By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The Kearny High School wrestling team began the 2012-13 season Saturday by hosting its annual Holiday Tournament. With a highly competitive field coming to Kearny, the Kardinals finished a respectable fourth overall, as DePaul won and New Providence finished second.
The Kardinals crowned one individual champion, as senior Chris Vezos came away with the title in the 145-pound weight class.
“I think this was the start of good things to come for Chris,” veteran Kearny head wrestling coach Tony Carratura said. “He wants to compete at the highest level. He may drop down to 138 (pounds), but that’s up to him. He finished third in the District (16) last year and I’m expecting good things from him. This was an excellent start for him to win the tournament.”
The Kardinals had a host of wrestlers finish either third or fourth in the tourney, so that gives Carratura a lot of hope for the rest of the season.
“I think we’ll get better as the season goes on,” Carratura said. “There aren’t too many holes in the lineup, so that’s a good sign. We have kids who want to wrestle. They’ve been working very hard.”
The Kardinals have two solid wrestlers at 106 pounds in sophomores Wilker Villacourt and Mike Domenico.
“This is the first time that Wilker has come out for wrestling and he took fourth place in the tournament,” Carratura said. “I really thought he could have done better. He is just getting used to the moves. With Mike Domenico there, we have some nice depth at that weight.”
The 113-pounder is junior Angel Rodriguez, who placed third in the tourney.
“Angel showed a lot of promise this weekend,” Carratura said. “He has improved a lot since last year.”
Trinidad Cordero, another first-year wrestler, finished third at 120 pounds.
“He’s very quick,” Carratura said. “I liked what he showed.”
Junior James Hodnett, who won some clutch matches when he was given the opportunity to wrestle with the varsity last season, is the Kardinals’ 126-pounder.
Junior Kevin Tapia (132) and sophomore Juan Lamboy (138) both finished fourth in the season-opening tourney.
“They both showed a lot of promise by wrestling well,” Carratura said.
Sophomore Emmanuel Montalvo is the team’s 152-pounder.
“He’s a very hard worker and quick learner,” Carratura said.
Sophomore Mike Costa is holding down the 160-pound weight slot. He’s another tough wrestler who is learning every day.
Senior Wender Pasache has shown a ton of dedication to the Kardinals’ program and to the team by dropping a ton of weight to get to the 170-pound weight bracket, where he took third on Saturday.
“Wender dropped the most amount of weight on the team,” Carratura said. “He did it smart, with a right diet and right nutrition. I like what he can do for us. He’s very quick on his feet. I think he just needs a little more knowledge of the sport and he’ll be fine.”
Junior T.J. Witt is the program’s most experienced wrestler and was among the most successful last year, winning 21 matches. Witt, who is an excellent athlete, is being counted on to be more of a leader this season, competing at 182 pounds, where he placed third over the weekend.
“We need a little more from T.J.,” Carratura said. “We want him to do a little more. He has the potential to be a great wrestler, if he can just give us that little extra.”
Senior Ryan Michaels, who plays football and baseball at Kearny, will add wrestling to his impressive resume this season, competing at 195 pounds.
“He’s a big kid who is a great athlete,” Carratura said. “He’s very dedicated and the kind of kid you want in your program.”
Senior Jose Castillo, another wrestler who is relatively new to the sport, is the Kards’ 225-pounder. Castillo brought home a third place medal over the weekend.
“He’s a quiet kid, but he’s a tough kid as well,” Carratura said. “He’s still very raw, very new to the sport. But he took third in the tournament and that’s a good start.”
Senior Renato Matta is the team’s heavyweight and Matta started the season in solid fashion, finishing fourth.
Carratura always books the busiest schedule in the area, taking his team anywhere and everywhere in search of competition. They already have 30 regular season matches booked and the Kards can add to that.
“I like to see the kids wrestle,” Carratura said. “It’s the best way to learn.”
So the fourth place finish in their own tournament is just the start. Count on the Kards to be one of the most active teams around and to compete for a top three finish in the Hudson County Duals later in the season.
“I think this is a team that will get better,” Carratura said. “As the year goes on, we’ll see some major improvement.”
You can also look for Vezos and Witt to be among the top wrestlers in District 16 at season’s end. It’s a year of promise for the Kearny wrestling program.