Nutley HS wrestling coach Frank DiPiano holds fond memories; steps down after eight successful seasons

File Photo NHS head wrestling coach Frank DiPiano celebrates with his team after the state sectional tournament semifinal victory over West Essex last season.
File Photo
NHS head wrestling coach Frank DiPiano celebrates with his team after the state sectional tournament semifinal victory over West Essex last season.

NUTLEY – As a kid growing up in Nutley, Frank DiPiano always dreamed of becoming the head varsity wrestling coach at Nutley High School.

Though he went to St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark — where his father was a legendary wrestling coach and athletic director — DiPiano always held on to that dream.

Years later, DiPiano’s dream was realized. And he made the most of his opportunity, guiding the Raiders to incredible success.

After eight sensational seasons, DiPiano, 32, stepped down as head coach in late October, accepting an administrative position at St. Benedict’s Prep.

DiPiano was helped by assistant coach Anthony Montes, a childhood friend who was a standout NHS wrestler.

DiPiano guided NHS to back-to-back Essex County Tournament team championships, in 2012 and 2013, the program’s first-ever ECT titles.

Last season, the Raiders finished a close second at the ECT behind winner West Essex. The Raiders also clinched the Super Essex Conference-American Division title, and finished as runner-up in the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament. The Raiders, seeded second, lost a heartbreaking 34-32 decision to top-seeded Voorhees in the sectional final to finish with a 21-4 record.

DiPiano then guided the Raiders to their fourth straight District 14 tournament title this past winter season. The last time the Raiders won a district title prior to the current run was 31 years ago.

Indeed, DiPiano holds fond memories of coaching the Raiders.

“I grew up a Nutley kid,” he said. “I lived in the town all my life. … It was a dream of mine to coach at Nutley, with (NHS graduate and standout wrestler) Anthony Montes. To be able to do that and fulfill that, not many guys can say they could do that. Nutley was always close to my heart, so to have the opportunity to go there and work there and teach, and be a wrestling coach, it was unbelievable. It was an unbelievable experience. It’s a rich tradition. Being a Nutley guy and to be taken in by the people of Nutley, was a great experience. The relationships that I’ve made with people in the building at Nutley; families, the kids that wrestled for me, they trusted me as a young coach. They took a chance on a kid that was 24 years old, and it was an amazing experience.”

His father, Mike DiPiano Sr., was a legendary head wrestling head coach at St. Benedict’s Prep, amassing a 274-89 record. Mike DiPiano Sr. is a member of the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame. He retired as the St. Benedict’s Prep athletic director.

Mike DiPiano Jr., Frank’s brother, is the head girls’ varsity soccer coach at NHS and an assistant coach for the Raiders’ softball team in the spring. Mike also is the head wrestling coach at Northern Valley-Demarest. The DiPianos are advocates of organ donor awareness through the annual Gift of Life Wrestling Duals during the high school season. Mike DiPiano Sr. is a recipient of an organ donor, receiving a kidney and pancreas donation back in 1998.

Frank DiPiano posted a 108-89 career record at NHS, getting his 100th win during the Gift of Life Duals last season.

Montes and Frank DiPiano have been friends since they were 5 years old. They even wrestled together while traveling the country with DiPiano’s father. Though they attended different high schools, their relationship remained the same.

Montes and Frank DiPiano have been friends since they were 5 years old. They even wrestled together while traveling the country with DiPiano’s father. Though they attended different high schools, their relationship remained the same.

“As high school started to come to an end, Frank and I would talk about how it would be a dream to have us coach together and make a difference in a program!” wrote Montes in an email. “In 2008 we were lucky enough to make that happen as I joined the staff at Nutley HS! Me being a graduate and a wrestler at Nutley it couldn’t be anymore perfect! Frank taught me more than he will ever know about being a coach! He’s one of the smartest, most fearless, and passionate coaches I have ever come across! I remember getting calls from him at 8 a.m. on a Monday after a weekend of competition and his gears were already turning for the week we had ahead! He had the breakdown of every kid and every weight of our opponents! I mean, he did his homework week, in and week out!! His knowledge of the sport is right up there with some of the top college coaches! One thing you know, if you wrestled for Frank, you were going to be tough mentally, not only in the room but out of the room! He cares about every single kid the same, whether it was their first year wrestling or 100th year! To say the least, Frank took that program and put it in the position to have the success it did! Now with Frank leaving, it’s a tough pill to swallow even for me! But more importantly he is moving on to improve and put himself in a postion to succeed, like he did his students! This move is a great thing for Frank to climb the ladder in the biggest match of all, LIFE! He left his mark at Nutley Raider nation and myself would like to thank him for all he has done for the Raider program! And most of all, we had fun doing it!”

Throughout his career, Frank DiPiano coached numerous county, county and district champions, and state tournament place-winners. Among them were Bobby Trombetta and Joe Ferinde, who won multiple state tournament medals in Atlantic City. Nick Gaeta, DiPiano’s cousin, was another state medalist.

To see his wrestlers stand on the podium each year and to show their Nutley pride was indeed special to Frank DiPiano.

A new head coach for the Raiders was expected to be named this past Monday.

 

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