WEST ORANGE, NJ - “Honestly, we're not happy with fourth place, because, of course, we wanted better,” emphasized Derrick Goduto, the head wrestling coach at Cedar Grove High School of the squad's showing at the Essex County Tournament, a two-day event which came to a culmination on Friday night at Codey Arena in West Orange.

After finishing fourth in 2014 and fifth last time around, the Panthers platoon totaled a very healthy 137 points at the 2016 outing, a sum which was topped by only Seton Hall Prep, which clipped Caldwell for the team title, 177-172.5, while Nutley was third with 161.

Rounding out the team totals were Verona in fifth place with 112, West Orange with 98, upstart Irvington with 96.5, Bloomfield with 82, West Essex, the 2015 champion with 81.5, Livingston with 79, Columbia with 56, Newark Academy with 47.5, East Side with 37, former perennial power Belleville, Glen Ridge and Orange tied for 15th place with 34, Montclair with 19, Barringer with five and East Orange Campus and Shabazz tied for last place at zero points.

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Cedar Grove’s only champion was Anthony Clarizio, a top-seeded sophomore who finished first at 120 pounds by pinning second-slotted Seton Hall Prep senior Joe Pratola at exactly the one minute mark of their finals fracas.

That win moved Clarizio to 20-2 on the season and gave him his second straight Essex Tourney title.

Snaring silver statuettes were a pair of second-spotted CG matsmen: Jack Schultz, a junior who lost to an SH Prepster, 5-1, in the 132-pound county crown clash, and Joe McCarthy, a 145-pound 10th-grader who fell, 7-4, to a Nutley opponent in their title tangle. Those results moved the former to 19-5 and the latter to 21-4, while senior Michael Dougan (18-8) finished third at 160, junior Dan DiPrenda (17-7) took fourth at 170, senior G.J. Rodriguez (13-11) was fourth at 182, John Nardiello (12-12) ended-up fourth at 220 and sophomore Matt Lay (6-2) came in fifth at 138.

“We have high expectations here and we did not reach our goal, which was to win the team title,” stated Goduto, a member of the Lenape Valley Regional Class of 2001, who was graduated from Montclair State University in 2006, after spending his first two NCAA grappling campaigns at Rider University in Lawrenceville.

“To me, it doesn't make any difference whether you come in second, third or fourth if you don't win.  Doing sort of well, but not winning, leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and only makes you work that much harder,” he noted.  “Now, the county tournament is behind us and we have to move our focus towards what's next.”

Goduto's group stands at 7-4 overall in dual meet action and at 2-1 in the league loop, leaving the locals tied with Nutley for second place in the Super Essex Conference/American Division standings right now, behind only unbeaten Caldwell, which edged CG, 30-28, early on.

“This is a huge week for us,” Goduto mused. “We'll be at Nutley for a 7:30 start on Wednesday, we'll host Seton Hall Prep at 7 on Friday and we'll go to North Bergen for a quad (which also includes West Essex Regional and Becton) on Saturday.  Yeah, that's a tough week, but that's that what we're looking for as we get ready for the (state) team tournament, the districts and the regional.”

All photos by Bill Allen-NJSportAction.NET