ATLANTIC CITY – Randolph High School will have a gaping hole in their wrestling program when the team reconvenes next November.
After four years of hard work and leadership, AJ Vindici took his final wrestling bow on the sport’s biggest stage – Boardwalk Hall.
Vinidici finished his high school career with a fifth place finish in the 126-pound weight class, the third Top 8 medal of his career.
“This is where he belongs,” Randolph head coach Mike Suk said. “The interesting this year is all eight placers in his weight class have placed in the state tournament and six of those eight kids are wrestling Division I next year. I would have to say that was the most loaded weight class in the tournament.”
Its no surprise to Suk that Vindici’s career ended in this manner. Throughout his four years at Randolph High School, the senior grappler has worked hard to “perfect what he does.”
Vindici wrestled an almost perfect fifth place match against Jackson Liberty’s Michael Russo.
After Russo won their first meeting of the weekend in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the duo wrestled to a scoreless tie through three regulation periods.
In the extra session, Vindici was able to grab a hold of Russo’s leg and turn his opponent into a “merkle” move. With Russo on the ground, Vindici forced him onto his back to earn three “back points” which proved to be the difference.
“It's a close match, tough call at the end,”Vindici said. “I had to come back and wrestle hard for 8 minutes…I was more aggressive, more physical. I wanted it more.”
As Vindici ends his Randolph High School career, he now sets his sights on another one – college wrestling. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, where he will double as a student and an athlete on the wrestling team.
Suk thinks the best has yet to come for one of the top 5 captains in his 30-year coaching career. According to Suk, Randolph High School will be losing more than just a winner when Vindici graduates, but also a leader.
“First thing is his work ethic, his ability to prepare all year round and take the sport very seriously,” Suk said on what he will miss most about Vindici. “He really loves this sport and it shows. He trains all year round. He lifts, he conditions and he wrestles all year round. Most of all, we’re going to miss him as a leader.”
Vindici’s fellow senior David Vargas also appeared in the state championship tournament. Vargas won his preliminary round match against Edison’s Keith Serio, but lost in the second round.
In the wrestleback bracket, Vargas won a second match, but failed to get past Davontae Randall of Paulsboro.
As two Ram wrestlers close their career, another township native’s future has just begun.
Delbarton’s Pat Glory, who resides in Randolph, started his state championship run with a second place finish in the 106-pound bracket. Glory fell to Hanover Park’s Gerard Angelo, 4-3..
Glory had not lost to Angelo in championship play. In their previous two meetings, Glory defeated Angelo in the District 9 and Region 3 finals over the past two weeks.
“I had a great year coming into this tournament, county champion, district and region champion,” Glory said. “Coming into today, just looking for it to go really well. I was training really hard. Obviously to achieve your ultimate goal is the toughest things to do all around.”
Glory’s future is bright for the Green Wave. He was one of three Delbarton wrestlers to make the championship final match. He said the credit should all go to the coaching staff for setting a winning mentality.
“One of the most important things that our coaches teach at Delbarton is to have a good mental attitude,” Glory said. “Even if your not that good of a wrestler, if you're a mediocre wrestler you don’t have that good technique, if your mind is stronger than your opponent, you’re going to win the match.”