Source: Mike Lamberti, Special to Passaic Valley Today — NorthJersey.com
LITTLE FALLS – It’s been a busy summer for the Passaic Valley wrestling team.
Head coach Joe Benvenuti has taken his team to an intensive four-day camp at Rutgers University, hosted three days of duals last month and last week, competed at the River Dell Duals. In addition, the coach hosted his annual camp for youngsters last week. And despite the warm weather, the kids seemed to thrive in the wrestling room as Benvenuti and some of his varsity wrestlers taught the future Passaic Valley stars some of the intricacies of the sport.
“The Junior Hornets Camp was a huge success,” said Benvenuti. “We have a great crop of kids coming through. It’s amazing to see the commitment to wrestling by these young boys and their parents. It was pretty hot in that room, but the boys kept their focus and continually got better. One day when these guys are walking the halls of Passaic Valley, they will be doing a lot of winning on the mat.”
“Summer wrestling makes winter champions”
— Head Coach Joe Benvenuti
Benvenuti ran the camp for four days, with about 20 youngsters on hand. The theme of the camp was working on technique and having fun.
“They listened and asked good questions,” said Benvenuti of the youngsters. “Like I said, in a hot gym, it could be easy to lose focus, but we tried to make it enjoyable and I think they got some good work in. I always enjoy hosting this camp during the summer.”
The varsity team was at River Dell High School last week for what is always a competitive three nights of grappling.
“We always enjoy competing at River Dell,” said Benvenuti. “In the past and this year the team looked a great deal better than in comparison a few weeks ago with our PV duals. We look like we had expected to look this summer, so it was great to end our summer competitions on such a positive note.”
Benvenuti was pleased with the turnout of wrestlers at River Dell.
“We had a lot of kids get some good work in,” the coach said. “It’s been that way, as far as turnout, since the end of the varsity season last March. We’ve done well in the weight room, a lot of wrestlers have competed in tournaments on their own and since mid June we’ve been working well together again.”
Team captains Ken Kerwin and Nick DeNora have been outstanding all summer.
“We struggled to find Kerwin and DeNora competitive matches,” said Benvenuti. “These two are very dominant right now.”
While Kerwin and DeNora should be outstanding in the lower weight classes, Passaic Valley will also be good in the upper weights. Last week at River Dell, Yousef Karmi and Tom Marretta both went undefeated. Karmi was the team’s heavyweight wrestler for half of the 2015-2016 season before an injury set him back. Marretta stepped in and ended up qualifying for the NJSIAA championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. This year, Marretta could move into the 220 pound slot while Karmi returns to heavyweight.
Another wrestler in the lower weights who is excelling is rising sophomore Greg Sabbak, who was also undefeated at River Dell.
“For Tom, Yousef and Greg, a great deal of their success has come from their dedication to the weight room,” said Benvenuti. “The three of them are so much stronger than a year ago and their confidence has been a direct reflection of the time they have spent in that room.”
The coach also liked what he saw from Hunter Fortier and Jeremy Galletta.
“Fortier went undefeated at River Dell and Galletta only had one loss,” said Benvenuti. “These two will be consistent winners and major point earners in the middle of the lineup. The thing that has pushed them into leaders on this team is their maturity. They have been in the varsity lineup since their freshman year, so now as juniors, they have truly gown up and wrestle with aggressiveness and calmness needed to be a champion.”
The summer season is winding down for the Hornets.
“We end the summer with some open mat practices to finish out July,” the coach said. “August is for the team to relax and vacation. Mid-August will start the fall seasons and many of our kids play multiple sports, so they will be busy.”
Benvenuti feels the work will pay off next winter.
“Summer wrestling makes winter champions,” said Benvenuti. “Our coaching staff is 100 percent confident that this team will take full advantage of their potential and ultimately become champions come February and March.”