By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Two local wrestlers ended their respective seasons standing on the podium in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City Sunday, earning a medal for ranking among the top eight finishers in their respective weight classes in New Jersey.
But for both Jeff Velez of Queen of Peace and Joe Ferinde of Nutley, there had to be a sense of disappointment, knowing that the long-awaited dream of becoming a state champion was not going to come to fruition.
Velez defeated Danny DiLorenzi of Bergen Catholic, 6-4, in overtime to take the third place consolation bout at 195 pounds. The win in the third place bout came a day after he lost a heartbreaker in the semifinals by a 4-2 decision to Tyree Sutton of Keansburg.
Still, Velez helped to put the Golden Griffins back into wrestling respectability, a year after the program had disbanded.
For that, Velez, a transfer from Brearley Regional in Kenilworth, will be forever remembered.
For Ferinde, he was looking for the chance to improve on his standing of a year ago at the state tournament, when he finished eighth.
There wasn’t improvement this year, but Ferinde didn’t fare worse than last year either, as he finished eighth once again, falling in the seventh place consolation round bout to Pete Lipari of Bergen Catholic, 4-0, at 126 pounds.
Ferinde suffered a brutally tough, emotional setback to Patrick D’Arcy of Holy Spirit by a 1-0 decision in the quarterfinals.
As it turned out, D’Arcy would go on to capture the state title at that weight class.
Still, there was a sense of disappointment once Ferinde suffered the setback and had to make his way through the consolation wrestlebacks.
“I was pretty upset for a little bit,” Ferinde said. “But then I had to get my head straight and get back out there. I knew I had to win one more time to get a medal.”
It was Ferinde’s third trip to the state championships in Atlantic City, so he was an old pro.
“This year, it felt like no one else was there,” Ferinde said. “It was just me out there. I let it all go and wrestled.”
Ferinde finished this season with a 36-5 record. He was the Region 4 champion for the first time and ended his career with more than 110 wins to go along with two state tournament medals. Not a bad resume to take to college.
“I’m definitely proud of myself,” Ferinde said. “My freshman year, I wasn’t even on the varsity. I was on JV (junior varsity). But I made to the states my sophomore year and junior and senior year, I placed eighth in the state. I really want to keep working, because I wasn’t satisfied with way I finished in the state tournament. I want to get better.”
Ferinde said that he plans on wrestling in a national tournament in Pennsylvania in April.
For now, he will head to Hershey, Pa. this weekend to cheer on his older brother, Michael, as he competes in the NCAA Division III national tournament. Michael Ferinde is a senior at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.
Michael Ferinde was on hand at Boardwalk Hall to encourage his little brother.
“He actually made it down to the mat and helped me out a little bit,” Joe Ferinde said. “It’s definitely awesome that I’ll get a chance to see him. It’s his final year of wrestling. It was great that he came to see me.”
Michael Ferinde is not the only local product on the Johnson and Wales wrestling roster. Former Belleville great Justin Colon is also at 141 pounds, like Michael Ferinde, so it’s Nutley vs. Belleville every day in the JWU wrestling room.
The younger Ferinde is considering going to wrestle at JWU or perhaps Rider. But he knows his wrestling days are far from over.
“That’s where I’m at right now,” Joe Ferinde said. “I definitely had a great run in high school and I’m going to miss being on the team and being with my coaches. It hasn’t sunk in yet that it’s over. When it does, it’s probably going to hit me hard. That’s why I want to stay active. I really want to keep wrestling.”