Lyndhurst looks to Lally to lead wrestling program

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst High School wrestling program welcomes a new head coach in Dr. Jeff Lally (back left). Front row, from left, are Ermal Mera, Mike Morreale, Nick Carbone and Thomas Hayes. Back row are coaches Lally, Corey Dunn and Mike Chiappa

By Jim Hague

Although he’s focused in establishing his chiropractic office in Wayne, Dr. Jeff Lally has always had his true love of wrestling in mind.
After all, Lally was a standout high school wrestler at Pascack Hills, where he learned under legendary coach Bucky Rehbain, went on to wrestle at Virginia Tech and later became the head coach at St. Joseph of Montvale for three seasons.
But at the time, Lally’s practice was located in New York and the hustle and bustle of trying to get from Manhattan to northern Bergen County was just too much.
“I didn’t want to resign,” Lally said. “Things just didn’t work out.”
Lally was an assistant last year at DePaul, near where he moved his practice, when his old high school coach told him about the head coaching opening at Lyndhurst.
“I was looking to get back into coaching and Bucky knew that,” Lally said. “So he called me and told me about Lyndhurst.”
The former head coach, namely Lyndhurst wrestling legend Dennis McSweeney, had to resign as head coach after he entered the Bergen County Police Academy.
“I knew that Lyndhurst had such a tradition-based wrestling program,” Lally said. “I also knew it was a program with a lot of potential to restore it where it once was.”
So Lally was hired to take over the co-operative program that is shared between Lyndhurst and North Arlington.
Lally recalls the first meeting he had with the prospective wrestlers.
“I think they were all pretty relieved to have someone in place,” Lally said. “For the longest time, they didn’t have anyone to coach. Ever since I came in, they’ve been very receptive.”
Lally inherits a program that doesn’t have a ton of experience.
“We have only five seniors and even some of them have never wrestled before,” Lally said. “It’s a challenge, but we’re ready for it. We have a big freshman class who came in and are getting their feet wet. We have about eight kids from North Arlington. It’s an obstacle to get them to practice, but we’re making the most of it.”
As the 2011-2012 season begins, high school wrestling will be facing some major changes, especially with the weight classifications.
“Since most of them are new to wrestling, it’s not going to matter much with us,” Lally said “I don’t know if the changes help.”
For example, the 189-pound class is now 195 pounds and the 215-pound class now stands at 220. Lally knows that some programs will be affected by the changes, but not so much with the Golden Bears.
Leading the returnees is senior 120-pounder Mike Morreale, who has been a four-year varsity performer.
“I expect a lot from him,” Lally said. “He has the most experience on the team.”
Morreale’s younger brother, sophomore Joey, is the team’s 106-pounder.
“He has a lot of poise for a young wrestler,” Lally said. “He’s a great hard worker and should do some nice things.”
Sophomore Anthony Giaquinto should hold the fort at the 132-pound weight class, with junior Ian Yunis, a product of the Lyndhurst Recreation wrestling program, has shown a lot of promise in the 145-pound class.
Sophomore Frank Mezzina and senior Mike Carbone are battling it out for the 152-pound weight class duties, with sophomore Anthony Cardaci competing at 160 pounds.
Junior James Wenger is a newcomer to wrestling, but holding his own at 170 pounds. Seniors Ermal Mera, Rob Litterio and Thomas Hayes are all seniors who are learning every single day. Hayes enjoyed a great football season for the Golden Bears’ team that won a round in the state playoffs. If he shows the athleticism on the mat that he did on the gridiron, Hayes will enjoy instant success as a wrestler.
Freshman Lou Laregina, another product of the Lyndhurst Recreation program, is in the mix in the upperweights, along with junior Dominic Rega and Ernest Brodie, a senior who is a transfer from Harrison.
“I’m real excited about this chance,” said Lally, who is receiving assistance from Don Pritzlaff, Sr., the foremost knowledgeable wrestling person in Lyndhurst, as well as former Rutherford standout Corey Dunn, who was a two-time state medalist during his days at Rutherford.
“We all wrestle with the kids every day, get out on the mats,” said Lally, who also grapples regularly with his team. “It’s a good group. It feels good to get back into it. I always knew I would if I had the right opportunity and this is the right opportunity.”

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