Dominic Mainiero has been a human tug-of-war game since he was a youngster.
A standout on the youth wrestling circuit, winning national titles in places like Reno, Nevada and Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mainiero made the brutally tough decision to go to St. Joseph Regional of Montvale instead of his hometown school of Nutley.
“It was pretty tough,” Mainiero said. “St. Joseph was always in the thought process. I liked it a lot. Everyone was just expecting me to go to Nutley, but I felt like I made a better decision for myself.”
At the same time, Mainiero’s older brother, Vinnie, had decided to transfer to St. Joseph, so the brothers could wrestle and train together.
“It made it easier for me, having Vinnie there,” Dominic Mainiero said. “I kind of had a lot of pressure on me. It would have been easier to go to Nutley, but we went to St. Joe’s to better ourselves.”
Mainiero first experienced adversity at St. Joseph when he suffered a broken bone in his spine.
“It happened during football season,” Mainiero said. “I couldn’t run at all. All I did was ride the stationary bike.”
Then, in his sophomore year at St. Joseph, there was another injury.
“I broke my collarbone,” Mainiero said. “It was definitely another road block. I gave up playing football. It was fine, because wrestling was always my best sport. Since I was little, I wrestled all over the country.”
Mainiero won the Flo Reno Worlds Championship tournament in April on three separate occasions.
Mainiero transferred once again from St. Joseph to Queen of Peace to begin his junior season.
Before he began his senior campaign with the Golden Griffins, Mainiero signed a national letter of intent to attend Kutztown University next fall.
“I’m definitely a lot more relaxed this year,” Mainiero said. “I don’t have to worry about where I’m going. I can just wrestle.”
Mainiero is the first cousin of Nutley standout running back Nick Mainiero, who earned Observer Athlete of the Week honors last October.
Now, after starting the season with nine straight wins, including the championship of the Mount Madness of Maryland tournament (defeating the three-time Maryland state champion with a pin in the final round), Mainiero can claim his own Athlete of the Week honors.
Last weekend, Mainiero won all four of his matches in the Elizabeth Tournament, three via a pin, winning the gold medal there.
For his efforts, Mainiero has been named as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. It marks the first time that cousins have ever earned the Athlete of the Week honor in the same scholastic sports year.
“The first matches of the season, Dom’s weight wasn’t in control,” Queen of Peace head coach Scot Weaver said. “So we held him out early. He came back and wrestled against Lyndhurst (winning via pin over Michael Carrino in 1:29). Since then, he’s been point on in what we’re trying to do. He’s faced some pretty good competition and done well. We now expect him to go out and devastate opponents. He’s that physical of a wrestler.”
Mainiero defeated Mike Elak of Parsippany, 6-1, in the final bout.
“He’s a great defensive wrestler,” Weaver said of Mainiero. “He’s good on top, because he’s able to ride on top and score points from up there. He’s explosive and fast. He can drop his legs, then score quickly.”
“Doing this well early in the season has given me a lot of confidence,” Mainiero said. “I know I can compete with the better guys and that definitely gives me a boost.”
One state-wide ranking has Mainiero listed as the No. 5 wrestler statewide at 195 pounds.
But Mainiero has higher goals in mind.
“I definitely have it in mind to be standing on top of the podium (in Atlantic City),” Mainiero said. “I’m more mentally focused than ever before. I feel good going into matches. Everything is going well.”
Last year, Mainiero finished seventh in the state at 182 pounds, so he definitely has higher goals, now that he has his life finally in order.
“I’m still focused on the main goal,” said Mainiero, who would like to major in sports medicine in college. “I think coming from the family I have has helped me to try to reach my goals.”
“He’s had a rough road, dealing with the physical and emotional issues,” Weaver said. “He’s changed schools, had a broken back and collarbone. But he’s in it to win it.”