The Lyndhurst/North Arlington co-operative wrestling team just suffered through a lost weekend, dropping four dual meets, three on Saturday to quality programs like Roxbury, Hopewell Valley and Emerson/Park Ridge, coached by the legendary Stan Woods, now in his incredible 53rd year of being the program’s head coach.
But nothing is going to deter the drive of Lyndhurst’s once, present and future head coach in Scot Weaver, a legend in his own right.
Weaver was the head coach of the Golden Bears in the 1990s, during their golden days, back when they had people like Darius Hughes, Dennis McSweeney and the immortal Donnie Pritzlaff, the three-time state champion and NCAA All-American currently serving as an assistant coach to Scott Goodale at Rutgers.
Weaver also had a stint coaching at places like Pequannock and Brearley Regional, before returning to the scene locally as the two-time head coach at Queen of Peace, eventually settling back at his high school alma mater of Lyndhurst, where he still resides, last year.
The Lyndhurst/North Arlington program isn’t where Weaver would like it to be. His competitive drive fuels the fire to demand excellence of his wrestlers. He just can’t expect the greatness right away, coaching at a public school that has struggled to be competitive in recent years.
The Golden Bears are now 2-4 after the setbacks. That’s not a Weaver-like record.
“I got into them a bit about their toughness,” Weaver said. “And we wrestled pretty tough on Saturday. The disappointing part is that all the kids who should be on the team are not there. But everyone we have is working hard. The beginners are starting to improve. We have some good coaches training with them.”
A trip to the quaint wrestling room, tucked in a little corner of the Lyndhurst Recreation Center, last week featured a myriad of Bruce Springsteen tunes blaring during the workout. It was refreshing to see that today’s teenagers are grooving to New Jersey’s musical king, a.k.a. “The Boss.”
It also recognized the familiar faces drilling with the current members of the Golden Bears’ program, namely former Nutley legend Bobby Trombetta, a former Observer Athlete of the Week; Nick Lospinoso, former Queen of Peace standouts Andrew Polidore and Mike Scaravelli and former Lyndhurst great Matt DeMarco. That’s some lineup of former high school and college grapplers for the current group to learn from and actually train with.
“Of course, I challenged them on their toughness and they competed a little tougher,” Weaver said. “It’s baby steps, but we’re getting everyone ready. I think we can be competitive in the Group (NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II). Taking these four losses will only make us better. I think we can do it. I think we can make the state playoffs.”
Weaver knows that such an appearance would be a major step for his actually-fledgling program.
“I don’t want to be overly pushy,” Weaver said. “It’s just trying to get the team a better opportunity.”
And of course, it means one other thing. It will give his two incredibly talented sons extra chances to compete at a high level. We’ll have more on Dylan and Damian Weaver in a bit.
A look through the Golden Bears’ lineup:
At 106 pounds is freshman Alex Yadimarco, an undersized beginner from North Arlington.
“Alex is working hard, but he’s brand new to the sport,” Weaver said. “He goes out and takes his lumps and keeps coming back. His best wrestling is ahead of him.”
At 113 pounds is returning starter Grayson Jurado, a junior who made it to the District finals last year despite having a record under .500.
“He performed well at the end of the season,” Weaver said of Jurado.
At 120 pounds is returning starter Eddie Ortiz, a sophomore from North Arlington who was the Golden Bears’ 106-pounder last year.
“He put his work in last year and this year,” Weaver said of Ortiz, who has won seven matches thus far this season. “He’s battling well.”
At 126 pounds is junior Isaac De La Cruz, a first year wrestler in a very tough weight class. De La Cruz is learning fast and has won five matches already on the junior varsity level.
“He’s coming around and pretty athletic,” Weaver said of De La Cruz.
At 132 pounds is senior returnee Brandon Vitacco, an excellent student of the sport.
“He’s a four-year starter,” Weaver said of Vitacco. “He has his days where he does well. We’re trying to get more consistency out of him. But he’s a good leader.”
The first of Weaver’s two sons sits at 138 pounds. Freshman Damian Weaver is an excellent talent who has already wrestled the globe in tournaments. He’s posted a 12-1 record with his only loss coming in the semifinals at the extremely tough Madness of Maryland tournament in December. Damian took third there.
“He’s very technical and very tough,” Weaver said of his younger son. “He’s always been extremely successful. He’s been all over and won tournaments in Tulsa, West Virginia, Maryland. He won the Kearny Tournament (to start the season). He doesn’t shy away from competition.”
Freshman Michael Simeone is the Golden Bears’ 145-pounder.
“He’s done fairly well, placing in the Kearny Tournament,” Weaver said. “He won some matches in Elizabeth.”
However, Simeone suffered a shoulder injury over the weekend and might be sidelined for a bit, so junior Alex Castro, a returning starter from last year, or freshman Gabe Torres will fill in.
At 152 pounds is Weaver’s other son, namely junior Dylan Weaver, who finished third overall at the NJSIAA State Championships in Atlantic City last season. Weaver, an Athlete of the Week honoree last season, won 40 matches last year en route to a place on the podium. He was a tough loss in the semifinals away from possibly wearing the state crown.
“No doubt about it, his goal is to get back on the podium and possibly stand atop the podium,” his proud father said. “He almost got it last year. He’s driven and he’s physical.”
And like his little brother, Dylan Weaver owns a 12-1 record right now as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state at his weight class.
“His lone loss was in Maryland,” Scot Weaver said. “It was a good learning tool, because he’s been extremely driven since the loss.”
One last thing about Dylan Weaver: He recently gave his verbal commitment to wrestle at Rutgers and be united with Lyndhurst icon Pritzlaff in two years.
At 160 pounds is junior Anthony DeMarco, who won 24 matches last year as a sophomore.
“I really believe he’s got a shot for Atlantic City,” Weaver said. “He’s a physical kid who sometimes gets lost in himself. But Saturday, he had three pins, all in the first period. He’s a great kid and a super athlete.”
At 171 pounds is freshman Tommy Montillo, who is in a brutally tough weight class for a freshman.
“He’s been doing pretty good,” Weaver said. “He’s had some wins. His father (John) and uncle (Joey) both wrestled for me at Lyndhurst so there are good genes.”
At 182 pounds is sophomore Danny Martinez and senior Juan Lozano. Both are newcomers.
At 195 pounds is another newcomer in Dachi Sulava, who is learning like the rest of the first-timers.
At 220 pounds is senior Justin Diller and at heavyweight is football hero James Blake, the All-County defensive lineman from the Lyndhurst state championship grid squad. Blake is giving wrestling a try for the first time.
“He’s done okay so far,” Weaver said. “He placed in the Elizabeth tournament and won two of three Saturday.”
The Golden Bears are missing a key member of the squad these days in senior Aidan Stetzer, who won 25 matches last year, but is currently academically ineligible to compete.
Needless to say, Weaver is enthused to be coaching a team that features his sons.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Weaver said. “It’s a little exasperating at times, but we have a family atmosphere in the room with my two sons, the coaches. We have a good group of kids who are showing good promise. We’re going to be pretty damn good someday.”
The Lyndhurst/North Arlington wrestling co-operative looks for leadership from veteran mat coach Scot Weaver (center). From left are seniors Juan Lozano, Justin Diller, Weaver, Brandon Vitacco and James Blake. 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.”