WEST ORANGE- What happened a year ago at the Region 3 Tournament which ended his season before he could ever get down to Atlantic City is now more of a distant memory for Nutley heavyweight Brandon Toranzo as he remains fully focused on his ultimate goal: winning a state championship.
The Maroon Raiders’ undefeated senior (41-0), who had been ranked No. 4 in the state at 285 coming into this year’s Regions, earned a hard-fought 4-2 decision over top-seeded and No. 2 ranked Benji Shue of Bergen Catholic in Saturday’s championship bout before a large crowd and many supporters in West Orange’s Tarnoff Gymnasium.
For Toranzo and other Region 3 champions, such as West Essex’s Alex Esposito at 106, Caldwell’s Lorenzo Caamano at 165 and St. Benedict’s Temuulen Mendbileg at 175, the focus turns almost immediately to preparing for the NJSIAA state tournament next weekend (Feb. 29-March 2) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“Brandon came in here undefeated last year as well and then had three losses in this tournament because of an injury so this was a very big match for him and for us,” said Nutley head coach Mike DiPiano, in describing the first Maroon Raiders heavyweight to ever win a Region title. “He trains harder than anyone I’ve coached, whether it was when I was at St. Benedict’s Demarest or at Nutley and he's just kept working from his first chance after his surgery last year and never stops working, which will continue all this week before heading to Atlantic City.”
Toranzo has suffered a torn ACL in each knee including in last year’s Regions, but he has maintained a positive attitude throughout the process of re-emerging once again as one of the state’s top heavyweights.
In Saturday’s Region 3 final vs. Shue (26-6) he scored a big takedown in the second period on his way to earning the decision vs. the BC junior.
“It’s a great feeling of course after what happened last year with ACL reconstruction, and being home (during the state tourney) was rough at this time last year watching everyone and knowing that was where I should have been; but, I couldn’t control it and this year has definitely been a different feeling. I came in way more confident and I just thank God for everything.
“Maybe it was all meant to be, but now all the reality of this moment is here and I’ve been dreaming since I was in eighth grade about striving to be a state champion and my goal is to be on top of the podium next weekend!”
Another one of the top matches in the Region 3 finals came at 106 where familiar rivals Alex Esposito and Caldwell’s Carmine Sipper battled for the fourth time in the past two seasons with the second-seeded Esposito (29-4), who had lost his last two matchups with the previously undefeated (39-1) and No. 6 ranked 106-pounder, battling to a 3-2 decision vs. the Chiefs’ terrific sophomore.
“He’s a really good competitor and pushes me,” said Esposito, who returns to Boardwalk Hall for a second straight year. “We have a really good coaching staff at West Essex and they have helped me work to correct mistakes I’ve made in my losses, and I’ve just kept working hard each and every day.
“Now I’m already thinking about AC. I know that 106 is a tough weight class and there are some real good guys in the weight class, but I’m ready to go down thee and show people what I’m capable of.”