlers continue to give back to the sport which made them famous.

For many, that commitment is extended to the coaching ranks, whether it be youth, high school or collegiate.

Last weekend, as the high school wrestling community gathered at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City to celebrate the NJ state championships, I had the chance to catch up with a few state champions from years gone by. To me, it seems like they were just on the mat last year, but for Joe Dubuque, David Cordoba and Anthony Perrotti, the years have gone by swiftly, but the contribution and commitment to wrestling remains steadfast.

Joe Dubuque was probably the best wrestler I ever covered. He won back-to-back state championships for Glen Ridge High in 2000 and 2001, as well as a state medal as a freshman, in 1998. He finished with a 134-7 career record, along with four Essex County, four District 13 and three Region 4 crowns.

He would go on to attend the University of Indiana, where Dubuque won back-to-back NCAA, Division 1 championships in 2005 and 2006. He would begin a successful coaching career at Hofstra, as an assistant, before returning to his collegiate alma mater, then coming ‘home’, to so speak, as an assistant coach at Princeton University.

Joe Dubuque won both his state championships at the Meadowlands Arena, in 2000 and 2001. He would later win a pair of NCAA championships at the University of Indiana. (Click on photo for larger image)

And while Joe has done a great job working with head coach Chris Ayres in making Princeton a dominant team, he also speaks with pride of the successes of his wife, Jaimie, as well as the couple’s young children, who could both be pretty good wrestlers themselves, one day.

“This is always a great weekend,” said Dubuque, wearing his Princeton U. jacket. “The place is really hopping. New Jersey wrestling is something special. I’m proud to have been a part of it. I hope to bring my son here to see the tournament soon.”

Not soon after Joe and I spoke of the pride he has in coaching at Princeton, I ran into Cordoba. And let me tell you, this man had a phenomenal career at Kearny High School. From 1997-2000, David put together a record of 138-4. He won a state championship in 1999 while finishing second in the state in 1998 and 2000. In 1997, as a freshman, he was third in the state.

And, ready for this? He never lost a regular season match in four years. Three of his losses came deep in the state tournament while a fourth was in the 1998 Region 4 final, against Belleville’s Anthony Conte, and I still stay it was one of the best matches I ever saw.

David Cordoba won four straight state medals and was a state champion in 1999 at Kearny High. (Click on photo for larger image)

Anyone who follows wrestling knows how hard it is just to make it to the state tournament, much less earn a medal. This guy finished third, second, first and second, in the state, over four years. That’s insane. And just in case you forgot, David defeated a man named Frank Edgar in the 1999 state final, at 130 pounds. Not bad company.

Today, David runs the very successful ‘Cordoba Trained Wrestling School’, working with youngsters and helping to make them champions, while also taking pride in high school state champions that have come through his training regimen. On top of that, David is engaged to be married.

A championship legacy continues for David Cordoba, in many ways.

And there’s Anthony Perrotti, a 2011 NJSIAA champion. He was the second state champion at West Essex High, and the last, to date. Anthony won three state medals, in 2008, 2010 and 2011. And the only reason why he didn’t win one in 2009 was because he wasn’t allowed to wrestle that year.

“Anthony has to be the only one I know who had to sit an entire season for switching schools,” said West Essex head coach Mike Markey, referring to the fact that Perrotti transferred from Queen of Peace back to his home town school after his freshman season in 2008, and had to sit a full season, as opposed to the 30-day rule which applies today. “And instead of being frustrated, he worked hard every day in our room in his sophomore year, teaching other guys how to get better, and determined to be a state champion.

Anthony Perrotti was on top of the world in 2011, winning a state title at West Essex. He went on to become a 2-time All-American at Rutgers. (Click on photo for larger image)

“In fact, he said he was going to be a state champ, and nothing would deny him. And nothing did.”

Back on the mat in 2010, Perrotti finished sixth in the state at 119 pounds, then went undefeated in his senior year and won state gold at 130 pounds, defeating an eventual 2-time state champ, BJ Clagon, in a tremendous final.

