NUTLEY – The Nutley High School varsity wrestling team, under first-year head coach Mike DiPiano, enjoyed a strong season.
The Raiders took third overall at the Essex County Tournament, were seeded No. 1 in the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament before losing in the semifinals to Governor Livingston, finished with a 15-6 dual-meet record and captured the District 14 Tournament title for the fifth consecutive season.
The following NHS wrestlers have earned All-Area first team honors: freshman 106-pounder Domonic Cofone, sophomore 132-pounder Frank DeMaio; senior 138-pounder Rob Duxbury; junior 145-pounder Joe DiPasquale; senior 152-pounder Darwin Pena; senior 160-pounder John Zarro; junior 182-pounder Justin Bivova and junior 220-pounder Sabino Coppola. On the All-Area second team from NHS is junior 170-pounder Louis Long.
In addition, Pena is the All-Area Wrestler of the Year, while DiPiano is the All-Area Coach of the Year.
Pena earned the fourth-place medal at the state tournament in Atlantic City, becoming the highest finisher at the state tournament for NHS since John Monaco won the 158-pound state crown in 1981.
Pena took third at the ECT, second at the district and second at the Region 4 Tournament, losing to Newark Academy’s Steve Bonsall in each tournament for his only three losses of season going into the state tournament.
Pena lost in the pre-quarterfinals at the state tournament, but enjoyed an amazing run in the wrestlebacks.
Pena got his revenge by beating Bonsall in the wrestlebacks quarterfinals to complete a 4-0 day in the wrestleback rounds to guarantee himself a state medal. During the day, in the wrestlebacks second round, Pena decisioned Essex County champion Aidan Monteverdi of Seton Hall Prep to earn his 100th victory.
Pena returned the next day to win in the wrestlebacks semifinals. The victory allowed Pena to go for the bronze medal. Unfortunately, he lost a heartbreaking 7-5 decision in sudden victory to Don Bosco Prep’s Dominick Mandarino in the third/fourth place bout. Still, it was an inspiring run by Pena.
The other NHS wrestlers had strong seasons as well.
Cofone took fifth at the ECT and third at the district to qualify for the region, finishing with a 22-14 record.
DeMaio was third at the ECT and won the district title to reach the region before finishing 26-12.
Duxbury won the ECT title, took second at the district and placed fourth at the region to just miss qualifying for the states..
DiPasquale won both the ECT and district titles.
Zarro was second at the ECT and won the district title.
Bivona was sixth at the ECT, but won the district title and took third at the region to join Pena at the state tournament.
Coppola was third at the ECT and second at the district.
Long was seventh at the ECT.
DiPiano took over for his brother, Frank DiPiano, who was the Raiders head coach for eight seasons.