Bellevillle’s Greene also earns county gold
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Nutley High School wrestling coach Frank DiPiano didn’t know what to expect of his Maroon Raiders at Saturday’s Essex County championships.
“We finished seventh last year,” said DiPiano, who is in his eighth year at Nutley and recently collected the 100th dual match victory of his coaching career. “As a coach, you always want more from your team.”
That’s why DiPiano was fairly pleased with the Maroon Raiders’ second place finish in the county tournament, trailing only champion West Essex.
“To come back and finish second this year is pretty impressive,” DiPiano said. “Not only am I happy with the performances of some individuals, but the entire team.”
The Maroon Raiders had four wrestlers earn Essex County gold medals. They are senior Kenny Pena (120 pounds), senior Joe Ferinde (126 pounds), junior Robert Duxbury (132 pounds) and senior Darwin Pena (145 pounds).
Also, John Zarro was a runner-up at 138 pounds, falling in a tough decision in his championship bout. DiPiano was particularly pleased with the performances of the Pena cousins, both of whom have improved tremendously over the past year.
“Kenny Pena was a .500 wrestler last year,” DiPiano said. “He’s 22-2 now. He has put in his time to get better and to see his rise in improvement is tremendous.”
Pena defeated Isiah Adams of West Orange, 4-3, in the 120-pound finale. DiPiano believes that Adams is a contender for a championship at Region 2 in a few weeks.
Ferinde won his second straight Essex County crown. His record now stands at 25-1.
“He is just zoned in right now and very focused,” DiPiano said of Ferinde, who defeated John Cadela of Glen Ridge via technical fall in the 126-pound finals. “I believe he’s ready to make another run to get on the podium in Atlantic City.”
Ferinde finished eighth in the state last year. He’s definitely looking to improve on that performance this year.
“I believe he can do it,” DiPiano said.
Duxbury is in the midst of an almost unprecedented leap in weight classes, going from 106 pounds last year to the 132-pound class this season as county champion.
“It is a big jump,” DiPiano said. “I don’t know if I have ever seen it done before. But he’s a physical kid and he’s settled in where he is now. I think it helps that they all battle each other every day in practice. He has incredible work ethic. He puts in a lot of work into getting better.”
Duxbury now owns a 21-2 record for the season after defeating Chris Palmieri of Bloomfield, 6-0, in the 132-pound finale.
The final Maroon Raider champion is senior Darwin Pena, who won the 145-pound title by a 2-1 decision over Brendon Seyfried of Newark Academy.
“Darwin is slowly getting from under everyone’s radar,” DiPiano said. “His improvement is unbelievable. I think we all have to keep an eye on him. He was 20-13 last year and he’s 22-2 this year. It’s tremendous. Darwin just loves everything about wrestling. He’s the real deal now.”
DiPiano said that Darwin Pena went to a youth tournament Sunday morning with DiPiano to assist with the Darwin is slowly getting from under everyone’s radar,” DiPiano said. “His improvement is unbelievable. I think we all have to keep an eye on him. He was 20-13 last year and he’s 22-2 this year. It’s tremendous. Darwin just loves everything about wrestling. He’s the real deal now.”
DiPiano said that Darwin Pena went to a youth tournament Sunday morning with DiPiano to assist with the younger wrestlers.
“That’s just the way he is,” DiPiano said.
Zarro had a tough draw in the tournament, so DiPiano was pleased with his runnerup status.
“John has wrestled well of late,” DiPiano said. “I think he’s turned the corner.”
DiPiano said that the best thing for the team’s improvement is the practice room.
“When you have five or six guys right around the same weight battling each other and looking to improve every day, it has to pay off,” DiPiano said. “I feel good for all of them. They wrestled well.”
Belleville had one of its wrestlers earn Essex County gold, namely 160-pound senior Jordan Greene, who defeated Michael Dugan of Cedar Grove, 7-0, in the title bout. Greene has the potential to be a contender for district and region honors in a few weeks.
DiPiano now has to get his team ready for the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs. The Maroon Raiders currently are second in the section and appear headed for a home match in the opening round.
“I think it’s a wide open section,” DiPiano said. “Hopefully, we will be home for a couple of matches. I think you just have to be in it to have a chance to win it.”