Chiefs wrestling…the road to A.C.

By: Brendan Dyer

The 2013-2014 JCHS wrestling season was sensational.  The Chiefs overall record was 16 wins and 7 losses, one of those wins being a huge 42-19 win over crosstown rival West Essex.  This win really set the tone for the remainder of the season.  Going into the season the key matchups for the Chiefs were the West Essex, Seton Hall Prep, and West Orange matches.  These 3 teams were in contention for the conference title.  Head Coach Gary Garamella, who has been coaching the Chiefs for 15 years, said that he expected his team to continue to work hard and to win a conference title.  Although the team fell short of a conference title, they did accomplish a District Championship as a team.  The Chiefs had one 3rd place finisher, 8 finalists, and 5 champions, thus taking home the District championship.

JCHS is known for its wrestling team every year.  Coach Garamella, when asked what he thought had lead to the team’s success over the years responded, “A real good Junior Wrestling program led by coach Tom Martin, tough hardworking kids and great assistant coaches, Mike Garamella, Dave Pepe, Nick Zarra, Sean Romano, and Jake Pohlman.”  Coach Garamella said that the one word he would use to describe this year’s team was “hardworking.” He also said that “the senior leadership sets a good example for the rest of the team.  The underclassmen see how hard the seniors work, and how that hard work is the key to the team’s success.”

Along with a District Championship, the Chiefs had 3 wrestlers, Joe Bongo, Ray Iodice, and Dean Caravela, wrestle in Atlantic City (A.C.) for the State Championship.  A.C. is the goal of most high school wrestlers and the climax and high point of the season for those who make it there.  All of the hard work that the wrestlers put out during the season is in an effort to get to A.C. and win a State title.  During the tournament the contestants can potentially wrestle Friday, Saturday and Sunday depending on the outcomes of their matches.  Bongo wrestled twice, once on Friday night and once on Saturday morning.  He lost some really close matches thus concluding his senior season and high school wrestling career. Although he didn’t win a championship he still made a valiant effort.  Iodice wrestled on Friday night and lost, then on Saturday morning, but fell short again, bringing his senior season and high school wrestling career to a culmination.

Caravela, a 113 pound sophomore, was the final contestant in A.C. for JCHS. This was Caravela’s second consecutive season competing in A.C. When asked what the experience was like for him, Caravela responded, “The experience was a little different this year.  I had some guys with me (Joe and Ray) unlike last year when I was alone.  It made everything a lot more fun.  Also, the weight loss was a lot more difficult for me this year.  I had to run in the hotel fitness center three times to make weight.  And this year I lost my first match, and had to wrestle all the way back to place, which is a lot harder to do.  But overall, it was an experience like no other, because you get to have the huge crowd watching you, and you get to wrestle on the eight mats and be the center of attention.  We all really enjoyed it despite the grind.”  Caravela placed eighth for the second year in a row, once again making it onto the podium.  Overall, the Chiefs had a successful season filled with ups and downs, long hard practices, big meals after making weight, and quality experiences with teammates.  When Coach Garamella was asked what makes him come back every year and coach and he explained that it is “watching the kids in our program sacrifice a lot and reach goals they set for themselves.  Wrestling season is very long and grueling and at the end, when all the hard work pays off, it’s a great feeling as a coach.”  Best of luck to the graduating seniors.