By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The NJSIAA District wrestling tournaments took place last Saturday and two local teams represented the highs and lows that come with the sport.
In Nutley, there was cause for celebration, as the Maroon Raiders won their second straight District 14 title, which comes on top of the Raiders’ winning the Essex County Tournament for a second straight year.
In Kearny, it was a matter of mere survival, as St. Peter’s Prep turned the District 16 get-together into its own personal playground.
The Kardinals, with their roster almost totally depleted due to desertions, injuries, academic difficulties, you name it, did their best to stay above water. They were able to send three wrestlers on to Region 4 this weekend, extending the trying season for another week.
Meanwhile, Nutley head coach Frank DiPiano was ecstatic about his team’s performance. They lost a ton of talented wrestlers last June to graduation, but DiPiano’s team managed to pull off almost a complete mirror image of last year, coming from behind to dominate the District 14 tourney.
“It’s really something special,” DiPiano said of the District 14 win, out-dueling Belleville by 30 points. “It’s something that we set our goals to do. I guess always deep inside, I thought it was possible to win again. We had an up-and-down year (finishing 13-11 in dual meets), but in the back of my mind, I thought we had a chance. We were able to put together a competitive group and kept plugging away.”
The Maroon Raiders crowned six champions at District 14, had seven wrestlers move on to the final round and nine placed, moving on to Region 4 this weekend.
Senior Bobby Trombetta, already the alltime leader in victories at Nutley, won his third District 14 gold medal, defeating Tommy Heller of Livingston in a tough 5-4 finale.
“I believe Bobby can go a long way,” DiPiano said. “He has the potential and the skill to do it. They all have that fire inside of them that you need to be successful.”
Sophomore Anthony DeLorenzo won his second straight District 14 title at 106 pounds, defeating Rocco Genova of Belleville, 2-1, in the title round.
Brandon Keena also repeated as District 14 champion, claiming the crown at 160 pounds. Keena pinned Samuel Jackson of Newark West Side in 5:41 to earn his second gold medal.
The other Nutley district winners were Stephen Scuttaro at 138 pounds, sophomore Vinnie Mainiero at 182 pounds and Peter Burbank at 220.
Scuttaro defeated O’Brayan Ramirez of Belleville in his title bout, while Mainiero pinned Kevin Llerena of Belleville in 1:25 and Burbank pinned Isaiah Thomas of Bloomfield in 5:39.
The Maroon Raiders had 113-pounder Joe Ferinde and 195-pounder Nick Nardachone finish second.
“I think it’s a testament to what’s been going on with this program for the last couple of years,” DiPiano said. “Our kids are battle tested. They went through a tough schedule. They stuck to their goals and they achieved them.”
Belleville had two other wrestlers finish second other than the aforementioned ones who lost in the title matches to Nutley.
David Colon, a 126-pounder, and Nate James, a heavyweight, also dropped title bouts, but will move on to the Region 4 tourney this weekend.
With the Kearny Kardinals, veteran head coach Tony Carratura is just trying to maintain a solid program. It’s not easy when two talented kids defected right before the season was about to begin.
“Losing those two guys, who we expected to do some great things for us, was tough,” Carratura said.
So it changed his entire philosophy for the weekend.
“We didn’t expect anything, because we went with basically underclassmen,” Carratura said. “We forfeited some weight classes and we’ve never done that before. Every day was tough for us, so it was a tough year for us. I just wanted the kids who wanted to wrestle and wanted to learn. The kids wanted to wrestle, but we had very few with experience.”
Still, Kearny managed to have its three heaviest wrestlers, namely 195-pound Ryan Michaels, 220-pound Jose Castillo and heavyweight Renato Matta, all move on to Region 4, courtesy of finishing third at District 16.
Michaels earned his berth in the Region tourney with a pin of Eric Cosgrove of Cliffside Park in 4:25. Castillo won a tough match over Justin Gomez of North Bergen, winning 3-2 and Matta moved on when his consolation round opponent was injured, giving Matta the forfeit victory.
“I’m really proud of those kids, because they’re all basically new to the sport,” Carratura said. “It wasn’t expected of them, so they deserved it.”
Carratura also mentioned 126-pound James Hodnett, who entered the District tourney with a 4-22 record, but only one of those four was a legitimate win on the mat.
“He was seeded last in his bracket, but he managed to pin the fourth seed, a kid from Cliffside Park,” Carratura said. “That could have been a fairytale, but I still give him credit for going to the District and winning a match.”
So Carratura will move on with his three Region 4 qualifiers, keeping the wrestling season going for another week.
“This was all new to them,” Carratura said. “It was a big surprise, considering what we’ve been through.”
Louis LaRegina holds the entire hopes of the Lyndhurst/ North Arlington program. LaRegina finished third at 220 pounds to punch his ticket to the regions.