Lake Riviera Middle School’s threetime Ocean County Blue Division championship wrestling team has the makings of another fine season, despite seeing its 27-match unbeaten streak halted by Southern.
Just how good the team is will be realized on Jan. 30 in the Ocean County Middle Schools Blue Division tournament, followed by the Ocean County Tournament, pitting the best of the Red Division on Feb. 1 at Lake Riviera.
Lake Riviera also goes up against perennially tough Goetz Middle School from Jackson and archrival and Red Division contender Veterans Memorial Middle School on Jan. 26 at Veterans.
If Lake Riviera, off to a 4-1 start, can succeed again, it will be with a lineup that is younger than usual. There are seven seventhgraders and a sixth-grader in a highly unusual spot — Nick Rivera at heavyweight.
“He’s in a 275-pound division and he’s 270 and he’s good. He can move,” head coach Mike Elmendorf said.
Former head coach Paul Panuska remains on the staff as an assistant and adviser with Dennis Hall and Charles Pazmino.
The team was slated for one final dual meet on Dec. 20 against Long Branch before the holiday break and picks it up again on Dec. 30, in the Brawl at the Beach at Point Pleasant Beach High School. Lake Riviera is the defending champion.
The team was scheduled to compete in the Manchester Takedown Tournament on Dec. 19, but that event was postponed due to the snowstorm.
Lake Riviera races to big early leads with a strong showing in the lower weight classes, particularly Dan Rackliffe, who is 4-0 at 75 pounds and defending Ocean County and Ocean vs. Monmouth/Middlesex meet champion. The latter meet takes place Feb. 4 at Manalapan Englishtown Middle School. Dean Sherry also looks solid again at 95 pounds, along with defending county champion Brian Matthews, who is 4-0 at 110 pounds. Others strengthening the lowerweight divisions include unbeaten Christian Caselli (100) and Ryan Jachim (105), and seventh graders Kyle Marino (70), who is 4- 0, and Tom Wright (80) and Justin Kieslor (115), who each are 3-1.
“The strength of the team is 70 to 115 pounds, and we hope the upper weights with younger guys in them can pull it out,” Elmendorf said. “Every match, they’re getting better and better.”
Some of those prospects include seventh grader newcomer Ray Fattaruso at 120 pounds, Brian DeAlmeida at 126, seventh grader Dom Spampanato at 132, and seventh-graders Dante Vega, who is 3-1 at 138 pounds and Brandon Weber at 144. Vega is 3-1 on the season.
Newcomers Mike Muratore (158) and Nick Zbranak (170), both 2-2, and seventh grader Eric Tober (185), who is 3-1, complete the lineup.