Kearny wrestlers muddle through some tough times

Tony Carratura Jr. really had high hopes and deep aspirations for his Kearny High School wrestling team.

The Kardinals were supposed to have a talent-packed lineup, so Carratura, the son of the late legendary Kearny wrestling coach, did like his father used to do and picked up matches with competitive programs all over the state, knowing for sure the Kardinals would be able to secure their share of victories.

But along the way, the Kardinals suffered a handful of devastating injuries, including a knee injury to defending District 11 champion Jacob Baeza.

The talented Baeza, a junior, was undefeated (9-0) at 126 pounds, but suffered the injury that may require surgery. If the surgery is needed, then Baeza would be lost for the season. He still might be out of service with the way the knee currently is.

“Jacob hasn’t wrestled in a while,” Carratura said. “We’ve tried some things by taping it and wearing a brace, but it’s still not right.”

Baeza went to the NJSIAA state championships last year in Atlantic City. He had hopes of making a return trip, but the knee may keep him away. Stay tuned.

Baeza is not the only Kardinal wrestler out of action. Senior Adam Chew, the team’s veteran 152-pounder, suffered a dislocated shoulder recently and he’s lost for the season.

The loss of the two key wrestlers has caused havoc throughout the Kardinals’ lineup during the busy dual meet season – and busy is an understatement.

The Kardinals have a 7-8 record right now and sit in ninth place in the latest North Jersey Section 1, Group IV rankings for the upcoming NJSIAA state sectionals. The Kardinals have qualified for the state sectionals the last two seasons and it would be nice to make it three straight.

As of the last rankings released by the NJSIAA dated Jan. 19, the Kardinals trail eighth-place Roxbury by just one-third of a power point. The cutoff for qualifying is Saturday, so the Kardinals have to win their two scheduled matches this week to push their way into the state tournament.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Carratura said. “We’ve wrestled some tough teams this year and we’re still pushing forward. We have some kids who are winning, but we have some holes in the lineup that are just too much to overcome.”

Carratura said that the Kardinals lost two heartbreaking matches to Whippany Park and Bloomfield. A victory over the neighboring Bengals would have probably clinched the state playoff berth, so now the Kardinals have to get there another way.

“Those are two losses that bothered me,” Carratura said. “We just couldn’t compete. The good thing is that our younger kids are getting the opportunity to wrestle tough competition. We have seniors who are winning, but we just don’t have enough. We’re staying positive and having fun. That’s the main thing.”

The Kardinals have an experienced wrestler at 106 pounds in junior Daniel Silveira, who owns a strong 16-4 record thus far.

“Daniel is wrestling well,” Carratura said. “He’s hitting his stride a little bit. He’s been wrestling a while and has put all his tools together this year. He’s a tall kid, maybe the tallest kid on the team and he’s 106 pounds. He uses his height to his advantage. I think the keys for Daniel are his size and experience.”

At 113 pounds, the Kardinals have newcomer Adam Michaels taking the mat.

“He’s hanging in there,” Carratura said. “He’s competitive in his matches and he’s coming into his own a little bit. Let’s see what he can do later this season.”

At 120 pounds is solid senior Vinnie Ruccatano, who has the look of an experienced wrestler. Ruccatano is also a good baseball player, but right now, he has a solid 14-4 record.

“He just comes out and is aggressive right away,” Carratura said. “He goes out there and looks to pin.”
Carratura has high hopes for Ruccatano.

At 126 pounds was supposed to be Baeza, who is one of the best wrestlers Kearny has produced and kept in the varsity program. Like stated before, Baeza is undefeated, but his return is in doubt. In his spot is senior Justin Pesantez, who is a product of the Kearny Recreation program, but didn’t come out for the Kearny varsity until this season.

At 132 pounds is the impressive senior Brandon Vanzini, who has a 16-7 record this season. Vanzini is also an aggressive wrestler, looking to take his opponent to his back.  Vanzini won District 11 last year.

“He moves real well,” Carratura said of the Region 3 qualifier who finished third at District 11 last year. “When he’s on, he’s very tough to beat.”

Veteran Kyle Ostanski has returned for his final season. The former Observer Athlete of the Week has a 16-5 record this season, a year after winning the District 11 title.

“He’s trying to take more shots to score more,” Carratura said. “He probably has the nicest shot (single leg or double leg takedown) on the team. He’s an explosive wrestler who gets the job done.”

Sophomore Dallas Sanchez floats between 138 pounds and 145 depending on where he’s needed in the lineup.

At 152 pounds was senior Chew, but the shoulder injury hurts the Kardinals at that spot.

At 160 pounds is affable senior David Duran. The solid infielder on the baseball team, Duran, another former Observer Athlete of the Week, has a 14-7 record and really secures the middle of the Kardinals’ lineup.

“He’s been wrestling some monsters this year and holding his own,” Carratura said. “He’s a strong kid.”

Duran finished third in the districts last year and won a couple of matches at Region 3. He’s a veteran of some wrestling wars over his career.

At 170 pounds is sophomore Alexander Amorim, who according to Carratura has been “one of the bright spots in the lineup.”

“Alex is brand new to the sport,” Carratura said. “He never wrestled before. He’s catching some of his opponents with some good moves. He’s picking up the sport well.”

Amorim has a 5-3 record since he was inserted into the lineup.

At 195 pounds is one of the powerful Mauricio twins, namely senior Matthew. He’s one of the strongest guys around and owns a 14-7 record at one of the toughest weight classes in the states. Matthew Mauricio qualified for the state tournament last year, along with Baeza and Ostanski.

“He has great reflexes,” Carratura said.

At 220 pounds is his identical twin brother Andrew, who is enjoying a better season than his brother, posting an 18-3 mark.

“He’s putting everything together for his final year,” Carratura said. “He’s having a great season.”

There is absolutely no way that this reporter can tell them apart. He’s been trying for four years now and missing miserably.

Finally, at 285, the heavyweight class, stands junior Devin Narvaez, who is hovering around .500.

“I’d like him to be more aggressive,” Carratura said. “It’s only his second year wrestling, but we need him to be more aggressive.”

Narvaez holds an 8-8 record thus far.

The Kardinals will face Belleville and Livingston in a tri-meet Saturday at Belleville with the state tournament berth hanging there for the Kards to take.

“It should be a good test,” Carratura said. “We’re still pushing toward the District (11 at Morristown) and hopefully send seven or eight to the Regions (Region 3 at West Orange).

Before that, they have the Hudson County Duals next Saturday, Feb. 8 at Union City. That should be a great day of wrestling.

“We have to see what happens,” Carratura said.

The state sectionals are there for the taking.

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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.”