By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
Senior Jake Rotunda captured his fourth straight district championship and earned the Outstanding Wrestler award, and the Pope John XXIII Regional High School wrestling team produced a whopping seven champions overall en route to winning its first district team title in 37 years at the District 2 Tournament on Saturday at Kittatinny Regional High School in Hampton.
“This is awesome to accomplish something like this,” Rotunda said of Pope John’s performance. “We really stepped things up and showed people what we are all about.”
Rotunda became the Lions’ fourth four-time district champion in school history by pinninh Jefferson’s Ryan Tripodi in a time 1:10 in the 132-pound final. Rotunda, who also won titles at 113 (2015), 120 (2016) and 126 (2017), respectively, joined Mike Frick (1969-72), Hugh Albora (1972-75) and Brian Unkert (1987-90) as the only Lions to win four district crowns, according to Mike Weilamann of Open Mike.
Rotunda was humble when asked about winning his fourth title and the OW award.
“I’m happy to be a part of that history,” Rotunda said. “But, I’m beyond happy that I was able to experience winning these titles and honors with this team.”
Besides Rotunda, senior Jake Brown (195) claimed his third district title, junior JoJo Aragona (138), junior Robbie Garcia (145) and sophomore Eddie Ventresca (113) each won their second district crowns, and sophomore Kaya Sement (120) and freshman Shane Percelay (106) each won a title for the first time.
Their winning efforts, along with second-place finishes from sophomore Matthew Garcia (126), senior James Swentzel (160) and senior Reece Muldoon (182) plus third-place finishes from senior Joe Arbolino (152) and senior Jack Morelli (285), helped the Lions put up an astounding 256.5 points to cruise to their fourth district team championship and first since 1981. The Lions, who last won a title in the old District 14, beat out second-place Jefferson (171.5) for the title.
More importantly, they had 12 wrestlers qualify for the Region 1 Tournament, which starts Wednesday, continues on Friday and concludes next Saturday at West Milford High School.
Coming off winning their first state title since 1994 by winning the Non-Public B championship last Sunday, the Lions kept their success rolling in the first portion of the state individual tournament.
The Lions had 12 of their 13 wrestlers competing in districts make the semifinals. Then, Rotunda, Brown, Robbie Garcia, Aragona, Ventresca, Sement, Percelay, Matthew Garcia, Swentzel and Muldoon each punched their ticket to the finals with impressive wins. Out of the 10, nine of them won either by pin, technical fall or major decision.
When it came time for the finals, the Lions showed their dominance.
Percelay, Ventresca and Sement kicked it off with three straight wins, as Percelay and Ventresca each won by injury default over Butler’s Ben Bariso and Jefferson’s Austin Jack, respectively, while Sement scored a 5-0 victory over Butler’s Randy Wyble. Percelay held a 2-0 lead on Bariso before Bariso defaulted 41 seconds into the bout to give Percelay his first title, while Ventresca had a 9-1 lead on Jack before Jack defaulted in 2:31 to allow Ventresca to repeat as the champ at 113.
Two bouts later, Rotunda rolled his way into the history books by decking Tripodi. In doing so, Rotunda pushed his school-record career win total to 122 victories, a mark he set this year after surpassing Unkert’s previous record of 109.
Following Rotunda was Aragona, who got back on top of the podium by posting a 25-10 technical-fall victory over Kittatinny’s Mike Callahan. Last year, Aragona finished third at 120 in the district after winning the 106-pound title as a freshman.
After Aragona was Robbie Garcia, who became a two-time winner and Pope John’s sixth winner on the day by earning a 5-1 decision over Kittatinny’s Perry Maio. Garcia had won a title at 126 as a freshman and finished second at 132 last year.
Brown capped the Lions’ crew of champions by beating returning state qualifier Justin Randzio of Jefferson, 9-1, for his third title. Brown had also won titles at 182 and 220, respectively.
As for Matthew Garcia, Swentzel and Muldoon, they competed hard, but came up short in their matches in the finals. Swentzel dropped a 5-2 decision to Northern Highlands’ Anthony Sciuto, while Garcia got pinned by Butler’s Brandon Wyble in 1:35 and Muldoon was pinned by Kittatinny’s Zach Mafaro in 3:49.
As for Arbolino and Morelli, they punched their tickets to Region 1 with wins in the third-place consolations. Abolino made it at 152 by earning a 6-4 win over Northern Highlands’ Edmond Iannell, while Morelli made it at heavyweight by pinning Butler’s Elias Tadros in 3:03.
District 2 Tournament
Team results: 1. Pope John (PJ) 256.5, 2. Jefferson (J) 171.5, 3. Kittatinny (K) 168, 4. Butler (B) 114, 5. Northern Highlands (NH) 80, 6. Wayne Hills (WH) 55, 7. Kinnelon (Kin) 53, 8. Pequannock (P) 45, 9. New Milford (NM) 27, 10. Tenafly (T) 0
106: Shane Percelay (PJ) inj., default Ben Bariso (B), 0:41
113: Eddie Ventresca (PJ) inj., default Austin Jack (J), 2:31
120: Kaya Sement (PJ) dec. Randy Wyble (B), 5-0
126: Brandon Wyble (B) pin. Matthew Garcia (PJ), 1:35
132: Jake Rotunda (PJ) pin. Ryan Tripodi (J), 1:10
138: JoJo Aragona (PJ) tech. fall. Mike Callahan (K), 25-10 (4:58)
145: Robbie Garcia (PJ) dec. Perry Maio (K), 5-1
152: Calvin Brook (K) dec. Robert Ferucci, 3-1
160: Anthony Sciuto (NH) dec. James Swentzel (PJ), 5-2
170: Gabriel Robles (NH) maj. dec. Shane Connolly (J), 15-5
182: Zach Mafaro (K) pin. Reece Muldoon (PJ), 3:49
195: Jake Brown (PJ) maj. dec. Justin Randzio (J), 9-1
220: Jacob Mafaro (K) pin. Peter Dellechiaie (WH), 2:08
285: Ryan Smith (Kin) dec. Jake Carnevale (J), 8-2
106: Patrick Franco (K) pin. Luke Ciampa (J), 4:59
113: Aidan Broderick (WH) dec. Julian Amadio (B), 3-2
120: Mike Nelson (K) dec. Anthoni Limaxes (NM), 4-2
126: Julian Cardone (Kin) dec. Devin Iannelli (NH), 4-1
132: Paul Dimarco (NM) pin. Joe Carmichael (P), 1:40
138: Mason Godfrey (J) pin. Marc Anthony Federicki (B), 3:33
145: Mike Jack (J) dec. Jacob LoCascio (Kin), 9-6
152: Joe Arbolino (PJ) dec. Edmond Iannelli (NH), 6-4
160: Rob Ortense (J) pin. Shane Smith (K), 0:49
170: Josh Hiler (K) pin. Nicolas DiVirgilio (WH), 1:20
182: Josh Fane (B) pin. Joe Leszczynkski (P), 2:50
195: Gabe Dellechiaie (WH) dec. Jackson Crawn (K), 7-5 (OT)
220: Jason Burklow (P) dec. Jason Boucher (J), 3-2
285: Jack Morelli (PJ) pin. Elias Tadros (B), 3:03