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Nutley's Brandon Toranzo, who is a top contender for a state title this weekend in Atlantic City, works against Bergen Catholic's Benji Shue during Feb. 24th Region 3 final at 285 pounds as the Maroon Raider is Nutley's first heavyweight Region champ. (Photos by Frank DeBlassio)

Nutley Heavyweight Is Vying
For State Title In Atlantic City

By Steve Tober

The Nutley wrestling room has rarely seen anyone who works as hard as its special heavyweight strongman.

Now Brandon Toranzo is shooting for the ultimate prize in his 285-pound weight class as he continues to compete this weekend in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City  

“Brandon is the strongest wrestler we’ve ever had here, he’s very athletic, and the coaches get beat up a bit when they work against him,” Maroon Raiders head coach Mike DiPiano said with a smile. “He’s just a special young man who works so hard every day, and he is showing everyone around the state just how great a wrestler he is.”

Toranzo is the No. 2 seed in a strong heavyweight field that also includes pre-tourney favorite and top seed Rocco Dellagatta of St. Joe’s (Mont.), while among others to watch are third-seeded Benji Shue of Bergen Catholic, fourth-seeded John Wargo of Phillipsburg and fifth-seeded Dan Elyash of Paramus.

Toranzo began his quest in Thursday’s preliminary round bout by pinning. 31st-seeded Nick Lavach of Bordentown in 51 seconds.

Then, he decisioned 15th-seeded Christopher Oliver of Ridge, 14-7, in the pre-quarterfinals.

Next up will be Friday's quarterfinal match vs. No.7 seeded Lorenzo Portella of Red Bank Catholic.

“I know there are a lot of strong guys in my weight class, but I love the competition,” Toranzo said before heading down to AC. “I’m feeling like I’m in the best shape of my life and ready to go for it all, while also not taking anything or anyone for granted as I continue to put in the time and supreme effort in the room each and every day, taking each match one at a time and never looking past anyone.”

The Nutley coaches have the ultimate confidence in their prize heavyweight as he gets after it in his quest for a state title.  

“Brandon is definitely ready for whatever is awaiting him no matter who he faces,” said DiPiano. “He’s a natural leader who all the young kids on the team look up toas they continue to see how he has worked so hard to get back in top shape after the knee injury last year, and we have great confidence in his ability to be able to have a great showing in AC.”

How determined was Brandon Toranzo to get back right back at it after last year’s knee surgery?

“Just two days after the surgery I was being handed weights and got right back to work,” said the Nutley senior wrestler. “I didn’t want to waste any time in making sure I was beginning on my way back.

“Winning a state championship this season is the ultimate goal for my senior year. and I’ll just keep at it, working as hard as I can each and every day.”

Toranzo, an athletic and ultra-strong grappler, who made it a point to trim down from 260- to 245 pounds in the course of his rehabilitation after tearing the ACL in his left knee in last season’s Region 3 semifinals, is currently ranked fifth in the state at 285 pounds, according to, in a season when the weight class is a particularly strong and deep one.

He gave a foreshadowing of what would follow this season with his victories over the top three seeds – all with state criteria – while finishing first in his weight class at the prestigious Sam Cali Invitational at FDU-Florham earlier this season.

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 the Nutley heavyweight.

The Maroon Raiders’ undefeated senior (43-0), 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 then No. 2 ranked Benji Shue of Bergen Catholic in the championship bout on Feb. 24th before a large crowd and many supporters in West Orange’s Tarnoff Gymnasium.

“Brandon came into the Regions undefeated last year as well and then had three losses in this tournament because of an injury so this season’s Region 3 championship is very big indeed,” said 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 simply continues.”

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 the Feb. 24th 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; however, 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 in AC!”

NOTES- Brandon’s older brother Mike, a state medal winner at St. Joe’s during his high school career, is now wrestling at Rutgers which is hot on the trail of the younger Toranzo as well…Brandon is the first Region and ECT heavyweight champion in Nutley High School wrestling history…Toranzo has worked out with a number of top wrestlers including Jimmy Mullen, the 2-time state champion at St. Joe’s, who he also backed up as a younger wrestler with the Green Knights before transferring back home during his junior year…Neal Picillo, a former wrestling great at West Orange, and the former head coach at MKA returned to the Nutley coaching staff this season and he frequently works out with Toscano in the room…Toscano’s dad Joel is longtime powerlifter and Brandon used to participate in that sport as well.    


The NJSIAA Tournament started Thursday, Feb. 29 and continues Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The boys and girls tournament is running concurrently on all three days of the tournaments.

Tickets are priced at $60 for a three-day, all-round ticket or $30 per day.

Tickets for the event may be purchased through the Boardwalk Hall Ticket Office online at, by telephone from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 609-348-7512 or in person.

Final Two Days of NJSIAA Tournament:
Friday, March 1:
7 a.m.: Boys weight check
7:30 a.m.: Boys weigh-ins
9 a.m.: Boys WB2, quarterfinals, WB2 and3 on 8 mats
11 a.m.: Girls weight check
11:10 a.m.: Boys quarterfinals on Mats 3-4-5-6 and Boys WB3 on Mats 1-2 and 7-8
11:30: Girls weigh-ins
1 p.m.: Girls semifinals, WB3 on Mats 7 and 8
5:45 p.m.: Awards
6 p.m.: Boys semifinals on two middle mats. Girls consolation semifinals on outside 4 mats.
To follow: Boys WB5 immediately following completion of girls consolation semifinals.

Saturday, March 2:
7 a.m.: Boys and Girls weight checks
7:30 a.m.: Boys and girls weighing
9 a.m.: Boys WB6 on 6 mats
9:45 a.m.: Boys and girls 3rd, 5th, 7th
12:45 p.m.: Girls parade
1 p.m.: Girls finals
3:30 p.m.: Boys parade
3:45 p.m.: Boys finals

Follow Steve Tober on 'X' (formerly Twitter) @Chattermeiser

Nutley's Brandon Toranzo, seen with chart for the 285-pound weight class after finishing first in Region 3, wants to have that terrific feeling of coming out on top once again this weekend in Atlantic City where his coaches, including Neal Picillo (standing, left) and Mike DiPiano (who is seated, right) will be hoping for a state title. (Sideline Chatter photos)

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