It all began as a simple discussion between concerned parents of Hoboken High School students, the students themselves, Hoboken athletic director Derek England and Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson.
The topic of that discussion: the possibility of Hoboken offering wrestling as a varsity sport.
At that point, England addressed the issue with Shane Stanek, a member of the Hoboken coaching staff in football and softball.
England knew that Stanek was a wrestler during his high school days at Bogota (Class of 2008) and asked Stanek if he would like to start the wrestling program at Hoboken.
“Derek brought the idea up to me and I have to admit that at first, I was a little on the fence,” Stanek said. “I was already coaching two sports and didn’t know if I would have the time. But some parents pushed for it and there were even more kids that wanted it. So I said that I would gladly do it.”
With that, the advent of Hoboken wrestling was born.
“I was for it right away,” Stanek said. “I was optimistic about it.”
Stanek said that he received guidance from Pat Clark, who coached Stanek at Bogota and remains the school’s head coach today.
“He also happens to be my neighbor,” Stanek said of Clark. “He offered me a helping hand.”
Stanek had a meeting with interested student/athletes who might consider becoming wrestlers.
“We had 22 kids show up,” Stanek said. “I don’t think our kids realized how much of a commitment wrestling takes. It’s a major commitment. You have to watch what you eat. You have to train every day.”
And of course, there’s the weight loss aspect to the sport. Most high school wrestlers have to cut weight to make their certain weight class.
“Once that happened, the numbers went down,” said Stanek, who lost more than half of the original team. “We only have 10 left.”
There was yet another obstacle that came with being part of a fledgling program.
“We weren’t going to have a place to practice,” Stanek said. “And we weren’t going to be able to have a home match.”
But Dave Esposito, the renowned instructor of wrestling, Muay Thai, Ju-Jitsu and mixed martial arts at The Edge in Hoboken, was hopeful to see wrestling get off the ground on the high school level. Esposito was a three-time state medalist while wrestling at JFK-Iselin and was a two-time NCAA All-American at Lehigh. Esposito has been instrumental in introducing wrestling to children at Hoboken Recreation.
So Esposito offered his facility to the high school in order to practice.
“I was very surprised,” Stanek said. “It’s a big commitment from him.”
The Redwings took to the mat for the first time last month. And the Redwing wrestlers have already seen a level of success.
For example, junior football standout Anthony Henriquez, wrestling at 195 pounds, earned the program’s first-ever victory.
“He’s pretty much just tackling kids,” Stanek said, as Henriquez has brought his football talents to the mats. “People don’t expect much from him, because he’s so short. But no one outworks him. He’s become very good at wrestling.”
And because Henriquez has enjoyed a few victories, he’s been encouraging other football players to join.
“He’s already said, ‘Coach, I’m getting in much better shape for football,’” Stanek said. “And eating healthy has given me more energy.”
Freshman Michael D’Antonio is the team’s 106-pounder. D’Antonio collected the first pin in school history last week. D’Antonio has two wins thus far.
There are the Riccardi twins, sophomores Christopher (145 pounds) and Rocco (182 pounds).
Wait a minute. How can identical twins weigh nearly 40 pounds difference?
“They’re obviously not identical,” Stanek laughed. “They both have grown since the beginning of the year. Some have had immense growth.”
Junior Ezire King is another football player who has joined the wrestling team. King has also won two matches thus far.
“He’s been producing the best matches,” Stanek said. “They’ve been really exciting. He’s picking up the sport quickly.”
Steven Hampton is the Redwings’ 220-pounder. Hampton is also a junior.
“He’s shown a lot of promise for next year,” Stanek said.
Senior James Davis is the team’s 170-pounder. Davis had some experience wrestling before in Hoboken Recreation. Davis recently went undefeated in the Redwings’ tri-meet with Cresskill, Elmwood Park and Palisades Park/Leonia. Davis’ three wins leads the team right now.
“He’s wrestled tough his entire life,” Stanek said of Davis.
Needless to say, Stanek is excited about being part of a fledgling program.
“I truly feel great about it,” Stanek said. “Wrestling is more difficult than anything they’ve ever done. I’m still happy with the kids we have. They’re willing to finish this out. I’m very proud of my wrestlers.”
Stanek’s Redwings will battle Weehawken, Dwight Morrow and interestingly Bogota (Stanek’s alma mater coached by his mentor Clark) this weekend.
The Redwings will compete in the upcoming Hudson County Duals at Union City High School February 8.
“It’s not about going there to win,” Stanek said. “We want them to get the matches and more importantly, get the experience.”
And then the Redwings will head to the NJSIAA District 9 tournament at Randolph High School later in February. Yes, wrestling is real in the Mile Square City…
The Hudson Catholic boys’ basketball team has won seven straight games, but their biggest victory might have come last week at the Dan Finn Classic, when the Hawks defeated state-ranked Linden, 45-43.
Organizers of the Dan Finn Classic decided to honor would-be sophomore Antonio Sellers with the Player of the Game Award. For those who do not know, Sellers is battling brain cancer and is still recovering, but has been confined to a wheelchair. Sellers, the son of former St. Peter’s College hoop standouts Keith Sellers and Felicia Harris Sellers, has undergone two cancer surgeries on his brain since last March…
North Bergen’s boys have also won three in a row, including a huge 61-40 win over Memorial. In that win, Esteban Dotel scored 23 points, two shy of what teammate DeAvion Ellis scored last week against American History…
The Marist girls have reeled off seven in a row, thanks to the play of senior Kailyce Hanna, who has reached double figures in points in 11 of the last 12 games, including 17 points against St. Dominic Academy and 18 against a very good Teaneck squad…
Secaucus’ Damaris Rodriguez had 24 points, five assists and seven steals against Lyndhurst and 22 points, five assists and two steals in a loss to Bayonne.
Bayonne’s Makoye Diawara has been on an absolute tear. She had 33 points and 19 rebounds in a loss to University of Newark, had 19 points and 19 rebounds in a win over Kearny, had 20 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Hudson Catholic, 12 points and 15 rebounds in a win over Secaucus and 19 points and 13 rebounds in a win against Lincoln.
And Hudson Catholic’s Zanai Jones? She had 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals in the win over Bayonne, 19 points, five assists and four steals in a loss to Mount St. Dominic and 14 points, three assists and four steals in a win over Dickinson. That’s some production from the area’s top females…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (10-4). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (11-2). 3. Marist (11-2). 4. Snyder (10-4). 5. Lincoln (8-3)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (11-2) 2. Bayonne (13-2) 3. Marist (9-3) 4. Secaucus (11-2). 5. Lincoln (7-3). – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com