Veteran Lyndhurst/North Arlington head wrestling coach Scot Weaver was recently asked how the current season is going.
“It’s a total mess,” said Weaver, who was once the head coach at Lyndhurst, then went on to start the program at the now-defunct Queen of Peace before returning to his roots a few years ago. “We’ve only had one dual meet (a loss to Belleville), but we had six wrestlers out of our lineup (due to COVID-19 positive tests). North Arlington was shut down for all sports for more than a week.”
Last weekend, the Golden Bears traveled to Delaware to participate in the Battle of the Bridge tournament, a 28-team get together that would have guaranteed each wrestler a minimum of five matches over the weekend.
“We drive down, check into the hotel and find out that the tournament was cancelled,” Weaver said. “We were already there. We wasted time and had no matches. It’s been real difficult at this point.”
The Golden Bears did compete in two tournaments during the first weekend of the season, going to the Caldwell Tournament and finishing fifth as a team, then going to the Walter Woods Invitational at Middletown South and competed with 18 teams at that tourney.
“We had some quality efforts against some good wrestlers,” Weaver said.
But still, the Golden Bears have not even practiced in over a week. It hasn’t been easy.
The lineup is filled with some talented wrestlers who might be still competing come district and region time late next month.
The 106-pounder is freshman from North Arlington Evan McNeil.
“He’s only 93 pounds,” Weaver said of McNeil. “So he’s wrestling a little undersized. He’s wrestling well, but he’s just inferior in size. But he can be a good one.”
His older brother, sophomore Kieran, is the team’s 113-pounder.
“He’s having a pretty solid year,” Weaver said of the older McNeil, who owns a 5-2 record thus far. “He’s a very technical wrestler with a huge upside. They come from a good wrestling pedigree.”
Their father, Ryan, was a solid wrestler during his high school days. Their uncle, Mike McNeil, was a two-time state qualifier and one-time place winner at North Bergen High School.
The 120-pounder is senior Matt Duran, who is brand new to the sport and learning every day.
Freshman Viktor Januk is the team’s 126-pounder.
“He’s a very tough kid,” Weaver said. “He’s serious about wanting to get better. He’s as tough as nails.”
The 132-pounder is North Arlington junior Dante San Giacomo, who has made a triumphant return to the sport this season after sitting the last two years out.
“He wrestled in North Arlington Rec and the middle school,” Weaver said. “He’s really not set on the mat yet.”
Sophomore James Keefe is another competitor at that weight class.
Sophomore Kevin Silva is the team’s 138-pounder.
“He’s one tough dude,” Weaver said. “He’s already winning close matches. He has a good background in ju jitsu and has used that experience in wrestling.”
Senior Eddie Ortiz is a veteran of the wrestling circuit. The 144-pound Ortiz just missed getting an invite to the NJSIAA Super Regional last year.
“He’s a tough, physical kid,” Weaver said. “He knows how to wrestle. But he’s only practiced a total of three days thus far.”
Ortiz was expected back on the mats for practice Monday.
The team’s 150-pounder is the coach’s son Damian, who earned a gold medal at the Middletown South tourney two weeks ago. Damian Weaver is expected to be one of the top performers in northern New Jersey this season.
“He had a solid football season,” Weaver said of his son. “He’s a total athlete. Two years ago, he was a state qualifier and he’s now gone up two weight classes. He should qualify for the districts and regions, but he has the upside to be on the podium (with the top eight in New Jersey at the NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City in March).”
Sophomore Rob Carselda is the team’s 157-pounder. He’s one of the six North Arlington wrestlers participating in the co-op.
“He’s tough and athletic,” Weaver said of Carselda. “He’s a beginner.”
Another at the 157-pound class is Giovanni San Giacomo, the twin brother of Dante. But Giovanni is coming off hand surgery, so he’s trying to crack the lineup.
Junior Mike Simeone is the team’s 165-pounder.
“He’s been steady for us for the last two years,” Weaver said. “He went 9-3 last year and just missed the cutoff for the Super Regions.”
Junior Tommy Montillo is the team’s 175-pounder with a strong wrestling background in his family.
“I coached his father (John) and his uncle (Joe) here at Lyndhurst,” Weaver said of Montillo. “It’s a big wrestling family.”
Another uncle, John Sanabrino, also wrestled for Weaver during his first stint at Lyndhurst.
Senior Danny Martinez is the Golden Bears’ entry at 190 pounds.
“He was an All-NJIC linebacker in football who came back to us this year,” Weaver said. “He blew out his knee last year, but has been coming back.”
Junior Billy Mareski is the team’s 215-pounder.
“He’s a baseball player who is Damian’s best friend,” Weaver said. “Damian talked Billy into wrestling this year and he’s already had a couple of big wins.”
The team’s heavyweight is junior Kevin Carranza, who is also a standout on the gridiron.
There is also a standout girl wrestler who will make some noise come girls’ tourney time. Ava Krzykalski is a 109-pounder who will compete in the Bergen County girls’ tourney in two weeks at Elmwood Park.
“If we can get her to correct her mistakes, she could be a very good one,” Weaver said.
Needless to say, Weaver likes the makeup of his team.
“I’ve liked the chemistry of the team from the start,” Weaver said. “The quarantine flipped us upside down. But I think we can be a very competitive team in the conference and section. We can absolutely qualify for the states (playoffs).”
Getting on the mat again would be the first positive step.
The Lyndhurst/North Arlington wrestling co-operative is looking to get back on track after a break due to COVID-19. Front row, from left, are Danny Martinez, Kieran McNeil and Tommy Montillo. Back row, from left, are Damian Weaver, head coach Scot Weaver and Eddie Ortiz. 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.”