NUTLEY, NJ - As the 'second season' of high school wrestling nears, the Nutley High Raiders are putting together an impressive end to the regular campaign.
Head coach Mike DiPiano's team was 12-11 after sweeping a quad match, at Morristown High, on Feb. 8. The team qualified for the state sectionals and were slated to wrestle at West Morris Center, on Feb. 10, in the first round of the North 2, Group 3 tournament. The winner of that bout would most likely travel to top-seeded West Essex for the semifinals, on Feb. 12. The sectional final is on Feb. 14, with the winner there moving onto the group championships, in Toms River, on Feb. 16.
Following the sectional and group matches, the focus moves onto the district championships, which will be held on Feb. 22, at 32 different sites throughout the state. The top three wrestlers in each weight class at the districts qualify for the regions, which will take place at eight different locations, starting on Feb. 26, continuing on Feb. 28 and concluding on Feb. 29. The top four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes in the regions will advance to Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City for the state championships, from March 5-7.
Nutley was also scheduled to host arch rival Belleville, in a regular-season match, on Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. and will close out the regular season on Feb. 15, with a home quad against Freehold Borough, Old Bridge and Hillsborough, starting at 10 a.m.
The Raiders had dropped matches to West Orange, Caldwell, Kearny and West Essex, before winning the quad with Morristown, Belvidere and Irvington.
"Our lineup has been hit with injuries," said DiPiano. "We're doing our best to work around it, but we've had to forfeit some weight classes in some of the matches. It's a tough sport, and I credit our kids for working hard and staying competitive. I liked the we battled against West Essex (on Feb. 7) and even in some of the other losses, we never quit. As a coach, that's all I can ask for."
The middle of the Raiders lineup has been solid. Dean Polewka (138 pounds), Jacob Gonzalez (145), Pete Haverick (152), Sal Mainiero (160) and Anthony Haines (170) have provided stability, with some excellent performances. Billy Searle (285) and Nick Polewka (220) are the team's top wrestlers in the upper weights while Franco Graffeo has done well at 106 and 113 pounds.
"This is what the wrestling season is all about," said DiPiano. "The state sectionals, then the districts, regions and hopefully, for some of our kids, a trip to Atlantic City for the chance to compete against the best in the state. There's a lot of hard work that goes into this, but it's well worth it with success in the next few weeks."
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