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Montclair's Jacy Jones gains control of Livingston's Matt Nichter during their 106-pound final in Essex County Tournament Friday night at the Codey Arena in West Orange. Jones earned first county title with 5-0 decision and his team had two champs for first time since 1997. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Cedar Grove's now 3-time county champion Anthony Clarizio works on Seton Hall Prep's Charlie Cunningham en route to solid 7-2 decision at 126-pounds.

Seton Hall Prep coaches Ron DiLeo (left) and Jack Decker keep close watch on one of their Pirates in ECT finals as SHP was on its way to the team title.

The West Orange coaches, including head man Stephan Zichella (left) get totally into the action while urging on one of their Mountaineers in finals.

Caldwell's Alex Jones (left) gains advantage on Cedar Grove's Shawn Rooney during their 132-pound final as the Chief frosh earned title with 6-0 decision.

In one of the evening's best matches, West Orange's Victor Lopez (left) and Livingston's Anthony Petrillo go head-to-head at 113 in match that Petrillo earned a 5-4 overtime decision against his longtime rival in lower weights.

Seton Hall Prep's Aidan Monteverdi (on top) controls Cedar Grove's Joe McCarthy in 170-pound final as Pirate is on his way to 11-3 major decision.

Seton Hall Prep's Jake Smith has firm grip on West Essex's Marco Macrino in their 138-pound final in hard-fought match won by the Pirates' senior, 3-2.

SHP's T.J. Calas looks up at official as he battles Caldwell's Jerry Jones in their 152-pound final as the Pirate senior recorded a 2-1 decision over Chief.

Monteverdi-Led SHP Dominates
To Cop ECT Wrestling Crown
By Steve Tober

WEST ORANGE- If he wants to enjoy a nice Italian dinner in the Monteverdi homestead, there is no hesitation for Seton Hall Prep’s No. 1 wrestler, who may very well be a prime contender for a 170-pound state championship in March.

“I can eat full meals every day this season and I feel better than before, and stronger,” said SHP’s unbeaten standout Aidan Monteverdi (24-0), who dominated in the 42nd Essex County Wrestling Tournament at the Richard J. Codey Arena capped by an 11-3 major decision over fellow state-ranked grappler Joe McCarthy of Cedar Grove to capture the 170-pound title and then be named Outstanding Wrestler for the 2-day ECT that concluded Friday night. “I went 2-2 in Atlantic City last year and I’m going for No. 1 this season.

“Not really having to cut weight this season has been great and I’ve worked on the weights more than before so I feel as good as I ever have.”

Monteverdi, who was a runner-up in a very tough 152-pound ECT weight class last season, was one of three Pirate ECT champs on Friday night while seven grapplers from SHP made it to the finals in leading the West Orange parochial school to a second straight team crown and third in the past four years.

On a night when there were several close matches in the finals, team-wise SHP was dominant amassing 228 points to second-place Cedar Grove’s 166. Verona was third with 147.5, just edging out fourth-place Caldwell (147)

Caldwell, West Orange and Montclair each had two individual champions. For the Mounties it was the first time they had two individual winners in 20 years.

Orange, with Ezechiel Consense taking first place at 285, had their first champ in 17 years.

But, it was SHP’s night, thanks to Monteverdi, who had a pin, a technical fall, a 6-1 decision and a major decision in dominating his weight class.

“We have a lot of depth, some really tough freshmen and great team leadership from our seniors,” said SHP’s eighth-year head coach Jack Decker, who is 111-62 (64%) including his squad’s glittering 19-1 mark this winter. “Monteverdi puts in a lot of time and is on a mission this year.

“He is a captain and leader along with our other seniors. Everyone put in a good effort in this tournament, helping us score points and the individual success comes with that type of group performance.”

Joining Monteverdi as individual champs from SHP were fellow seniors Jake Smith (138) and T.J. Calas (152).

“We have such a strong team this year and everyone has been working so hard in the room each and every day,” said Smith. “The seniors just try and set the tone and our younger guys have been great in doing their part all season long.”

Calas had a hard-fought 2-1 decision over Caldwell’s 2015 county champ Jerry Jones in their 152-final. Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the SHP veteran leader never panicked, scoring two points on a reversal.

“I knew he was tough going in and had watched his stuff, but I was not worried down 1-0,” he said. “I feel like I can get out of the bottom against anyone.”

Second-place Cedar Grove was paced by junior Anthony Clarizio (23-2), who became the ECT’s 16th 3-time champion when he registered a 7-2 decision over SHP’s talented Charlie Cunningham (21-5) in their 126-title bout.

“Every year I come into this tournament trying to put my best product out there on the mat because the counties are important to me,” said the Panther standout who has already made two trips to AC. “I want to get high on the podium in AC this year and that’s my goal.

“This is a good steppingstone for us and for our team to be doing so well is great. We’re a small town and don’t have many kids on the team, but every one of our guys gives it his all and we want to win another (team) state sectional title this season after beating Bound Brook last year.

