CALDWELL, NJ — The James Caldwell High School Chiefs earned the NJSIAA District 13 team title by totaling 178.5 points, as the locals edged Passaic Valley by only a point-and-a-half. For Naval Academy-bound Dean Caravela, it was his fourth consecutive District crown.
Members of the comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus famously celebrated that each and every microscopic human cell of a certain sort is “Scared.” In that same vein, Gary Garamella, the longtime JCHS Wrestling head coach, has, for years, pointed out that each and every point produced by his Chiefs is crucial.
That concept was never so true as it was on Saturday, Feb. 20, when the Chiefs became NJSIAA District 13 Champions
“Just before 152, we figured out that if Dean [Caravela] won [in the last bout of the finals], we would win by a point and it ended up being 1.5 points because he got a major [decision],” Garamella said of the situation.
That victory was only the latest in a series of close finishes for Caldwell, which was edged by 5.5 points by Seton Hall Prep for the Essex County Tournament title, won a pair of crucial conference clashes by one point and two points and upset Hanover Park in the state sectionals by no points—with that tied tilt decided on most bouts won.
In the district duel, Garamella’s gang produced five individual District 13 champions: Jerry Jones at 132, Caravela at 152, Kyle Schaffer at 160, Ryan Schaffer at 182 and Matt Maddaloni at 220.
Caldwell had decent expectations coming into the 2015-2016 season, but the Chiefs have exceeded what many people envisioned with a solid lineup led by the veteran Caravela, along with the Schaffer brothers, Christian Dalla Riva (170) and Maddaloni (220), who had a 5-1 decision over Passaic Valley’s Gianni Palumbo at 220 on Saturday, which helped seal the team championship in a very close finish with the Hornets.
Jones, who overcame a pre-season injury, has bolstered the lower weights while moving up to 132 in his sophomore season. He defeated John Schultz of Cedar Grove, 4-1, in Saturday’s District 13 final.
Dalla Riva has battled some tough wrestlers this season and faced one of the state’s best in Saturday’s District 13 final at 170, where he battled hard but lost a 5-1 decision to PV’s Jala’a Darwish, a reigning Region 4 champ at the weight and a sixth-place finisher in the state tournament in Atlantic City last March. Darwish was also named this past Saturday’s Outstanding Wrestler in District 13.
Although Caldwell’s five D-13 title takers won't enter the regional fray until Friday night, NJSIAA Region IV action will open at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, Feb. 24, with D-13 runner-up Dalla Riva (24-6) seeded fifth at 170, bronze medalist Kyle Maw (junior, 16-15) slotted 11th at 120, fellow third-place finisher Dan Fano (junior, 15-18) slotted 11th at 145.