NUTLEY, NJ-- The 2019-2020 season got off to a tremendous start for the Nutley High wrestling team, as the Raiders rallied from 14 points down with three consecutive pins to stun Passaic Valley, 34-30, in the season opener for both teams, on Dec. 19, in Nutley.

Coach Mike DiPiano's Raiders were also busy during the holiday season with matches at The TCNJ Pride tourney, at Middletown South, on Dec. 21, and the Woodstown High School Duals, on Dec. 28. The team is back in action after the New Year's holiday with a tri-meet, at home, on Jan. 4, starting at 10 a.m. On Jan. 8, the Raiders host Bloomfield, at 6 p.m. and on Jan. 10, Nutley visits powerful Seton Hall Prep, in a 7 p.m. bout. A day later, Nutley heads to St. Benedict's High for the 10th annual Gift of Life Duals, starting at 9 a.m.

The win over Passaic Valley certainly set a good tone to a new year.

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"We've really had some tremendous matches with Passaic Valley over the years," said DiPiano. "And this year was no exception. Both teams battled hard and it came down to the final match. We were down double digits late in that match, but three kids that I am expecting big things from really came around and won."

Nutley trailed, 30-16, with three matches remaining. Facing a 14-point deficit, the team needed multiple matches with bonus points and got it as Nutley's Jacob Gonzalez (145 pounds), Peter Haverick (152) and Salvatore Mainiero (160) all won by 6-point falls to give Nutley a 34-30 win.

Nutley also received victories from Anthony Haines, who led off the bout with a major decision at 170 pounds, MIchael LaTorre won by fall at 182 pounds and Billy Searle added a pin at heavyweight which gave Nutley a 16-9 lead. Passaic Valley then took control, with five straight wins, two by fall, to open a 30-16 lead, before Nutley rallied back to win it.

"Our crowd was really intense," said DiPiano. "There was a tremendous turnout of fans, and it really helped our kids get back into it. It was a big night for us."

On Dec. 21, the Raiders were at the TCNJ Pride Tournament  DiPIano is a graduate of The College of New Jersey and wrestled there for the legendary coach, David Icenhower, who died in 2014. 

Mainiero advanced to the 160-pound championship bout and finished second, overall. Gonzalez had a good tournament, finishing third at 145 pounds and Searle also took third, at heavyweight. Haines and Daniel Jennings took fourth at 170 and 195 respectively.

At the Woodstown Duals, Nutley defeated Pinelands Regional, 48-30 while falling to Woodstown, 42-31.

Nick Polewka (220 pounds), Clayden Leybovich (113), Gonzalez (145), Haverick (152) and Mainiero (160) all prevailed for Nutley, with the later three all recording falls, again, to seal the win. Nutley and Pinelands were tied at 30 before three straight falls sealed it for the Raiders.

Haverick, Mainiero, Haines, Gonzalez and Searle had victories against Woodstown. 

"I think it's good for our kids to compete against strong competition," said DiPiano. "We got that by traveling to Middletown South and then Woodstown. Long trips are good, in that helps the bonding process, too."