By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Frank DiPiano took over the Nutley High School wrestling program five years ago, he had no idea how long it would take for the Maroon Raiders to become relevant once again.
Little did DiPiano know that he would develop the Maroon Raiders into a dominant force.
That domination continued over the weekend, when DiPiano’s Maroon Raiders, just a few days removed from suffering an emotional setback in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III sectional title match against Voorhees, steamrolled the opposition once again at the NJSIAA District 14 championships, winning for the fourth straight year.
“It’s always the goal to win the league, the county, the state and the district titles,” DiPiano said. “To win our fourth District 14 title in a row, we take a lot of pride in that. We came back from the sectional final and rebounded well.”
The Maroon Raiders crowned three champions in 126-pound champion Joe Ferinde, 132-pound champ Robert Duxbury and 145-pounder Darwin Pena.
Ferinde improved to 33-2 overall with a resounding 16-3 win over Roland Smith of Belleville in the finals.
“He just keeps going,” DiPiano said. “It’s his second district title. It’s impressive at this time of year to have the record he has. He wants to win and advance to get back on the podium in Atlantic City.”
Ferinde finished eighth in the state last year.
Duxbury (33-2) won the District 14 gold last year at 106 pounds, so for him to make such a huge step up in weight and still remain at the top of his game is impressive.
“He has real good technique and he’s a real strong kid for his size,” DiPiano said.
Pena has shown the biggest improvement of any Nutley wrestler in recent memory, going from sub-.500 last year (11-13) to where he’s dominant (33-3) this year.
“He’s on everyone’s radar now,” DiPiano said.
The Maroon Raiders will send 12 wrestlers to the Region 4 tournament this weekend, including five that finished as runners-up in their respective weight classes, namely 120-pounder Kenny Pena, 152-pounder Joseph DiPasquale, 160-pounder Andrew Aiello, 170-pounder Jason Castellanos and 195-pounder Justin Bivona.
Of the five Maroon Raiders to place second, DiPiano was most pleased with Bivona.
“He upset the No. 3 seed, then upset the No. 2 seed to get to the finals,” DiPiano said of Bivona, who now has a 14-13 record this season. “It’s a big turnaround for him. He wrestled complete and smart over the last couple of weeks.”
Belleville crowed two champions in District 14 in 160-pounder Jordan Greene and 220-pounder Edwin Gaines. Both Buccaneer wrestlers earned District 14 gold for a second time.
At District 15, Queen of Peace crowned three champions in 120-pounder Ray Wetzel, 195-pounder Jeff Velez and heavyweight Chima Dunga.
Velez was a district champ for the fourth straight year, having won the prior three in District 11 while competing for Brearley Regional.
Enrique Sanchez (106), Mike Scaravelli (132), Garrett Beam (138), Shaquan Chavis (145) and Joe Rocca (152) all punched their tickets to the region tourney with solid efforts over the weekend.
Lyndhurst/North Arlington had three wrestlers advance to Region 2 in 160-pounder Rocco Russomano, 120-pounder Devin Yunis and 170-pounder Matthew DeMarco.
Kearny saw 170-pounder Lukasz Glazewski advance after losing in the finals of District 16 to Leo Subiza of North Bergen.
Once again, it’s a solid array of wrestling talent that is moving on to either Region 2 or Region 4 this weekend.