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West Orange's Chris Morgan (left), who won his second straight Essex County Tournament title at 182 pounds, is presented the Outstanding Wrestler trophy from ECT Tournament Co-Director Ron Fazio following Saturday's mat action at Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange. (Photo by Gene Nann- nannphoto)

West Essex's Jaxon Panico (left) takes down Caldwell's Ryan Schaffer during 170-pound final in Saturday's Essex County Tournament. The senior won, 6-1, to help pave the way for an eventual team championship for the Knights who edged Nutley for the title. (Photo by Glenn

In perhaps the best match of the ECT finals Nutley's Kenny Pena (right) lifts West Orange's Isiah Adams up in their 120-pound title bout. Pena won, UTB 3-2, in hard-fought struggle that was close all the way. (Photo by Gene Nann)

Belleville's Jordan Greene (right) takes control in his 160-pound final against Cedar Grove's Michael Dugan en route to 7-0 decision. (Photo by Gene Nann)

Nutley's Joe Ferinde looks up as he's in control against Glen Ridge's John Candella en route to pin in 5:57 in the 126-pound final. (Photo by Gene Nann)

West Essex's Thomas Tabatneck (left) works on top of Irvington's Garland Barham en route to narrow 2-1 decision in heavyweight final as the Knights sealed their first ECT team title since back in 2011. (Photo by Glenn Kross)

West Essex's Marc McDonald prepares to pin Barringer's Victor Rivera in 1:34 at 220 en route to a third straight ECT championship. (Photo by Glenn Kross)

West Essex wrestlers and their coaches get together to celebrate being the 2015 Essex County Tournament team champion. (Photo by Glenn Kross)

West Essex's Upper Weights
Pave Way To ECT Team Title
By Steve Tober

WEST ORANGE- As West Essex’s Jaxon Panico took the mat for his 170 pound championship match against neighborhood rival Caldwell’s Ryan Schaffer he thought back on the message he has heard day after day in the wrestling room.

“Our coaches tell us, just stay disciplined and then you can compete with the best,” said the senior, one of the veterans in the upper weights for the Knights. “We all push each other every day and what you see in the county finals is a result of that hard work.”

Boosted by four victories in the upper weights, including Panico’s fellow senior Marc McDonald (220) becoming just the 12th wrestler in county history to win a third straight ECT title, West Essex captured its third team title in the 41 years that the tournament has been held, and its first since 2011, outscoring a strong Nutley squad, 172-161 ½, for the 2015 ECT team championship at the Richard J. Codey Arena on Saturday afternoon.

West Orange’s state contender Chris Morgan won his second straight county title at 182 in dominating fashion, and was also named the Outstanding Wrestler. Another milestone reached saw Nutley senior Joe Ferinde (126) also dominate on his way to a second straight county crown and cemented his latest title by notching the 100 th career victory of his fine high school career.

Caldwell, going through the tournament without its best wrestler, Dean Caravela (126), who is sidelined with an injury, still wrestled extremely well and earned third place in the final team standings (125) followed by Seton Hall Prep (115), Cedar Grove (107 1/2), Irvington (97), Belleville (89 1/2), West Orange (87 1/2), Bloomfield (81) and Verona (72) to round out the top 10.

Among the small schools it was a superb day for Cedar Grove led by its dynamic freshman Anthony Clarizio, who was as dominant as any wrestler in this year’s ECT as he rolled to the 113-pound crown. The Panthers had four wrestlers finish among the top four in their weight class.

In the end the day belonged to West Essex as far as team laurels are concerned as Panico decisioned Caldwell’s Schaffer, 6-1, at 170, and after West Orange’s Morgan pinned Verona’s Mark Riggio in 47 seconds for the 182-pound crown, a trio of Knights cemented the team title for the North Caldwell regional high school as Roberto LoCascio (pin in 38 seconds at 195), McDonald (pin in 1:34 at 220) and Thomas Tabatneck (2-1 decision over Irvington’s defending county champ Garland Barham at heavyweight) finished the day with gusto for the wrestlers clad in red, black and white.

