WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange High School Wrestling Team took third place in the District 13 Championship on Saturday behind Caldwell and Passaic Valley. In addition, three West Orange wrestlers won their weight class and three other West Orange wrestlers, who placed in the top three, have advanced to the Regional Wrestling Tournament on Feb. 26.
The tournament will be held on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m., Feb. 28, and March 1 beginning at 9 a.m. at West Orange High School, located at 51 Conforti Av.
Victor Lopez, the 'Freshman Phenom,' dominated the 106-pound category, taking first and only allowing one point throughout the tournament. He defeated Nicholas DeNora of Passaic Valley, 6-0. His record for the season is 28-3 and he is on the verge of hitting the 30-win mark. Lopez is the first freshman in school history to win a district championship.
Isaiah Adams, with a season record of 18-6 in the 113 lb. category, took second place after injuring his medial collateral ligament (MCL). Despite the injury, the scrappy junior came out with a focused determination and competed far beyond what anyone expected.
Zichella said, "In the finals, Isaiah lost to Dean Caravela of Caldwell 2-1. There was a controversial non-call for stalling at the end of the third overtime. That gave Caravello the win. Everybody in attendance felt that Isaiah completely out-wrestled Caravela. There's a good likelihood they'll meet for the 6th time this weekend at regionals, and Adams will be ready."
Senior Kevin Guardado of West Orange, who holds a 20-10 record for the season, rebounded from a triple overtime loss in the semifinals to pull off a third place finish in the 120 lb. category, and will also be advancing to the regionals.
Said Zichella, "Kevin is a fierce competitor and I'm happy he is extended his wrestling career to the regional tournament."
In the 132 lb. category, West Orange's Antonio Penna, a Senior, was defeated 9-5 by Billy Bici of Passaic Valley. Penna, with a 22-9 season record, pulled off a thrilling victory over Christian Dalla Riva of Caldwell in the semifinals 6-4. In the finals, Penna fought back from a 9-1 deficit and put Bici to his back three time before eventually losing.
Senior Jordan Velez won his second district championship in the 145 lb. category with an 8-4 decision over Ryan Condit of Caldwell. With a 33-1 season record, Velez is heading towards the 100-win mark. WOHS Wrestling Coach Steve Zichella noted, "Jordan is a very intelligent, technical wrestler, and I am very pleased with his performance this year."
Junior Chris Morgan took first in the 182 lb. category, and Morgan's 32-1 record for the season placed him in the best weight class in the tournament. Morgan beat Shymier Adamson of Paterson Kennedy, 7-3. The coaches voted Morgan the District's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Said Zichella, "I can't recall another WOHS wrestler being named District Outstanding Wrestler since 2000, so it's quite impressive. Morgan is peaking at the right time, and he looks to be the top seed at this weekend's Region 4 tournament. We are very excited to see him carry his wrestling prowess into the regional, and hopefully, state tournament."
In the past, West Orange High School has, on three separate occasions, advanced two wrestlers to the State Individual Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City. By placing in the top three in a weight class in Regionals, a wrestler advances to Atlantic City where he competes with the best in the state.
"I'm hoping that we will be bringing several West Orange High School wrestlers to Atlantic City this year," said Zichella. "It's an emotional week between from Saturday of Districts (last weekend) to Regionals this weekend at West Orange High School," he continued.
He added, "It truly is heartbreaking for a coach to watch our high-character seniors wrestle their last matches with us. Nonetheless, we appreciate every ounce of effort and sweat that our boys have given to our program, and we always celebrate their successes."