Biondo is driven by his near misses

By: Ken Weingartner
   Vinnie Biondo knows what it’s like to be close to reaching the regional tournament. This year, close won’t be good enough.
   During his first two seasons on the South Brunswick High wrestling team, Biondo finished fourth in the District 20 Tournament – one place shy of advancing to Region 5. In each case, a loss to North Brunswick’s Jon Horning kept Biondo from moving on.
   "That’s what is driving me this year," Biondo said. "I want to advance. I don’t want to wait until my senior year. I want to step it up now and see what I’m capable of. I want to prove it to myself. That’s important to me. I want to try to make my mark in regions."
   A varsity performer as a freshman, Biondo has plenty of experience under his belt. This season, the 119-pounder has gone 6-5 overall, and has a 5-2 record in dual meets. On Monday night, Biondo posted a 9-6 win over Ricky Wiget of John F. Kennedy as the Vikings rolled to a 43-21 win. Biondo scored backpoints in the final nine seconds to break a tie and earn the triumph.
   "I’m usually in better shape than my opponents," Biondo said. "That’s very crucial if you’re going to win the match. Even if you wrestle poorly in the first two periods, you can come back and win in the third if you’ve got your wind."
   South Brunswick, which features an inexperienced lineup, is 2-5 this season. The Vikings lost two matches last week, one to Old Bridge, ranked 18th in the state, and the other to No. 12 Hunterdon Central.
   Kyle Wadiak (130), Justin DelPiano (145), Brady Shelcusky (171), and Derek Shelcusky (189) had victories against Old Bridge. Biondo and Bill Hendrickson (189) had wins against Hunterdon Central.
   In the triumph over JFK, the Vikings got wins from Garrett Nasdeo (125), Wadiak, Pete Campbell (140), Jon D’Ambrosio (160), Phil Hoffman (171), Brady Shelcusky (189), and Derek Shelcusky (215). Wadiak, Hoffman and the Shelcuskys won by pin.
   "The team is working really hard," Biondo said. "We’re probably one of the hardest working teams in the county. We would like to at least be .500 this season. That’s what we’re all working for. Last year, we didn’t have a very good season (4-16). We’re trying to step it up. We’re working our butts off. Everybody on this team has the ability to do well as long as they’re motivated."
   Even though the Vikings failed to win against Old Bridge or Hunterdon Central, Biondo recognizes the importance of facing tough competition during the season.
   "These kinds of matches, you go in trying to make yourself better," he said. "By wrestling these kids, you get better. It’s good experience, win or lose. That’s why these teams are on the schedule. You could wrestle lesser teams, and have a great record at the end of the year, but you’re not going to get any good experience."
   Biondo started wrestling in the seventh grade, "because I wasn’t good at any other sports and decided to give this one a try," and two years later he was in the SB varsity lineup. He took his lumps as a freshman, so he can relate to the inexperienced wrestlers in the current lineup.
   "It’s overwhelming," Biondo said. "I give credit to those guys because it’s hard. I learned on the varsity level that the kids are very good and very technical. You have to work really hard to keep up with them. You can’t be lazy. You’ve got to practice hard to compete with these kids."
   Biondo said three factors were important on the mat: physical strength, mental toughness and technique. Biondo would like most to improve his technique, but feels good about his mental and physical strength.
   "I don’t go out there and think ‘what if I lose,’ or anything like that," Biondo said. "My opponent, he’s just a faceless kid. I just have to go out there and do what I have to do. My technique is all right. I know my moves, it’s just a matter of getting into position to use them."
   And if he faces a pressure situation at the district tournament this season, Biondo feels he will be up to the challenge.
   "To me, the big matches are the best," Biondo said. "When the stands are full and everyone is cheering for you, I get an adrenaline rush. I love it when the stands are packed and everyone is going wild. It’s the best feeling in the world."