Nutley Male Athlete of the Month

Aaron Dunn, NHS senior

How did you get into wrestling?

I went out for wrestling in second grade, I liked the sport right away and would go to tournaments every weekend. Andy Cifelli coached the travel team and brought me up to wrestle with them which gave me a lot of confidence. The county travel team was really good, with a ton of great Nutley wrestlers from the past 8 years all on the same team, it was an awesome room with a lot of talent.

You made it to the state championships in Atlantic City this year. How was that experience?
Making it to AC was one of my main goals coming into high school, along with winning 100 matches, so it was nice to achieve both goals. I came close last year and this season was my last chance so I was happy to make it down. The experience was great, staying in the Tropicana for three days with my coaches and teammates. The tournament was exciting. I think I could have done better and won a few more matches, but it was also good to make it to AC because it extended Nutley’s streak to 10 years of having a wrestler go to states.

How do you get pumped up for a match? Is it a team thing or something personal?
Before a match the whole team gets pretty pumped up warming up in the back gym and when we run out. Individually I listen to music and try to stay relaxed and calm. I usually stay in the back and visualize my match. Dual matches and tournaments are different, duals are team vs. team just one match per wrestler. Tournaments are hours long and wrestlers usually get four matches so you have to rest and hydrate in between and get ready for each match.

Is there one match that you will probably never forget?
My favorite high school match this year was winning the District 10 championship. I beat the No. 1 seeded wrestler from Delbarton in triple OT. It was nice to win it in front of my hometown fans in my last match in the Nutley gym.
But my favorite match ever was in third grade. Nutley vs. Verona, both teams undefeated, for the league title. I had to wrestle a sixth-grader who was the county champion. Everyone was telling me to try to keep it close and to not get pinned. I won 5-1, and coach Nick Ritacco gave me his “Nutley Animal Wrestling” T-shirt, which was up on the wall in my room for the next
five years. We beat Verona and won the league title.

You wrestled at 145 pounds. How did you maintain that weight?
Maintaining 145 wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t a huge cut from the start of the season. I would still get to around 152 between matches and diet hard and exercise to get to 145. I actually started the season at 138 which was way too light.
I was running 5 miles before school, going to a team practice after school and going to my club practice at night and following a strict diet. After around eight matches I was finally able to make the switch to 145 and felt a lot stronger, and was able to focus on wrestling and not cutting weight. I won 20 straight matches at 145 and the team chemistry improved. We went on a great winning streak and qualified for state sectionals where we beat No. 4 Rahway, after starting the season 1-7.

What digital entertainment are you plugged into these days? What TV shows do you like?
I’m on my phone the majority of the time as far as entertainment goes. My favorite TV show is “Prison Break.”

Who’s your favorite athlete and team? How come?
My favorite athlete is Kyle Snyder, a wrestler from Ohio State. He’s my favorite because he’s the youngest Olympic champ ever for wrestling, and he’s just really entertaining to watch. Also Zane Retherford of Penn State. He won NCAAs last week and dominated everyone he wrestled. My favorite team though is probably Cornell.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I’m undecided on where I’ll go to college. I have a list of schools that I’ve been accepted to, but I’m not sure where I want to go, and still have to decide if I am going to continue wrestling or not. The end goal is to hopefully follow in both my brother and my sister’s footsteps and become a lawyer.

Nutley High School wrestler Aaron Dunn enjoyed a phenomenal senior season to cap a great career, reaching the state tournament in Atlantic City in the 145-pound weight class and finished with a 31-9 record and 120-19 for his career.
“It was great that Aaron came back to Nutley for his senior season, and was able to accomplish his goal of getting to AC! He had a fantastic year winning over 30 matches, and was a great addition to our program. Winning 100 matches, winning a county and district title are special memories, and I am extremely happy that he was able to do that in a Nutley singlet.”
— NHS head coach Mike DiPiano