LIVINGSTON, NJ — In an overtime comeback moment in the Essex County Wrestling Tournament Championship finals on Jan. 20, Livingston wrestling captain Anthony Petrillo defeated Victor Lopez of West Orange, 7-4, in the 113-pound division—earning the junior his first county championship and the title of Dr. Michael Rieber’s Livingston Athlete of the Week.
After defeating his first two opponents in the tournament, Petrillo met Lopez, who wrestling coach Dan Brill called Petrillo’s high school nemesis, in the finals. Since Lopez pinned Petrillo in the third period last season, this final match up was dubbed Petrillo’s “bounce-back moment” by NJ.com.
Despite defeating Lopez in a regional semifinal, Petrillo has lost to Lopez in two district finals, a county final and a summer tournament. According to Brill, Petrillo’s performance in the tournament was “just a little look into the life of Anthony Petrillo.”
“When he went into this county final, he possessed intense focus,” said Brill. “After giving up an early takedown in the first period, he rallied back and pushed the pace for the last 85 percent of the match.”
After putting in the work, Petrillo earned himself another chance to beat Lopez in overtime, where he won on a takedown in the final seconds.
“Once again, [Petrillo] faced a challenge and had to work extremely hard to persevere,” said Brill. “At the end of the day, however, he pushed through and won his first Essex County Championship.”
Petrillo’s victory also meant the first loss of the season for Lopez.
Brill said that Petrillo deserves the Athlete of the Week title for a variety of reasons, including the level of commitment he brings to the mat every single day and the perseverance he consistently puts on display.
“He makes a commitment to himself and to his team to be hardest worker and best teammate (and captain) he could be,” said Brill. “He works harder and harder every single day to come closer and closer to achieving his goals. He also displays a very high level of discipline and dedication.”
Whether Petrillo is being challenged with a difficult opponent on the mat, with weight-cutting issues, or with personal-life issues, Brill said he “always finds a way to push through the pain and get better from it.”
“It is truly a treat to see how he handles his business on a day-in-day-out basis, regardless of what distractions might be occurring that day,” said Brill. “He is one of the strongest and most focused people I have ever met.”
As the Lancers wrestling captain, Petrillo leads by example, according to his coaches. They said he is not overly vocal, but when he speaks, it is significant and valued.
Brill said Petrillo is not only a role model for his teammates, but also someone the coaches can learn a thing or two from. Brill added that he has personally witnessed Petrillo mature into a young man who handles tough situations with grace and poise and is always looking to improve from his successes and mistakes.
“He is not only a supportive teammate, but he is the best wrestler on the team,” said Brill. “This is not from given ability, however. He is simply the best because of the countless hours of hard work he has put in. Anthony Petrillo is very deserving of the Athlete of the Week Award and is a Class Act.”
Livingston High School Athlete of the Week is brought to you by Michael Rieber MD, Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon, Orthopedic Consultant, NJ Devils and Director of the St. Barnabas Sports Medicine Institute. Find out more about Dr. Rieber at www.gamedaydoc.com.