By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Bobby Trombetta had begun his senior wrestling season facing the biggest obstacle of his young life, far more menacing than any opponent the brilliant Nutley lightweight wrestler had to endure.
Before the 2012-13 season got underway, Trombetta suffered a serious shoulder injury, a torn labrum that would eventually require surgery.
“At first, it scared me, but I knew that I wasn’t going to stop,” Trombetta said. “It was my senior year and I was not going down without a fight.”
When Trombetta sought medical advice about the injury, one doctor recommended that he should give up wrestling for the year and have the surgery right away.
“He told me that if I was his kid, then there would be no shot of me wrestling,” Trombetta said. “It was up to my parents. They basically left it up to me. They believed in me to make the best decision.”
And the decision was to continue to try to compete with the injured shoulder.
“It was tough for me,” Trombetta said. “I had to stay away from any kind of (arm) bars. I wasn’t able to wrestle at 100% and that’s what hurt me the most.”
“One-hundred percent? I wish he was at 50%,” said Nutley head wrestling coach Frank DiPiano. “If he was at 100%, then things would have become very interesting.”
Trombetta rehabbed the shoulder for the first month of the season.
“It was tough,” Trombetta said. “I was on a lot more stricter diet. I ate a lot of chicken and a lot of vegetables to keep my weight down. But because I wasn’t wrestling, I had no chance to mess up. So I had no junk food at all. It was also tough for me to get the stamina back to where I was before I got hurt. It was really frustrating, because I wanted to have such a great senior year.”
Trombetta had already secured his place in Nutley wrestling history before his senior year. He won the NJSIAA District 14 championship twice and won the Essex County Tournament three times. He also earned medals in his two trips to the NJSIAA in his two trips to the NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City, finishing seventh as a sophomore in 2011 and sixth as a junior last year.
“My ultimate goal was to become a state champion,” Trombetta said.
However, when the shoulder was torn, it pretty much made winning a state title an impossible feat, considering Trombetta was basically competing with one good arm.
“I would have to say that I had to re-invent myself a little,” Trombetta said. “I would get in a shot (around the legs), then my shoulder couldn’t handle it, so it was tough for me to keep that leg. I’d then have to try something different.”
Trombetta did manage to win his fourth consecutive county title, making his seasonal debut at 126 pounds at the county tourney and earned his third District 14 gold medal. He took second at the Region 4 tourney, punching his ticket for another trip to Atlantic City.
However, disaster struck last Friday night, when Trombetta lost his opening round match, ending all hope of winning the state title.
“After I lost, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to continue,” Trombetta said. “The goal I had to win the state was no longer possible. But the coaches came to me and talked to me about it. They made me realize that it was my last chance and I couldn’t get down on myself. I had to do whatever I could to go out with a bang.”
One of those assistant coaches is Anthony Montes, who was the first Nutley wrestler to win medals in three NJSIAA state tournaments and was the all-time leader in wins at Nutley, before the mark was broken three years ago.
“I think it helped that Bobby grew up watching Anthony,” DiPiano said. “It’s almost kind of fitting.”
Trombetta was relegated to the wrestleback consolations, but he made the most of it, winning three times to get into the medal round in the span of 90 minutes Saturday morning.
“It was pretty rough with the injury,” Trombetta said. “The first match, I aggravated the shoulder again, but I iced it and the coaches kept me confident that I could do it.”
“It was unbelievable,” DiPiano said. “It just shows how much drive and intensity the kid has. Not only did he wrestle three times (Saturday), but he wrestled three quality kids. To beat three kids of that caliber to get to the medal round is incredible. The way he handled it, the way he was in every match shows the type of kid and type of champion Bobby is. It’s pretty remarkable, considering the severity of the injury.”
Trombetta left Atlantic City Sunday with an eighth-place medal in the 120-pound weight class, his third medal at the state tourney, joining coach and mentor Montes as the only two Maroon Raiders to get three state medals.
Trombetta also ended his career with 141 career victories, tops in Nutley history and third all-time in Essex County.
Four county titles, three district crowns, two Region gold medals and three medals at the state tourney to go along with a school-record victory total. Not too shabby.
“He had a fantastic career,” DiPiano said.
“It was a fun run,” Trombetta said. “Although I didn’t get the ultimate goal, I enjoyed every bit of it.”
For his efforts, Trombetta has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Trombetta was asked if he was surprised to achieve so much with the use of only one arm.
“After losing the first match there, I was a little surprised to win three times,” Trombetta said. “I got a little more confident, thanks to my coaches. I was mentally prepared to get through the tournament. It means a lot to get the third medal. I have to be proud of what I achieved.”
Added Trombetta, “It’s crazy to think that my four years are over. It went by so quickly. It feels great that all the hard work I put in paid off. In the end, looking at the big picture, I’ll say that it was something special and it means a lot.” DiPiano is hopeful that some college gives Trombetta a scholarship.
“He’s going to make some program very happy,” DiPiano said. “Some college is going to be very lucky to get him, because with his work ethic and determination, he’s only going to make that program better. The kid stepped into our room as a champion, but he’s a three-time medal winner at the states. He’s been a credit to our program and someone to look up to.”
Trombetta hasn’t decided on what school he wants to attend.
“I’m going to start to go on visits soon,” Trombetta said. “I plan on wrestling in college.”
And now, he can get the shoulder repaired so he will be 100% by the time he hits college.
“That’s the plan right now,” Trombetta said.
No question, Trombetta leaves Nutley with a legacy of greatness and people will forever remember the way he overcame adversity and physical strife to earn his third medal at the state championships.