“We really came together as a team and we had a simply great run to end this tournament,” said LoCascio who was a runner-up to Morgan at 182 last year. “We have guys who are really match tough and Marc McDonald has led the way for us with his third straight county title, which is truly special.

“We have a great group of guys this season and our coaching staff does a phenomenal job making sure we have the best workouts we can possibly have in order to prepare for a day like this when it all comes together.”

For West Orange’s Morgan, who is ranked among the best in the state in his weight class, it was another impressive run to a county title and is the first step on the way to what is hoped to be a state championship run in March.

“If I can stay healthy I really believe I should win a state title this year,” said Morgan, a cerebral young man who is headed to West Point Prep in the fall. “Overall, I think I am a better all-around wrestler this season, but I also know I hav to go out and prove that I can do what I feel I can do.

“Winning a county championship is a great achievement and now I get back to work in order to prepare for the next step in the tournament season.”

Ferinde and fellow now two-time county champ Robert Duxbury (132) led Nutley in the lower weights along with Kenny Pena (120) and his cousin Darwin Pena (145) who provided the Maroon Raiders with four county champs.

Darwin, a junior, edged Newark Academy’s two-time county champ Brendon Seyfried, 2-1, in a hard-fought 145-pound final. Kenny Pena, a senior, worked very hard for his 3-2 (UTB) triumph over West Orange’s Isiah Adams in the 120-pound final in one of the best matches of the finals.

“We know we’re strong in the lower weights and our guys really came through for us in some tough matches,” said Ferinde. “To earn my 100 th career win in a county final is definitely cool. Now I’d like to try and beat the mark of my brother (Mike, now a senior at Johnson & Wales), who had 112 wins here.

“Next up for us is trying to win a Group 3 team state sectional title, which I believe we have a good shot at doing.”

Among the other ECT champs were Caldwell’s terrific freshman Gerald Jones (106), Seton Hall Prep’s fine sophomore Aidan Monteverdi (138), Newark Academy’s dominating Steve Bonsall (152) and Belleville’s impressive Jordan Greene (160).

2015 Essex County Tournament Finals:

106: Gerald Jones, Caldwell, dec. Victor Lopez, West Orange, 5-4

113: Anthony Clarizio, Cedar Grove, pin Pablo Estevez, Bloomfield, 1:14

120: Kenny Pena, Nutley, dec. Isiah Adams, West Orange, UTB 3-2

126: Joe Ferinde, Nutley, pin John Candela, Glen Ridge, 5:57

132: Robert Duxbury, Nutley, dec. Christopher Palmieri, Bloomfield, 6-0

138: Aidan Monteverdi, Seton Hall Prep, pin John Zarro, Nutley, 4:35

145: Darwin Pena, Nutley, dec. Brendon Seyfried, Newark Academy, 2-1

152: Steve Bonsall, Newark Academy, maj. dec. Mike Panzarino, WE, 10-0

160: Jordan Greene, Belleville, dec. Michael Dugan, Cedar Grove, 7-0

170: Jaxon Panico, West Essex, dec. Ryan Schaffer, Caldwell, 6-1

182: Chris Morgan, West Orange, pin Mark Riggio, Verona, :47

195: Roberto LoCascio, West Essex, pin Marquez Roberts, Montclair, :38

220: Marc McDonald, West Essex, pin Victor Rivera, Barringer, 1:34

Hwt: Thomas Tabatneck, West Essex, dec. Garland Barham, Irvington, 2-1

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

As head coach Jack Decker (seated, left) intently watches, Seton Hall Prep's Aidan Monteverdi (left) drives through Nutley's John Zarro en route to pinning Raider in 4:35 forthe 138-pound title in the finals during Saturday's ECT wrestling finals. at Codey Arena. (Photo by Gene Nann)

West Orange's Chris Morgan has full control on Verona's Mark Riggio as he prepares to pin Hillbilly in 0:47 in 182-final. (Photo by Gene Nann)

West Essex's Roberto LoCascio raises his arms and points after pinning Montclair's Marquez Roberts in 0:38 in 195-pound final as the Knights simply dominated in upper weights during ECT. (Photo by Glenn Kross)

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