Buccaneer grapplers off to great start even as coach wrestles with lineup

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Belleville High School wrestling team is enjoying its best season in recent years, posting a 9-2 record thus far. From left are Rocco Genova, Justin Colon, head coach Joe Nisivoccia and Daniel Giangrande.


By Jim Hague

Joe Nisivoccia has been the head wrestling coach at Belleville High School for what seems like forever. Nisivoccia remembers the good times the program has enjoyed, but the recent memories haven’t been all too good, as the Buccaneers, as a whole, have fallen on some tough times over the last few years.

But this year’s version of the Bucs has enjoyed a return to glory.

The team has posted a 9-2 record thus far, easily its best mark since qualifying for the NJSIAA state sectionals in 2005.

However, Nisivoccia isn’t spoiled by the stellar mark thus far.

“Honestly, we really could be 11-0,” Nisivoccia said. “We lost two matches that we easily could have won. We lost to two good teams, but if we had our entire lineup those days, we could have won. I really thought we could have beaten both teams we lost to. If we did, then 11-0 would have sounded so much better.”

Nisivoccia isn’t about to complain.

“No, I’m happy and pleased with our start,” Nisivoccia said. “When you’re a coach and you start to do well, you’re always going to want more. That’s natural. If I show them that I want more, then maybe they’ll want more as well.”

What makes the Buccaneers’ brilliant start even more impressive is that the veteran coach has still not settled on a full-time starting lineup.

“Our lineup is still not fully set,” Nisivoccia said. “We’re playing around with a couple of weight classes.”

There’s no tinkering with the 106-pound slot in the lineup. That belongs to Rocco Genova, who is a returning district champion. Genova is having another solid season, despite the fact that he suffers from diabetes, so he has to watch his weight and his blood sugar more than any other wrestler.

Genova won the 106-pound championship at the recent Edison Tournament, took second at the prestigious Elizabeth Holiday tournament and was third in the highly competitive Middletown tourney with 17 teams.

“He’s having a great year,” Nisivoccia said.

At 120 pounds is senior Ricky Gencarelli, who was second in Edison and third in Elizabeth.

“He’s a much improved wrestler,” Nisivoccia said.

Senior Justin Colon is the Buccaneers’ 126-pounder. The talented Colon, who has been one of the premier competitors in Essex County over his career, has been alternating between 126 and 132 pounds.

“We’ve been bumping him up from time to time to give him better competition,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s been doing a great job.”

Justin, who is on pace to surpass his older brother, Filiberto, as the all-time win leader at Belleville, has an 18-1 record thus far. Colon won at Edison, took second at Middletown and became only the third Belleville wrestler (joining current assistant coach Anthony Conte and Frank Zarro) to ever win the Elizabeth tournament four consecutive years. Even Filiberto never turned the trick.

But there is something missing on Colon’s resume that his brother owns – a medal at the NJSIAA state tournament in Atlantic City. The elder Colon, wrestling at Eastern Michigan University, earned three state medals in his four trips to Atlantic City.

“Justin’s never won a medal,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s come close, but he just misses by one round. It’s a sticking point with him and I know he’s driven by it. I hope he’s standing on the podium this year. How high he stands remains up to him.”

Senior Sean Carey is the Buccaneers’ 138-pounder. Carey also won gold medals at the Edison and Elizabeth tournaments.

“I expect big things from Sean this year,” Nisivoccia said.

Anthony Avino is the team’s 145-pounder. The senior is another four-year varsity competitior.

“He suffered from a bad back last year and that hurt him,” Nisivoccia said. “He missed a lot of action last year, but he’s back this year and he’s been very good.”

Joe Anello holds the fort at 160 pounds. Anello is a twotime District 14 champion who earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at last year’s districts.

“He’s been certified to wrestle at 152 (pounds), so we’re leaving it up to him which weight he wants to wrestle at,” Nisivoccia said.

Anello was third in both Edison and Elizabeth and fourth at Middletown.

“Joe seems to peak right around February,” Nisivoccia said.

Junior Nick Fruncillo is the team’s 170-pounder. Fruncillo has been a solid, competitive wrestler throughout and has earned his place in the regular lineup.

Senior Daniel Giangrande is the Buccaneers’ 195-pounder.

“He’s having a great year,” Nisivoccia said of Giangrande, who won the Edison tourney and finished third at Middletown and Elizabeth. “He’s a pinner and we need that.”

Giangrande, Anello and Colon serve as the team’s captains.

The heavyweight is junior Nate James, who keyed a big win against Verona last week.

“He’s shown a lot of promise and he’s coming around,” Nisivoccia said.

One of the team’s most versatile wrestlers is sophomore David Colon, who is not related at all to the other Colon brothers.

“A lot of people think they’re related, but they’re not,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s seeing action at both 126 and 132 pounds.”

The rest of the weight classes are still up for grabs, which makes the Buccaneers’ practice room a very competitive place to be. “We’re still working on the rest of the lineup,” Nisivoccia said. “We’re hoping to get invited to participate in the state sectionals. That’s our goal right now.”

With the record where it is, it’s a very tangible goal – and one that had not been within reach for the last seven years.

“I think we’ll do fine in the county tournament,” Nisivoccia said. “We would like to place among the top three and bring home a trophy. If that happens, we’ll be very happy. We’d also like to win the District (14) title. If that happens, then the year is a full success. We’re just trying to put together a nice team and bring a good number of wrestlers to the regions.”

Nisivoccia credits a lot of the team’s success to assistant coaches Conte and Corey Woodring.

“We’re doing fine right now, but we have to keep it up,” Nisivoccia said.

If that’s the case, then it’s a full return to glory for Belleville’s wrestling program.

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