“Who knows? Maybe we can surprise people again.”

Montclair coach Mike Freedman was thrilled that both Jacy Jones (106) and Sam Mellow (220) won county titles. The last time the Mounties had two ECT champs was 1997 with Israel Cronk and Pete Schiavone. Cronk went on to win a state title that March.

“We’re in a tough District (9 at Phillipsburg) this year, but I know that if ‘J’ and Sam keep improving each week as they have, that they can both earn their way to Atlantic City this season,” said Montclair’s 12 th-year head coach. “For Sam, it’s been night and day and he’s grown into his body and improved so much, while Jacy has built on his matches against (Livingston’s Matt) Nichter after beating him in the District finals last year.”

Jones, who lost two out of three bouts to Nichter last season, had an early takedown en route to a 5-0 decision over the Lancer junior, who had beaten him in the county final at 106 last year.

Livingston’s Anthony Petrillo has had his share of tough matches with West Orange’s Victor Lopez and had lost to the Mountaineer in last year’s ECT. On Friday night, the Lancer junior earned a hard-fought 5-4 overtime decision.

“I let him out (in the overtime period) and knew immediately that I had to take him down,” said Petrillo, who made it to AC last March, going 1-2. “He’s tough and I’ve been wrestling him for three year so in a sense it’s harder, but easier, because we know each other so well and I’m sure we could meet again (in Region 3 at West Orange).

West Orange, with Edgar Moreno (120) and Noah Tandy (195), joined Montclair and Caldwell, with Alex Jones (132) and Chris Dalla Riva (182) in bringing home two county champs.

Dalla Riva had to earn his way to a 6-4 decision over Cedar Grove’s Danny DiPrenda in a tightly-contested bout between two outstanding football players for their respective schools.

At the end of the night, it was still SHP which could relish the most in terms of ‘team’ success.

“Everyone comes to the room on a mission with no days off,” said Monteverdi. “We’re looking to finish our conference schedule on a high note and then win a state sectional team title before getting ready for the Districts.”

SHP has not won even a first-round match in the Non-Public A team sectionals since 2011 when it defeated St. Joe's of Montvale, 35-22, which was also the last time the Pirates hosted a team state sectional match.

"It's been a long time since we won a state sectional team match, but I like the depth of this team and I look forward to the opportunity this time around," said Decker. "Our kids have already shown me a great deal and I feel that we have other great nights ahead of us."

2017 Essex County Wrestling Tournament Finals:

106- Jacy Jones, Montclair dec. Matt Nichter, Livingston, 5-0

113- Anthony Petrillo, Livingston, dec. Victor Lopez, WO, 5-4 (OT)

120- Edgar Moreno, West Orange, dec. Maguire Pecci, SHP, 4-1

126- Anthony Clarizio, Cedar Grove, dec. Charlie Cunningham, SHP, 7-2

132- Alex Jones, Caldwell, dec. Shawn Rooney, Cedar Grove, 6-0

138- Jake Smith, SHP, dec. Marco Macrino, West Essex, 3-2

145- Aaron Dunn, Nutley, dec. Chris Zaccaria,West Essex, 3-2

152- T.J. Calas, SHP, dec. Jerry Jones, Caldwell, 2-1

160- Nick Fierro, Verona, dec. Danny Young, SHP, 3-1

170- Aidan Monteverdi, SHP, major decision, Joe McCarthy, CG, 11-3

182- Chris Dalla Riva, Caldwell, dec. Dan DiPrenda, CG, 6-4

195- Noah Tandy, West Orange, dec. Billy Czupak, Verona, 3-2

220- Sam Mellow, Montclair, dec. Adam Lutick, Bloomfield, 5-2

285- Ezechiel Conserve, Orange, dec. Niko Diakides, SHP, 4-3

Repeat Champs: *Clarizio, **Smith, **Calas

*3-Time ECT Champ, **-Two-Time Champ (Monteverdi also 2-time champ)

TOP 10 TEAM FINISHES: 1-SHP 228; 2-Cedar Grove 166; 3-Verona 147.5; 4-Caldwell 147; 5-West Orange 112.5; 6-West Essex-109; 7-Nutley 103.5; 8-Montclair-98.5; 9-Irvington-87.5; 10-Livingston 73.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Montclair's Sam Mellow (center) smiles as he stands on podium as an Essex County Tournament champ at 220 pounds while surrounded by second-place finisher Adam Lutick of Bloomfield (right) and 3rd-place Steve Murphy of Caldwell (left) (photo courtesy of MHS wrestling)

Verona's Nick Fierro (left) works his way to 3-1 decision vs. Danny Young of SHP in 160-pound final (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Caldwell's Chris Dalla Riva (on top) and Cedar Grove's Dan DiPrenda both look up at referee as they battle during ECT 182-pound final in what was closely contested bout won by the Chiefs' Dalla Riva, 6-4.

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