QP wrestling: Among state’s best once again

Queen of Peace’s wrestling program is back among the state’s elite once again.

The Golden Griffins were certainly among the very best a few years ago, when Scot Weaver arrived for his first tenure at the school.

Weaver, the Lyndhurst native who helped to put the St. Mary’s of Rutherford program on the map after coaching at his alma mater Lyndhurst, stepped aside and went to Brearley Regional for a few seasons, before reaching an accord with the powers-that-be at QP to restore the wrestling program the way Weaver wanted it to be in the first place.

Now, there’s a state-of-the-art wrestling room in the basement of the school with padded walls and six wrestling circles. There’s the weight training facility that the wrestling program has free reign over.

And there’s Weaver, who has the ability to get the best wrestlers in the area to come to QP.

Needless to say, it’s a recipe for success _ one that the school hopes to have continue in the fall, ever since Weaver was selected to replace Jim Kelly as head football coach. Kelly had to step aside as head coach after just one season due to health reasons.

Weaver led the Golden Griffins to a 12-2 record last year. They advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public B North championship, where they lost to DePaul of Wayne.

“I think overall we did pretty well in our first year back,” Weaver said.

This season, Weaver believes he has the makings of another state power _ and proved that belief by taking the Golden Griffins to four prestigious and highly competitive tournaments in the early stages of the season.

The Golden Griffins went to the historic Beast of the East Tournament in Delaware to start the year, followed by the Mount Madness tourney in Baltimore, the Battle of the Bridges in Chesapeake City, Maryland and the Escape the Rock tourney in Castle Rock, Pennsylvania.

“I think just wrestling at that level of competition is good for our kids,” Weaver said. “It’s a great experience as a team. They get to go away together and we were able to put out a good product in each tournament.”
For example, the Griffins finished fifth out of 38 teams at the Mount Madness tourney. They were crowned the team champions at the Battle of the Bridges, besting the remaining 23 teams in the field.

“My vision as a coach is to get them going uphill, then peaking at the right time,” Weaver said. “There’s always going to be a strong focus in getting the kids ready for the state tournament. We want them to be healthy and happy at this point of the season. We have a good group of kids who care about each other and have been coming together well.”

Sophomore Matt Armamento is the team’s 106-pounder. Armamento has a 13-4 record and has been improving every week.

Sophomore Enrique Sanchez is the team’s 113-pounder. The North Arlington native won 30 matches last year and owns a 17-3 record this season.

“He has freakish abilities,” Weaver said. “He is so explosive. He is an untraditional wrestler, not from the old school of wrestling. He’s fun to watch.”

Junior Ray Wetzel is the team’s 120-pounder. He also won 30-plus matches last year, winning the district, placing third at Region 4 and won two matches in Atlantic City.

“He’s not going to make too many mistakes,” Weaver said. “He’s just a solid wrestler and a talented wrestler.”

Sophomore Justin Guzman is a transfer from DePaul, where he won 12 matches last year. If the two teams remain on a collision course in the upcoming Non-Public B North playoffs, Guzman’s reception facing his old teammates might be chilly.

“He’s been a good addition to our program,” Weaver said. “He’s a good, coachable kid.”

Senior Mike Scaravelli is the team’s 132 pounder. Scaravelli was third in the district, second in the region and won three matches in Atlantic City.

“His sparring partner is Matt Fusco (the former Golden Griffin great) and the two of them go at it pretty hard,” Weaver said. “I’m expecting big things from Mike this year.”

Scaravelli already has a 19-3 record this season.

Freshman Matt Chimento owns an impressive 16-7 record as a rookie.

“He’s come a long way already,” Weaver said. “He’s buying into it.”

Sophomore Mike Pillot is the team’s 145-pounder. He transferred to QP from Garfield and just got eligible after having to sit the mandatory 30-day period that the NJSIAA requires from transfers.

Sophomore Garrett Beam won the Mount Madness tournament and owns a solid 17-2 record.

“He’s a wrestling junkie,” Weaver said of Beam. “He lives the sport seven days a week. He’s totally committed.”

The Golden Griffins have two wrestlers battling it out at 160 and 170 pounds. Senior Joe Stambouly suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee in October, so he’s slowly working his way into shape. Promising freshman Jacob Cardenas of Kearny, who won a state youth wrestling title last year as an eighth grader, also had a knee injury that required surgery, but he’s working his way back.

Cardenas won three matches at the Beast of the East, was third in the Mount Madness and third in the Battle of the Bridges.

Junior Dom Maniero is the team’s 182-pounder. The Nutley resident won 35 matches last year and is 17-4 this season at a tough weight class.

“I expect big things from Dom,” Weaver said. “He’s a future (NCAA) D-I wrestler, no doubt.”

Sophomore Yasin Peppers, the cousin of the University of Michigan superstar Justin, is the team’s 195-pounder. Peppers won 14 matches last year before being forced to the sidelines with cramping issues.

The 220-pounder is sophomore Keyon Means-Bowman, who like Peppers plays football, but is a newcomer to the sport of wrestling.

The heavyweight spot is being shared by junior Ismael Alvarado and sophomore Jason Kopich.

Senior Jeremy Puente of Kearny is getting his chance to fill in from time to time at 113 and 120 pounds.

“Right now, he doesn’t have a spot in the lineup,” Weaver said. “But he’s still he has a 10-3 record. We’re trying to find him a spot.”

The Griffins have a good support staff in assistant coaches Jason Silverstein, who wrestled at Purdue, Brian Long, who was an assistant at Lodi and St. Joseph (Montvale), Joey Lospinoso, who was a fine wrestler for Weaver at Brearley, and Fusco.

“We have a special group, no doubt,” Weaver said. “When our sophomores are seniors, that’s when we’ll reach the ‘Dream Team’ scenario.”
And that will represent a full return to glory, which has always been Weaver’s dream since he returned to QP two years ago.


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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.”