The local high school wrestling postseason began in earnest last week, with the crowning of NJSIAA District championships and runners-up to move on to this week’s region championships.
Leading the way locally is Lyndhurst/North Arlington junior Damian Weaver, who won the second District 11 gold medal in his already fantastic career.
Weaver, the son of Lyndhurst/NA head coach Scot Weaver, won the championship in the 150-pound bracket at the tournament held at Morristown High School.
Weaver is the lone local to claim district gold this season.
“I’m extremely proud of him as a coach and as a parent,” the elder Weaver said of his son. “He was rolled to his back in the finals and didn’t even blink an eye. I think he’s on point right now and peaking at the right time. He showed a lot of mettle, coming from behind to win in the finals.”
Weaver trailed, 5-4, entering the final period, but came away with an 8-6 decision.
“I think the big difference now is that Damian is no longer a boy,” Weaver said. “He’s a young man now. He played football this year and I think that helped him get ready. Even during football, he found the time to wrestle at the club (in Roselle Park) twice or three times a week to stay sharp.”
Weaver’s older brother Dylan is taking his red-shirt season at Rutgers, so with fellow Lyndhurst native Donnie Pritzlaff on the coaching staff at Rutgers, there’s a chance that Damian might join the two after next season.
Damian Weaver also won the Bergen County Coaches Association championship last month, so he’s well on his way toward carving out a stellar career of his own.
Weaver, both father and son, will head to the Region 3 tournament this weekend at West Orange.
Four of their teammates will also get the chance to move on. Junior Mike Simeone was second at 157 pounds and teammate and drill partner Tommy Montillo, also a junior, was second at 165 pounds. Kieran McNeil, a North Arlington High School student, was third at 113 pounds. McNeil is a sophomore.
“I think it’s awesome for our juniors,” Weaver said. “They’re both only seasonal wrestlers, so there’s an upside to their potential if they decide to wrestle more. They’re beginning to look like wrestlers. McNeil wrestles all year round. I think his confidence was hurting a little. He needed to get a fresh start and try not to make the same mistakes. He is in great condition and never slows down.”
Senior Danny Martinez finished fourth at 175 pounds, but earned a berth at Region 3 due to an injury.
“He gets to extend his season another week,” Weaver said.
Weaver said that he’s “blessed to have six of my former wrestlers to serve as assistant coaches.”
“I’m really blessed to have them around,” Weaver said.
At the District 9 Tournament at Nutley, Kearny had a great weekend, sending nine kids on to Region 3 by earning a medal.
Two of the Kardinals’ seniors, namely 157-pounder Alex Amorim and 165-pounder Israel Ormaza, finished second in their respective weight classes, while seven other Kardinal grapplers all placed third to punch their respective tickets to Region 3.
Those seven are: 106-pound freshman Adam Ramadan, 113-pound senior Jacob Solinski, 120-pound junior Joe Rocco, 132-pound sophomore Joshua Baeza, 138-pound sophomore Trayton Witt, 144-pound senior Jaden Figueroa and 150-pound senior Dallas Sanchez.
The nine wrestlers advancing enabled the Kardinals to finish second in the team standings behind ranked state powerhouse Delbarton.
“It was a great weekend,” said Kearny head coach Tony Carratura, Jr. “It’s the best performance we’ve had in a couple of years. We only dressed 12 and we’re sending nine to the regions. The guys wrestled really well.”
Amorim improved to 20-5 with his District 9 silver medal performance.
“It was awesome to watch,” Carratura, Jr. said of Amorim. “He’s only been wrestling for three years.”
It was his drilling partner and friend Ormaza who improved to 21-3 on the season.
“He’s very confident on his feet,” Carratura, Jr. said of Ormaza. “I think the whole team fed off each other.”
Figueroa’s performance stood out, considering that the senior was bouncing around different weight classes throughout his career.
“He always filled in where we had a gap,” Carratura, Jr. said. “He sacrificed a lot for the team. He stuck with it and knew where we would need people. Him taking third in his class is a surprise.”
The 113-pound Solinski also showed a lot, considering that he had to win three straight matches in the wrestlebacks in order to earn the chance to move on.
“He’s really made some big strides this year,” Carratura, Jr. said. “I wish I had him for another year. He wrestled really well.”
Kearny will have a full wrestling room in preparing for the Region 3 tourney.
“We have a solid group of kids,” Carratura, Jr. said. “We have only three kids who ever wrestled in the districts before.”
That says a lot about their development.
Belleville will send six of its wrestlers to Region 3 this weekend, taking third place as a team behind Kearny and champ Delbarton.
Sophomore Jakob Ferrer was second at 106 pounds. A product of the Belleville Recreation wrestling program, Ferrer has a gaudy 30-3 record.
“The kid has been phenomenal all year,” said Belleville head coach Joe Pizzi. “He’s all action, all on the offensive. He’s also a very good student and well liked by everyone.”
So much so that Ferrer is already a team captain as a sophomore.
“He works his tail off in every aspect of his life,” Pizzi said.
Senior Lorenzo Tafuri is the team’s 113-pounder. He also finished second in his weight class and now has a 19-8 record for the season.
“He was down 5-0 in one match and came back to pin the kid,” Pizzi said of Tafuri, another team captain.
Sophomore Rocco Negron finished second at 132 pounds.
“He earned his way,” Pizzi said of Negron, who also had to overcome some tough scores in his matches.
Junior Matias Lopez was second at 138 pounds. Junior Fernando Collado was third at 165 pounds and senior Ethan Lopez (no relation to Matias) was third at 175 pounds.
Pizzi was named the Coach of the Year for District 9. It was the second best honor he’s received this year, the other one is being called being a father.
Pizzi became the father to Joseph Pizzi III on Feb. 3, so Coach of the Year and becoming a daddy in the same month is quite impressive.
And now, it’s on to the Region 3 tourney for the local wrestlers.
Lyndhurst/North Arlington’s Damian Weaver was the lone local wrestler to earn a gold medal in last weekend’s district tournament round, winning the 150-pound weight class at District 11 in Morristown. Photo by Jim Hague
Kearny senior Alex Amorim was the runner-up in the 157-pound weight class at District 9 in Nutley. Photo by Jim Hague
Kearny senior Israel Ormaza was the runner-up in the 165-pound weight class at District 9 in Nutley. 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.”