Belleville’s Colon cops title; Nutley sending five to A.C.

Photo by Jim Hague/ A week ago, the Nutley wrestling team crowned six wrestlers as District 14 champions. They are, front row, from left, Bobby Trombetta and Anthony DeLorenzo, and back row from left, Andre Hamlin, Brandon Keena, Nick Gaeta and Carlos Rosa. A week later, four of these Maroon Raiders, namely Trombetta, Hamlin, Keena and Gaeta, as well as Vinnie Mainiero, are headed to the state championships in Atlantic City.


Belleville High School senior Justin Colon knows full well that this wrestling season is his last opportunity to collect the state glory he has so desired for his entire career.

So when Colon won the Region 4 championship Saturday at West Orange, his third region crown in his four years with the Buccaneers’ program, Colon already had a higher goal in mind.

“It’s my last year and I’ve been training hard, lifting, drilling every day,” Colon said.

“I’ve fallen short my last three years of high school and this year, I don’t plan on falling short.”

For the last three years, Colon has just missed earning a medal at the NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City.

“I lost always a round before the medal round,” Colon said.

But as Colon punched his ticket for this year’s state tourney by winning the Region 4 title at 126 pounds, he made no bones about his plans.

“It’s my last one, my last chance,” said Colon, who became Essex County’s all-time win leader last week at the District 14 tourney. “I feel more relaxed than I ever did. I know what the competition is going to be like. I’m mentally prepared. I’m not going to Atlantic City to be disappointed. I’m planning to still be wrestling Sunday and come home with a medal.”

In the past, Colon had to deal with weight and injuries heading into Atlantic City. It’s not the case this year.

“I feel a lot better and stronger,” said Colon, who improved to 40-1 this season with his region gold medal. “My weight is under control. I don’t have to worry about it. It’s much easier this year.”

Colon, whose older brother, Filiberto, was third in the state his senior year, said that he will use his two other trips to Atlantic City as fuel to his personal fire.

“I definitely think the other trips will help me,” Colon said. “I’m going to come out strong Friday and be ready.”

Colon won the Region 4 title via pin over Anthony DiPasque of Clifton in 3:43.
“Getting the pin in the finals will only boost my morale and my confidence,” Colon said. “I want to show everyone in Atlantic City that I belong on the podium.”
Colon is not the lone local wrestler headed to the state championships at Boardwalk Hall this weekend.

Nutley’s dream wrestling season will continue in Atlantic City, as head coach Frank DiPiano will bring his biggest contingency to the states. Five Maroon Raiders have advanced to the tourney.

While no Nutley wrestler earned Region 4 gold, four were runners-up, namely Bobby Trombetta (120 pounds), Brendan Keena (160), Nick Gaeta (195) and Andre Hamlin (heavyweight), while Vinnie Mainiero (170) was a third-place finisher.

The Maroon Raiders just missed sending a sixth wrestler to Atlantic City, but Carlos Rosa lost his consolation bout at 225 pounds by a single point in overtime.

“To bring five guys to Atlantic City is incredible,” DiPiano said. “We had 10 guys still wrestling on Saturday. It’s huge for the program. It’s the most we’ve ever advanced. If you would have told me before the season that I’d have five guys going, I would have said you were crazy. We were shooting for two, maybe. It’s pretty wild to have five.”

While Trombetta, Keena and Gaeta were expected to punch their tickets to Atlantic City, no one could have ever fathomed the idea that Mainiero and Hamlin would go.

Mainiero was unseeded in the Region 4 and had to face the top-seed, Tony Pafumi of St. Peter’s Prep, in the opening round. Once Mainiero lost to Pafumi, one would think of his chances to advance to the states would have been slim, but the freshman wrestled all the way back in the wrestleback consolations and earned third place with a pin over Steve Benitiz of West Orange in 5:28.

“It’s unbelievable,” DiPiano said. “After he lost in the first round, he just proceeded to win matches any way he could to get out of the region. It says a lot about his character and certainly already boosts his confidence for next season. He has a very bright future for us.”

Hamlin won all of one match two years ago as a sophomore and won 10 last year as a junior. But he continued his solid run that included a District 14 championship last week all the way to the Region 4 finals.

“It’s totally that is out of this world, an unbelievable story,” DiPiano said of Hamlin. “He’s a fantastic kid who just had to put his mind to it. He believed in himself. There was a time just recently where he was going to quit, but he decided to put in the time and now he’s going to Atlantic City. It’s really amazing.”

It marks another chapter in a dream season for the Maroon Raiders, who last week joined the state’s ranking among the top 25 in the state for the very first time. The Maroon Raiders have captured the Essex County, the Super Essex Conference and the District 14 team titles this year as well.

“People always told me that it was impossible to send this many kids to the states,” DiPiano said. “It’s just typical of our year. We keep doing things that were never done before.”

The Maroon Raiders completed their dual meet season with a stellar 19-4 mark and now will represent the area with pride, along with Colon.

The only downside to the Region 4 tourney was that Dave Bush, the Kearny senior who won the 160-pound championship at District 16 last week, was not able to compete due to the concussion he suffered in the District 16 finals, so Bush had to drop out of the Region 4 tourney, ending his quest to be a state tournament qualifier.

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