Queen of Peace wrestling: Making big plans already

viewAre exciting times ahead for the Queen of Peace wrestling team?

If you need an answer, just ask veteran coach and Lyndhurst native Scot Weaver.

“We only graduated two starters and have everyone else back,” Weaver said. “That puts us in a good spot.”

How good?

Well, try this on for size. The Golden Griffins already have big plans for the season to come.

“We call it D-Day for DePaul,” Weaver said. “We already have that planned to face DePaul Feb. 10 for the (Non-Public B North) state title.”

Is that being just a little bold?

“I like it,” said Weaver, who built the QP wrestling program a few years ago, then left to go to Brearley Regional in Kenilworth for a few years before returning to QP two years ago. “Everything is about peaking at the right time. If all the kids we have achieve their individual goals, then we should have a very good team.”

The Golden Griffins welcome back three leaders who should be among the very best wrestlers in New Jersey this season.

One of them is senior 182-pounder Dominic Maniero, who last week signed a national letter of intent to attend NCAA Division II school Kutztown University and wrestle there next year.

Maniero will begin the 2016-17 season ranked as the No. 2-wrestler in the state at his weight class.

“He’s been working hard,” Weaver said of Maniero. “He’s on point right now. He’s been running and lifting. He’s a legit threat to be there (on the podium in Atlantic City in March). No doubt about it, that’s his goal.”

Another is junior 152-pounder Garrett Beam, who was eighth in the state last year after winning the district title and placing third in Region 4.

“I think he’s ready for the season as well,” Weaver said.

The third is 126-pound senior Ray Wetzel, who won more than 40 matches last year en route to finishing eighth in the state, having captured district and region gold along the way.

“He has some good schools looking at him like Drexel and Bucknell,” Weaver said of Wetzel.

All three of the aforementioned Griffins could be state champions. They have the makeup, the talent and the will.

The 106-pounder is freshman Will Grater, who already has a litany of national tournaments under his belt in places like Reno and Tulsa.

“He’s wrestled at a higher level than most freshmen,” Weaver said.

The 113-pound class right now is cause for some interest, with two talented grapplers battling for the slot.

Juniors Matt Armamento, the 106-pounder last year, and junior Enrique Sanchez, who was the 113-pounder last season, are locked in a dual to see who gets the weight class of their choice.

“Sanchez wants to go 113, so that’s why they’re battling,” Weaver said.

The two will eventually wrestle for the position, with the winner getting the choice class (probably 113) and the loser having to settle for the 120-pound bracket.

“Both were district champs and region place finishers,” Weaver said.

Sanchez, a native of Kearny, was the winner of a preseason tournament in Virginia Beach and Armamento was named All-American there.

Wetzel is at 126 with junior Justin Guzman at 132. Guzman won more than 20 matches last year.

Sophomore Matt Chimento is the 138-pounder. Chimento was 20-10 last year as a freshman.

Freshman Jean Carlo San Juan, known as “J.C.”, may sound more like a vacation resort, but he will be the 145-pounder.

“He’s a real tough kid,” Weaver said. “We’re going to work to get him better. He has a lot of physical ability. He’s tall and muscular.”

Beam is at 152 with junior Mike Pillot at 160. Pillot is a “tough kid who had a tough seed in the Districts last year” according to Weaver.

Sophomore Jacob Cardenas, another Kearny native is the team’s 160-pounder. Cardenas is coming off knee surgery, but Weaver called him “the hammer.”

“Jacob won a freshman national tournament last spring and just recently won in Virginia Beach,” Weaver said. “He’s more than ready.”

Maniero is the man at 182, with Yasim Peppers at 195. The football star is a “much-needed tough kid, provided he ever decides to be a good wrestler,” according to Weaver.

The heavyweight is Jason Kopich, who was the Griffins’ heavyweight last year and surprised a lot of people.

The Golden Griffins officially open the 2016-17 season at the Robin Leff Tournament, with some of the best teams in southern New Jersey, like Paulsboro, Clearview and Absegami.

The Griffins then return home for a dual meet against Lyndhurst on Dec. 21 at QP, then the Griffins take to the road again and will participate in the Mount Madness Tourney in Maryland.
“I’m just glad they’re all back,” Weaver said. “We expect our team to be very solid this year.”

As long as the big three, namely Beam, Wetzel and Maniero stay healthy and hungry, the Golden Griffins should soar this year. The Griffins will square off against state-ranked foes Cranford, Hanover Park and Don Bosco Prep this season as 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.”