Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Warriors

After I spent a scintillating morning at the office, yesterday afternoon I accompanied Margaret and Joe over to South Plainfield. Our little town was well-represented in the stands. And we were even better represented on the mat. Frank at 189 and his teammate Tommy Morelli at 130 both placed second in the District 12 tournament, which earned each of them the opportunity to continue on their journey to Atlantic City. Next stop is Tuesday night in Union at the first round of the Region 3 tournament. A win on Tuesday night and they live to fight on Friday night. A loss and the season is over. Each is a senior. A loss Tuesday night ends not simply a season but a career as well. I am admittedly biased but I fully anticipate that each will still be standing Friday night.

As senior co-captains, it seems entirely appropriate that they are each serving as the other's wing man. And given their role as leaders of their team it is nice that they shall be joined on Tuesday night by one of their younger teammates. Jesse Deene is making his first-ever trip to Region 3. Hopefully he will so enjoy the experience that next year, when the void left by Frank and Tom's graduation needs to be filled, he will build upon it to fill that void for his teammates.

This time of year, as the number of kids still competing for the home team is winnowed down to just three. It makes it easier to adopt other kids from other schools for whom to cheer. Yesterday afternoon we cheered loudly for the several kids from Watchung Hills who were finalists in a number of weight classes. Included among their number was Ryan's cousin Mike who lost a very entertaining, competitive final at 140 pounds. He will be competing Tuesday night in Union too. A bit less pressure on him though. He is an eleventh grader. Regardless of what happens Tuesday night, he figures to have one more opportunity next year.

Among the kids I root for the hardest is one who will not be in action Tuesday night in Union - and that too is a good thing. I like to refer to my old friend Matt Albano as the man who my parents wanted me most to be like when I grew up. As luck would have it, after not seeing Matt in a number of years, I reconnected with him through wrestling. Frank is the same age as Matt's son and namesake, who wrestles for Delbarton. Delbarton and Middlesex both wrestle in Region 3. As freshman both Matt and Frank qualified for the Region 3 tournament and lost in the Tuesday night single-elimination portion of the competition. Last year as juniors both advanced out of Region 3 to the State Championships in Atlantic City.

As I understand it from talking to Matt (the Dad), this season has been a tough one for Matt (the Son). He has missed time due to injury on more than one occasion. He entered his weekend's district tournament - Delbarton wrestles in District 9 - as the #4 seed at 125 pounds. Saturday afternoon, after dispatching the weight class's top seed in the semi-finals, he defeated the #2 seed to win his second consecutive District 9 championship. His reward? Tuesday night off.

Overall, a successful weekend for warriors of varying ages, weights and sizes. One down and with any luck two more to go.

-AK

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