Belleville crowns three district champs
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Nutley had captured the last two NJSIAA District 14 wrestling championships, but Maroon Raiders head coach Frank DiPiano didn’t know whether his team could make it a “three-peat.”
“We knew we could be rebuilding a little,” DiPiano said. “I thought if we wrestled well, we had a chance. The last couple of years, we knew we had a really good shot. But this year, we had so much inexperience. That’s why I wasn’t so sure we could win again.”
The inexperienced Maroon Raiders made their coach very proud, winning their third straight District 14 championship Saturday, holding off challenges from runner-up Bloomfield and third place Belleville.
“It’s definitely the most gratifying of the three,” DiPiano said. “The kids all stepped up and did well.”
The Maroon Raiders crowned two champions and will send eight wrestlers to the Region 4 championships this week at West Orange.
Sophomore Robert Duxbury won the 106-pound District 14 gold medal. The Maroon Raider sophomore, who was not even part of the varsity lineup last year, pinned Pablo Estevez of Bloomfield in the title bout.
“He’s focused and wrestled to his style,” DiPiano said of Duxbury, who improved his record to 29-4 with the title win. “His work ethic carried him. He’s a hard-nosed kid who just loves to wrestle.”
Junior Joe Ferinde won the 120-pound class with a pin of Tyreek Staton of Montclair, improving his record to an astounding 32-0 entering Region 4.
“He has a lot of quality wins this season,” DiPiano said. “He’s beaten some kids who have already won at the state championships (in Atlantic City). He’s zoned in and loves to wrestle. I’ve watched him get so much better during the course of the season. He controls the things he can. He does his work in the classroom, then goes to wrestle. He’s in control and he’s battle tested.”
Kenny Pena finished second at 126 pounds and his cousin, Darwin Pena, was the runner
Steve Scuttaro was second at 138 pounds and heavyweight Adam Touah was the silver medal winner in the heavyweight division.
“We wrestled a tougher schedule this year and I think that paid off,” DiPiano said. “That’s the reason why we won this district tournament. We faced teams like High Point, DePaul, Watchung Hills and that only helped us get better. The young kids got better, stepped up and helped this team win.”
DiPiano said that the senior Scuttaro took a step up in weight class at 138 pounds and still managed to finish second.
“It was his choice,” DiPiano said. “He had a better route to get to the state tournament in that class. He’s been in our program for four years and we’re trying to reward him with a trip to Atlantic City.”
Kenny Pena battled back from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of the regular season.
The Maroon Raiders will also send third-place consolation winners Gerard D’Alessio (170 pounds) and Sabino Coppola (195) to the Region 4 championships.
Belleville, under first-year head coach Emilio “Junior” Nardone, will send six wrestlers on to Region 4, including three Buccaneer wrestlers who earned District 14 gold.
Nardone, the two-time state champion during his schoolboy days, was selected as the District 14 Coach of the Year in his first season.
Jordan Greene won the 160-pound championship with a 9-4 win over Joey Zarro of Livingston.
Nick Nardachone won the 195-pound gold medal with a 10-3 win over Benjamin Panza of Montclair.
And Edwin Gaines won the 225-pound title with a pin of Marquise Roberts of Montclair in 2:32.
Jose Vergara was the runnerup in the 152-pound class and Luis Ovando (113 pounds) and Tien Le (heavyweight) finished third to earn a berth at the regions.
Josh Guerrero of Kearny was the lone Kardinal wrestler to move on out of District 16. He finished third in the 126-pound class at the tourney held at North Bergen High School.
The Lyndhurst/North Arlington program sent three wrestlers on to the Region 2 tournament, which will be held at Bergen County Community College for the first time.
Joey Morreale was second in the 145-pound class at District 15 in Clifton. Matt DeMarco was second in the 182-pound class for Lyndhurst/North Arlington, while Corey LeClerc finished third in the 113-pound class.