Edison program heading in the right direction

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — The Edison High School wrestling team was loaded with youth this year and head coach Gerry Nisivoccia hopes it will only make his team stronger come next season.

This year’s Eagle team outfitted nine freshmen, and with Greater Middlesex Conference champion and district champion J.C. Bandiero among them, the future for Edison grapplers looks bright.

"I think nine freshmen is the most the team has had in at least a decade," Nisivoccia said. "We are certainly looking forward to Bandiero for next season, and hopefully he can make it through to the states."

Bandiero finished fifth in the regions and completed his first varsity season with a 26-6 record. Five other Edison grapplers finished the season with 20 wins, helping the team to an 8-8 record on the year.

Junior Matt Gabriel finished at 21-11 and looks to be a leader for next season.

"Hopefully J.C. and Matt can go far in the districts and regions next year," Nisivoccia said. "We will look to them for leadership and experience next season."

Also placing fifth in the regions and compiling 20 wins was senior Mike Grogan. Grogan finished his final year at 145 pounds with a record of 25-6. Grogan was one of four district champions on the team and took third in the GMC Tournament. He finished his career with 63 wins.

Senior transfer Matt Merritt enjoyed a successful season wearing the red and gold. Merritt was a district champion, a runner-up in the GMC Tournament and he finished the year 20-11.

"Matt was a pleasant addition to our program," Nisivoccia said. "He seemed to improve on a weekly basis throughout the season."

Fellow senior Vincent Cortese was an additional district champion and another 20-match winner this season. He took fourth in the GMC Tournament and ended his career with 42 wins.

This season will also mark the departure of seniors Gerardo Liwag, Sean McQueeney, Khoa Nguyen and Patrick Donovan.

"All four wrestlers were members of the program for four seasons and their contributions will be greatly missed," Nisivoccia said.

Leading the team alongside Bandiero and Gabriel next season will be Ed Kidney. As a junior this season at 189 pounds, Kidney went 23-7 and finished fourth in the districts and the GMC Tournament.

This year’s Eagle squad faired well considering the team wrestled most of the season without a heavyweight or someone to fill the 103-pound slot. Nisivoccia is looking for freshman Alex Romero to return next year as the 103-pounder and fellow freshman Gary Thompson did a nice job as a backup for Bandiero. Thompson went 4-0 in varsity matches.

Also recording four varsity wins this season and looking to play a major role in the team’s bid for a GMC title next year are junior James Pang and James Fayben. Junior Phil VanEmburgh earned eight victories and classmate Bob Wolf recorded 12 wins at 171 pounds.

"With the prospect of so many guys returning and the continued help from our feeder programs, we should be strong next season," Nisivoccia said. "We are starting to see the benefits of our middle school program and the recreation program.

Former Eagle grapplers Mike Malinconico, Tyler Solley and Anthony Iazzetta are leading the recreation program in the right direction. Malinconico was a state runner-up in 1996, Solley finished in the top 12 at the states last season, and Iazzetta is wrestling for Montclair State University. The trio is heading a feeder program that looks to make Edison a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

"The recreation program is giving me kids with some experience or at least an interest in the sport," Nisivoccia said. "This is an important step in the grand scheme of things."