Maroon Raider grapplers capture their own holiday tournament

Photo by Jim Hague/ Junior Bobby Trombetta, who finished seventh in the state last year at 112 pounds, returns this season to lead the Nutley wrestling program. Trombetta won the 120-pound gold medal at the Maroon Raider Holiday Wrestling Tournament over the weekend, guiding the team to the overall team title as well.


By Jim Hague

The Nutley High School wrestling team opened action last Saturday, playing host to their Maroon Raider Holiday Tournament for the second straight year.
And for the second straight year, the Maroon Raiders won the team title, besting the rest of the highly competitive nine-team field. Solid programs, such as Westfield and Roselle Park, were second and third respectively.
“It’s huge, because it’s a good momentum builder for the rest of the season,” said fourth-year head coach Frank DiPiano. “It’s a reward for all the work the kids put in. We now have 40 kids in the room every day and having that depth is critical. We set a lot of goals for this team, because we have a lot of talent.”
Top wrestler Anthony Ferinde has graduated, but DiPiano is certain that the Maroon Raiders will move on.
“Losing Ferinde is a big loss, but we do have a lot of guys back,” said DiPiano, who guided the Maroon Raiders to the NJSIAA North 2, Group III playoffs last year, falling in the semifinals to Mount Olive.
Leading the way is 120-pound junior Bobby Trombetta, who finished seventh in the state at 112 pounds last year. Trombetta was a brilliant 43-4 last season and already has 76 wins in two years, well on his way toward becoming the school’s all-time win leader.
Trombetta was one of several Maroon Raiders to win an individual championship over the weekend, pinning a quality wrestler in Mike Kalimtzis of Westfield in 2:52 in the finals.
“Bobby has that X-factor,” DiPiano said. “He has a little bit of a swagger to him. He’s been to the states twice, but this year, he has a lot to prove. He’s a good baseball player as well, but he wants to wrestle in college and he wants to be a champion. He’s also very strong.”
Another key performer is 160-pound junior Brandon Keena, who won his weight class, defeating A.J. Nelson of Mountain Lakes, 3-1, in the title bout. Keena had 35 victories last year.
“I’m expecting big things from Brandon this year,” DiPiano said. “He’s a junior captain like Trombetta and he’s strong in the middle of our lineup.”
Senior Nick Gaeta is another strong member of a solid Nutley upper weight contingent. The 195-pound Gaeta also won over the weekend, defeating Nick Knepper via a pin in 3:23 in the final.
“Nick is making a big step up from 171 pounds last year,” Gaeta said. “He’s a 12-month-a-year wrestler who has put a lot of time in. He has a shot to get to Atlantic City (the state championships) this year.”
Senior Carlos Rosa, who also won 35 matches last year and earned a district championship, also won over the weekend, defeating Vincent Picarelli of Roselle Park in the finals with a pin in just 1:31.
“For a big boy, he’s very quick,” DiPiano said. “We expect him to do well this year.”
The other Maroon Raider individual champion was 106-pound freshman Anthony DeLorenzo, who defeated Joseph Albanese of Passaic County Tech, 7-2, in the championship round.
“He’s a little lighter than the others in his class, but he came here with a lot of success in the Nutley Recreation program,” DiPiano said. “He has a lot of promise and can win a lot of matches.”
The Maroon Raiders’ 113-pounder is junior Julian Figueroa, who finished third at the tourney.
Senior Sam Souza, who qualified for the state tourney as a freshman, was injured most of last year with a bad shoulder. Souza has returned this season and mans the 126-pound weight class.
“He’s had a run of bad luck with injuries, but he’s back and healthy,” DiPiano said.
Junior Ralph DiPasquale is the team’s 132-pounder, with junior Michael Fazzini at 138 pounds. Both wrestlers finished third at the season-opening tourney.
Freshman Joe Iorio is the 145-pounder and senior Nick Priganti holds down the 152-pound class.
Freshman Vin Mainiero is the 170-pounder, a very tough weight class for a freshman. But Mainiero is another product of the strong Nutley Recreation program and he finished third over the weekend.
“He has a good recreation background and has a lot of promise,” DiPiano said. “He may take his lumps a little in a tough weight class, but he can handle it.”
The team’s heavyweight is Andre Hamlin, the standout lineman of the football team. Hamlin finished third over the weekend.
“He’s come a long way and he’s right there with the rest of them,” DiPiano said.
Having a packed practice room certainly adds to the excitement.
“It’s great to keep the competition level there every day,” DiPiano said. “Even though they’re competing for a spot, they’ve really turned into a family and that was my goal when I took over. I thought it would take five years to build the program and we’re getting there. We had 18 kids in the room when I took over and now we have 40. We have the depth and the talent to have a good season. If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise.
Added DiPiano, “Winning this tournament for a second straight year is a huge step. We’re already a little battle tested and hopefully we’ll get better as the season progresses.”

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