Kearny wrestling team makes strides toward respectability

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny wrestling team will be a work-in-progress all season, but the Kards won twice over the weekend against Orange and Livingston. Kneeling, from l., are Nikolas Jablonsky, Erin Rivera, Jason Dukhi, Steven Silva and Arthur Smith. Standing, from l., are Robert McCallum, Thomas Przybylski, Justin Baeza, Lukasz Glazewski, Travis Witt, Bruno de Oliveira Leal and Joshua Lopez.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny wrestling team will be a work-in-progress all season, but the Kards won twice over the weekend against Orange and Livingston. Kneeling, from l., are Nikolas Jablonsky, Erin Rivera, Jason Dukhi, Steven Silva and Arthur Smith.
Standing, from l., are Robert McCallum, Thomas Przybylski, Justin Baeza, Lukasz Glazewski, Travis Witt, Bruno de Oliveira
Leal and Joshua Lopez.

The Kearny High School wrestling team is certainly going through some growing pains.

“We have a young team,” said assistant coach Brian McDonnell, who has been helping head coach Tony Carratura run the program. “We have some kids who have been with us since the (Kearny) Recreation days, but we’re still rebuilding. We took a big step last year and we were one match away from .500. We want to continue that this year.”

So far, so good, as the Kardinals have a 3-4-1 record in dual meet action after wins against Orange and Livingston over the weekend and a setback to Lyndhurst/North Arlington.

The Kards defeated Orange, 43-36, and knocked off Livingston in convincing fashion by a 49-24 margin, before falling to the neighboring Golden Bears/ Vikings cooperative program by a 37-27 score.

McDonnell, a former standout wrestler and cross country runner for Kearny during his athletic days, said that the goal is to get the program back to respectability.

“We want to get back to what we used to be and what we’re used to being,” McDonnell said. “The kids are working hard. We have some high quality kids who are buying into the program. We just have to continue to move forward and make progress.”

The Kards’ 106-pounder is freshman Steven Silva, who is steadily improving.

“He wrestled with us in the Rec program for two years and he’s going to be a four-year varsity wrestler for us here at the high school,” McDonnell said. “We’re trying to get him as much experience as possible.”

Mya Lamboy, one of two girls on the Kearny wrestling team, has also seen action at 106 pounds and earned her first varsity win over Lyndhurst/ North Arlington Saturday.

Junior Jason Dukhi is the team’s 113-pounder.

“By far, he’s one of the most aggressive kids we have,” Mc- Donnell said of Dukhi, who is currently 6-5 on the young season. “He’s also one of the hardest workers we have. He works his tail off every day. He’s 100% committed to the sport.”

Dukhi won via a first period pin against Livingston over the weekend. He also took third at the Kearny Holiday Tournament to start the season.

Erin Rivera is the team’s 120-pounder. Rivera is a freshman who is also learning the ropes.

“He’s a first-year wrestler who is getting a trial by fire,” McDonnell said. “He’s a tough kid who is getting some good varsity experience.”

Rivera has won two matches this season.

Sophomore Arthur Smith is the team’s 126-pounder. Smith was on the varsity last year, so he has some experience.

“He was a member of the Kearny Rec program for about five or six years,” Mc- Donnell said. “He’s one of the most technical wrestlers we have.”

Smith won one match at 138 pounds and another at 132, a first period pin of Riley Devlin of Livingston, before falling to Corey Leclerc of Lyndhurst/North Arlington at 132 by a 4-3 decision.

“He’s working hard to get to his weight,” McDonnell said of Smith, who has a 4-3 record this season.

Jonathon Rodriguez has been seeing action at 126 pounds as well while Smith gets to his final weight destination.

Senior Christian Holguin is the Kards’ 132-pounder. Holguin is another Kardinal wrestler with experience.

“He’s wrestled all four years,” McDonnell said. “He’s always been stuck behind someone. He’s getting his chance this year.”

Holguin won twice over the weekend, including a pin in 1:32 against Orezia Logus of Orange and a majority 12-4 decision over Michael Wong of Livingston.

Senior Nikolas Jablonsky is the 138-pounder and junior Bruno de Oliveira Leal is the 145-pounder. Both are still learning the ins and outs of the sport.

Senior Thomas Przybylski is the Kards’ 152-pounder. Mc- Donnell likes what Przybylski brings to the team.

“He’s a leader in the practice room,” McDonnell said of Przybylski. “He’s one of our captains. He’s been with us for four years and three years on the varsity. The kids all look to him for leadership.”

Junior Justin Baeza is the Kardinals’ mainstay at 160 pounds. Baeza was a champion at the recent Kearny Holiday Tournament and has been leading the way on the mat this season.

“He’s a very technical wrestler and he’s hard to score on,” McDonnell said. “He’s another captain who leads by example and gets everyone going.”

Baeza won three times over the weekend via one pin and two decisions to improve to 7-1 on the young season.

Junior Lukasz Glazewski is the Kards’ 170-pounder. He was the other gold medal winner at the Kearny tourney and won three times, all via pins, over the weekend to improve to 6-2 on the season.

“He’s our best wrestler,” McDonnell said. “Every match, he keeps improving.”

The lanky Glazewski was second in the District 16 tourney last year. He has a chance to be a district champ this year.

Freshman Travis Witt is the team’s top wrestler at 182 pounds. Witt won twice via pin and once via forfeit over the weekend to improve to 8-0 on the season.

“He’s just a very good athlete,” McDonnell said of Witt, who also plays football and baseball. “He’s worked his way right into our lineup. We’re expecting big things from him.”

Senior Joshua Lopez is holding his own at 195 pounds. Lopez owns a 5-3 record, including three wins over the weekend.

“He was bumped up in weight all last season,” Mc- Donnell said. “He’s only a second- year wrestler, but he has a lot of potential. He’s also one of our toughest kids.”

Senior Robert McCallum is making waves at 220 pounds. McCallum, who came out for wrestling for the first time this season, got his first varsity win against Chris Senney of Livingston in a second period pin.

McDonnell is encouraged by the Kards’ work ethic.

“The kids are really picking things up quickly,” McDonnell said. “They’re willing to learn and they certainly listen. They’re getting experience now, which is the best thing.” McDonnell has been aided by the coaching of assistant coach Rick Stacey and volunteer assistant Mike Sylvia.

“We’re splitting the responsibilities evenly,” McDonnell said. “It’s all working well.”

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”