Nutley wrestling: Making most of tough season

Photo by Jim Hague The Nutley wrestling team is very young, but has a handful of championshipcaliber wrestlers. From l. are Steve Scuttaro, Robert Duxbury and Joe Ferinde. Head coach Frank DiPiano is in the rear.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Nutley wrestling team is very young, but has a handful of championship caliber wrestlers. From l. are Steve Scuttaro, Robert Duxbury and Joe Ferinde. Head coach Frank DiPiano is in the rear.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Nutley High School head wrestling coach Frank DiPiano knew that this was going to be a tough season, as he had to rebuild his program, losing a host of talented wrestlers to graduation. But then, DiPiano was hit with the unforeseen transfers, guys who DiPiano was counting on for the new season. “It’s been tough,” DiPiano said. “I was in a little bit of a shock when we lost the transfers. But I preach to our kids that we can only control what we can control. If kids want to leave, there’s nothing you can do about it. We just have to work on getting better every day and work with the kids who we had in the room.” Because DiPiano believed he was going to have a strong season, he scheduled the Maroon Raiders to face some of the toughest teams in the state. “It’s one of the toughest schedules we’ve had since I’ve been here,” DiPiano said. “I told the kids that’s not going to change. We’re still going to face the best.” So the Maroon Raiders have a 9-13 dual meet record after defeating neighboring rival Belleville Friday night, facing the Buccaneers for the first time in five years. It was a special night at Nutley, as former wrestlers from both schools were asked back for the festivities, were introduced during a prematch ceremony and got together for a postmatch celebration. “It was a great night,” DiPiano said. DiPiano said that the program has been fortunate to keep some wrestlers in the fold, some with strong familiar ties, guys like Steve Scuttaro and Joe Ferinde, who had older brothers who wrestled for DiPiano. “It helps to have these guys who had seen it and been around it as we started to change the perception of the program and decided to stay home,” DiPiano said. “The fact that they believe n the system means a lot to me. They know that we can compete with anyone.” Another key returnee is sophomore 106-pounder Robert Duxbury, who has already won 20 matches this season and recently won the Essex County Tournament championship. “He’s just a hard-nosed kid,” DiPiano said of Duxbury. “He’s a very hard worker who is on the verge of becoming a great leader. He’s already set some lofty goals.” DiPiano said that Duxbury reminds him a lot of former Maroon Raider great Bobby Trombetta, the school’s alltime victory leader who is now wrestling at Bloomsburg University. “That’s the type of kid Robert is,” DiPiano said. “He and Bobby share a good relationship and talk a lot.” Ferinde is the team’s 120-pounder. The younger brother of former Maroon Raider standout Michael, Joe Ferinde has an undefeated record (26-0) thus far and also won the Essex County tourney last week. “I’m not surprised with what Joe has done,” DiPiano said. “I’ve watched him improve. He was third in the Region (4) tourney last year and he’s spent so much time on the mat. He’s all business in the classroom and on the mat. He doesn’t let anything get in the way.” Ferinde is a junior with bright promise. Kenny Pena is a junior at 126 pounds. He’s also very improved, considering that he won only three matches last year and has nine wins this season. Sophomore Darwin Pena, Kenny’s cousin, is the team’s 132-pounder. Darwin has 13 wins this season. Freshman C.J. Haddock is the team’s 138-pounder. It’s a tough weight class for a freshman, but Haddock is hanging tough. “He has a lot of promise,” DiPiano said. “He’s in an extremely tough weight class.” Senior Scuttaro has a 22-4 mark after finishing second at the ECT last weekend. Scuttaro is the team’s 145-pounder. “I expect big things from him,” said DiPiano of Scuttaro, whose brother Vinnie was a Nutley standout wrestler. “Steve is a two-time District (14) champion and is a solid team leader. Hopefully, he’ll get to Atlantic City (for the state championships) this year.” Junior Andrew Aiello is the team’s 152-pounder. Junior Jason Castellanos was solid at 160 pounds, but he just recently broke his hip and is lost for the season. Sophomore Lou Long will move into that slot at 160. Sophomore Gerard D’Allessio has won 10 matches at 170 pounds. Senior Santino Gabriele is a first-year wrestler who is learning more about wrestling. “Santino is a soccer player who knew we had some holes in the lineup, so he came out,” DiPiano said. “He’s holding his own as someone who just came out for wrestling.” Freshman Sabino Coppola is another newcomer with a lot of promise, holding the fort at 195 pounds. Senior Rob Spagnuolo is the team’s 220-pounder who has had some varsity experience, while junior Adam Touah is a first-year wrestler at heavyweight who has won 12 matches as a rookie. Needless to say, DiPiano is hopeful that the Maroon Raiders continue to improve. “I’m definitely encouraged,” DiPiano said. “We have a great group of kids who work hard and understand their roles. We have some new kids who are going to take their lumps a little. But we’re just trying to get better every day. That’s the goal.”

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