From there, Perrotti went on to star at Rutgers University, and became that school’s rare 2-time NCAA All-American, along with Anthony Ashnault, in 2016. Prior to that season, Rutgers had just one 2-time All American in its wrestling history, dating back four decades.

And now, Mr. Perrotti is back at West Essex, as an assistant. And last weekend, when Bardhyl Gashi of West Essex won his 285-pound semifinal at Boardwalk Hall to advance to the 2019 state championship, an exuberant coaching staff was led by Perrotti.

“There’s nothing like it,” he said to me, as he reveled in Gashi’s amazing accomplishment. “To be out on that mat, as a junior, in the final? I’m so happy for that kid. He’s going to wrestle a really good guy, but what the heck. Just go for it, have fun and see what happens. I got to one final, and when I won, it was incredible, especially against a guy like Clagon, who had a great career himself.”

The years may go by quickly, but the memories remain intact for three great wrestlers and now, coaches, all of whom attained their legacies in different forums.

 

 

 

By mike051893

Progress achieved: Belleville High wrestling ‘Family’ continues ascension, with Coach Joe Pizzi and some talented youngsters, led by David Guerra and Alisa Safforld

Continued improvement for the Belleville High wrestling program began with a committed coaching staff and went forward with a new commitment by the grapplers to get better, with an aggressive off-season program.

The results for the 2018-2019 season included a county champion for the first time in four years, a region finalist for the first time in seven seasons, two wrestlers advancing to the NJSIAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years and one earning a state medal, the first for the Blue and Gold since 2012.

Alisa Safforld and David Guerra are indeed the new faces of the BHS wrestling program. (Click on photo for larger image)

Not bad, for sure.

And the future is looking even better.

“We had our end-of-season dinner (on March 4) to commemorate all of the trials and tribulations these young men and women endured through the season,” said Belleville head coach Joe Pizzi. who just concluded his fourth season at the helm and fifth with the program. “Our numbers were at an all-time high since I took over and we finished with 35 student-athletes on the roster, including five females.

“We finished third in two 10+ team tournaments and two of our guys were named Most Outstanding Wrestler in each of those tournaments, which is unheard of in a single season.”

Alisa confers with Coach Pizzi on the floor of Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, on March 1, after winning an historic first bout. (Click on photo for larger image)

Those two OW’s were Brandon Costello and David Guerra. And, as Belleville fans know, Guerra, a junior went on to more success this winter.

“David was our most decorated wrestler and won our MVW (Most Valuable Wrestler Award) at our dinner,” said Pizzi. “He finished the season 33-7, and placed second in the region, losing a hard-fought match against a state ranked wrestler, and made his way to the state tournament in Atlantic City.”

David Guerra was Belleville’s first Essex County champion in four years. (Click on photo for larger image)

Guerra wrestled two solid matches at Boardwalk Hall, before being eliminated in the 145-pound division.

Alisa Safforld, a sophomore, qualified for the first-ever NJSIAA Tournament, for females, and finished fourth in the 100-pound weight class, after taking second in the North region.

Guerra standing on the podium at Region 3, after a second place showing. He was the first male to medal at the regions since Justin Colon, in 2012. (Click on photo for larger image)

“Alisa is my first state medal winner as a head coach and David and Alisa are my first two wrestlers to make it to the floor in AC,” said a proud Pizzi. “David also won an Essex County championship, after being seeded 16th the previous year. This young man has the heart and determination to lead this team, along with the mental and physical toughness it takes to be successful.”

Belleville has long had a proud and successful wrestling program. Pizzi, a Belleville native, realizes the strides the program has taken this season will carry over. The long-standing ‘Family’ tradition that is BHS wrestling has also been emphasized.

A proud Safforld holds Belleville’s first medal in wrestling in seven years. (Click on photo for larger image)

“I am extremely proud of this team and how much they have grown through the years. and I look forward to another amazing season next year as we only graduate four seniors,” said Pizzi. “Even though we had our best season yet since I took over, with a 12-7 record, and many accolades to show for it, I expect another big jump next year as we get almost the entire team back with some major contributors looking to take another step forward for Belleville Wrestling.

