Kearny wrestlers rely on powerful lightweight brigade

A full year has passed since Tony Carratura Jr. took over the coaching reins of the Kearny High School wrestling program once commandeered by his late father, Tony Sr.

So a year later, the younger Carratura is a lot more comfortable with all the responsibilities that come with running a high school wrestling program.

“We have a family atmosphere here,” Carratura Jr. said. “A lot of the members of the coaching staff either wrestled here or wrestled for him. We have the same crew of coaches from the Rec (recreation) program through the high school.”

Carratura welcomed back Brian McDonnell, a former standout Kearny High wrestler and assistant coach who has returned to the fold after spending a year traveling around the world.

“It’s great to have him back,” Carratura said of McDonnell, who served as the interim head coach when the elder Carratura was battling cancer three years ago. “He’s a great part of our program.”
The younger Carratura taught a bunch of the current team when they were youngsters participating in the Kearny Recreation program.

“They’re like family to me,” Carratura said. “The (wrestling) room is great. Going through the lineup, there are kids that have been with us with the Rec program since 2013. All through the lineup, they all came from the Rec. There’s a great vibe. They all know what’s expected of them and that makes it fun. We try to make it fun and interesting for them. We have a great group of kids who are all into it and are always there practicing.”

The Kardinals will rely heavily on a talented group of lighter weights, a contingent that features a lot of talent and experience.

Leading the way is 113-pound senior Steven Silva, who is currently undefeated during the early portion of the season. Silva was the recent champion at the Kearny Holiday Tournament and was third in the District 10 tournament last year.

“We’re expecting big things from him this year,” Carratura said of Silva. “He’s the whole package. He wrestled out of his weight class last year (120 pounds), but he’s a tough kid. This is his senior year and he’s ready to have a big year.”

Sophomore Jacob Baeza is another top Kardinal grappler. The 120-pounder won 31 matches last year and won a round at the Region 4 tournament.

“He’s been dominating and has been wrestling great,” Carratura said. “He’s smooth and quick. He’s also very strong.”

Sophomore Daniel Silvera is the team’s 106-pounder. Silvera is another strong, solid wrestler who won 16 times at the same weight class last year.

“He’s a taller kid who is very lean,” Carratura said. “He has a very good background in martial arts. We just need him to be a little more aggressive this year.”

Junior Vin Ruccatano is the team’s 126-pounder.

“He’s been raring to go,” Carratura said. “He’s in the zone. He’s been great.”

Junior Brandon Vanzini is the Kardinals’ 132-pounder.

“He’s been wrestling awesome,” Carratura said. “He has no previous experience before he came out. He’s doing everything we’ve asked of him. He’s working hard and I’m very proud of him.”
Junior Matt Molina was slated to be the 138-pounder, but he injured an ankle during the preseason, so freshman Israel Ormaza has stepped in.

“He’s holding his own,” Carratura said of Ormaza. “He’s come from the Rec program and has been wrestling tough.”

Junior Kyle Ostanski is the 145-pounder. A running back on the Kearny football team in the fall, Ostanski has been a pleasant surprise, according to Carratura.

“He’s been with us for a couple of years,” Carratura said of Ostanski. “He’s athletic.”

Junior David Duran, the baseball star, is the team’s 152-pounder.

“He’s a great kid,” Carratura said of Duran. “He’s a tough kid who is a very good athlete.”

Senior captain Sebastian Rey is the team’s 160-pounder. Rey was third in the District last year and won 17 matches in only his second year of wrestling.

“His improvement was incredible,” Carratura said. “I wish I had one more year with him. He’s working hard and he’s also a good student.”

Senior captain Noah Ramadan is the team’s 170-pounder. He’s another involved with martial arts, with an expertise in jiu jitsu.

“He hits crazy throws and crazy rolls,” Carratura said. “They shouldn’t work, but they do.”
The 182-pound spot would have been filled by veteran Travis Witt, but he suffered a serious knee injury during the football season, so he will miss the entire wrestling season. In his place, freshman Jaden Figueroa is filling the spot.

The Mauricio twins hold fort at the 195 and 220-pound slots. Matthew Mauricio is the team’s 195-pounder and Andrew Mauricio is the 220-pounder. The Mauricio twins are juniors.

Sophomore Bryce Webb is the team’s heavyweight. Webb is another football player and a first-year wrestler.

“He’s coming along,” Carratura said of Webb.

So the Kardinals, who qualified for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state tournament last year, are looking for another appearance in the sectionals again this season.

“Maybe we can get a home match,” Carratura said. “Maybe we can get a sectional win. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

And wrestlers like Silva and Baeza can make long runs in the postseason with the hope of making the sojourn south to Atlantic City for the state tournament in March. It’s not out of the realm of possibility in the family-like atmosphere known as the Kearny High School wrestling room.




The Kearny wrestling team this year will be led by their seniors, namely, from left, Noah Ramadan, head coach Tony Carratura, Jr., Steven Silva and Sebastian Rey. Photo by Jim Hague



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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.”