St. Joseph’s wins BCCA tournament by Sean Farrell of The Record
HACKENSACK – Maybe this is the night that starts the dynasty.
Sammy Alvarez turned in another golden effort, while St. Joseph turned Bergen County green through its impressive display of wrestling. The Green Knights took home the title at Friday’s BCCA Holiday Wrestling Tournament and produced three individual champions. Joe Manno and Justin Bierdumpfel followed Alvarez into the winners’ circle as the Green Knights held off Emerson/Park Ridge and Don Bosco.
The victory marked the program’s first Bergen County title in 20 years and could be a sign of things to come.
“It’s the start of something,” said Bierdumpfel, a champion at 120. “This motivates us as a team to continue in future tournaments and future matches. This team has really high goals. I have high goals as an individual, but this team wants to win.”
The Green Knights sent 11 wrestlers to the podium to run away with 221 points. Emerson/Park Ridge finished second with 177.5 points, while Don Bosco and Pascack Valley took the next two spots.
The Cavos were able to keep the race interesting with first-place finishes from Nick Babin (113), Luke Mazzeo (138) and Zach Lewis (195). Mazzeo, whose career record stands at 126-12, distinguished himself as the first three-time champ since 2015 and only the second in Cavo history.
The weekend was also memorable for Dumont and Pascack Valley, who both produced their first champion since 2001. The Huskies’ Gianni Manginelli reached the top of the podium at 126, while the Indians’ Tommy Chiellini and Matt Beyer were also first-time winners.
The overall scoring race was won and lost even before the championship round. The Green Knights led all teams with nine in the semifinals and six in the finals.
“It’s a good building block,” said Alvarez, a North Carolina State signee. “We have a really productive team and it’s not just two or three guys scrapping.”
Bergen County wrestling: BCCA weight-by-weight finals results
Alvarez is the face of the program as a two-time state finalist and embraced the challenge of bumping up to 132. He wanted to help his team and was determined to entertain the fans at Hackensack High School. His creative set of moves was certainly on display in a 23-11 semifinal win over Ramapo’s Mike Simone and returned in the championship. His 112th career win came in a decision over fellow returning champion, Trent Furman of Westwood.
“I just wanted to put a show on for the crowd,” Alvarez said. “I try not to worry about the score and what’s going on. I try to let loose and do cool moves and get the ooh’s and ah’s. If I’m up by four or six, it makes no difference.”
The Green Knights hope this can be a stepping stone to becoming a state and national power. The team made strides last year at the BCCA Tournament and built on that momentum weeks later with a Sam Cali title. Friday’s scores showed once again that the Montvale school has become a top destination for good wrestlers. There was even some chatter during the event that they could be the next Bergen Catholic, a team that ranked No. 1 nationally as recently as last season.
“We have a lot of momentum on our side,” coach Tom Farinaro said. “We’re still finding our way, but we’re growing and building. I think we have a lot of upsides.”
Last season was the turning point for the Green Knights’ program. The roster doubled in size and the school opened a new wrestling room under AD and then-coach Damion Logan. St. Joseph reaped the rewards Friday with Stefano Sgambellone, Craig Manno and Jack Farinaro among a balanced and young group of scorers.
“It’s the way these kids work,” Tom Farinaro said. “I’m really proud of how they come in the room every day and train. They’re a true team in the way they come together. They coach each other. It’s infectious. They come and want to see each other do well.”