“We are ‘The Family’, and that’s what got us to where we are today.”

A lasting image of the 2018-2019 season, as Alisa Safforld stands on the ultimate podium, in Atlantic City, March 2, 2019.

 

 

By mike051893

West Essex’s Markey looking forward to some reflection; ‘Stay standing until the Colors are retired’ just another moment which makes the NJSIAA wrestling championships something special

With over 10,000 fans in attendance, West Essex wrestling coach Mike Markey found a place to sit, with hardly anyone noticing.

Markey had just been named the Coach of the Year in New Jersey for high school wrestling. That went along with the District 5 and Region 2 Coach of the Year accolades earlier this season.

It also went along with Markey leading West Essex to a state sectional and first-ever Group 3 crown, as well as a district title.

Mike Markey (right) with assistant coach Mike D’Urso after receiving the NJ Coach of the Year Award at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City. (Click on photo for larger image)

Oh, yes, it came just a few years after Markey had been named the state’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

“Mike is the first to win both the assistant and state coach of the year awards,” said a proud West Essex athletic director, Anthony Minnella.

Markey had just received his award, in front of a near sellout crowd at Boardwalk Hall, on March 2, 2019. In about 45 minutes, he would get one more thrill, coaching a West Essex wrestler, Bardhyl Gashi, a junior, in a 285-pound state final.

Markey has held a lot of trophies in 2018-2019. This is from his team winning a district championship, just a week after West Essex won the school’s first-ever state championship. Markey was also carried off the mat by his team in victory after a sectional crown. (Click on photo for larger image) 

So there’s Mike, sitting on a chair, slumped a little, holding the large plaque he had just received (the plaque almost dwarfed him) and he’s somehow by himself, in public, on the floor of Boardwalk Hall, adjacent to the stands where the wrestlers sit.

If it could have been a beach chair, Mike Markey would have looked perfect. I walked by, he looked up, and said to me, “Mike, I can’t believe any of this is happening. I have such a great coaching staff, and that’s why I’m getting this award, because of them. Those guys are incredible.

“But here I am, receiving this award, after all the great things that happened this season for this program. In a little while, I’m going to watch a kid that I had to convince to come out for the team as a freshman, wrestle in a state final. He was the seventh seed in the region, and he’s going to wrestle in a championship bout, just two years after trying out for the sport. You won’t meet a better kid, from a better family, as well. I’m so happy for him.

“How amazing is that?”

Markey then looked up and said, without hesitation. “And I’ll tell you what. As soon as this is over, later today, I’m going to take some time to reflect on this. It hasn’t sunk in. It really hasn’t. But I can’t wait for it to sink in. I’m going to enjoy this.”

If you know Mike Markey, and what he’s been through, for the better part of 15 years, you’ll know why he’ll relish every minute.

Here’s an article I wrote on his incredible health battles. Congrats, Mike. No one deserves this more than you.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/his-life-renewed-by-organ-donation-west-essex-wrestling-coach-mike-markey-celebrates-his-good-health-and-a-state-championship-while-reflecting-on-the-health-of-his-uncle-dear-friend-and-former-nut/

The NJSIAA wrestling championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City represent three days of intense competition, as well as multiple highs and lows of victory and defeat among the best of the best in New Jersey.

And no venue does a better job of honoring our Country, with some stirring renditions of the National Anthem. Before the state finals, the New Jersey State Troopers deliver the Nation’s Colors onto the floor for the Anthem. And the P.A. announcer always makes it a point to ask the audience to remain standing after the Anthem, so that the Colors may be properly retired.

As the Troopers solemnly walk the Colors off the floor, the crowd remains standing, and the applause is deafening.

The crowd cheering the Colors. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Brings a lump to my throat every year.

Class, in every respect.

 

By mike051893