After last year's successful season on the mat, River Dell head coach Mike Tota is hoping to see his wrestlers continue to improve during the off season - and the first step they had to take was to overcome not only some of the best wrestlers in Northern New Jersey but also their own personal difficulties during the first night of the River Dell Duals.
"The goal is to get everyone some good competition for their level and good matches," Tota said. "With 14 schools here I think that will happen."
Aside from the Golden Hawks, wrestlers from across Bergen and Passaic Counties descended upon five mats at the Oradell regional school and will remain for the next two evenings as they continue to hone their skills against one another.
Last winter River Dell posted a 16-2 record during the regular season, sent three athletes to the District 8 and Region 2 finals and then finally to Atlantic City. While the trio of Nick Baranello, Lenny Smith and DJ Tirelli all earned District and Region titles, the ultimate individual state title eluded each of them although Tirelli and Baranello will have another shot this season. Smith graduated this May along with fellow teammates Brian Coyman, Andrew Pohl, John McLaughlin and John Dickson who each brought different experience to the mat.
"I want to see everyone improve a little because now we can focus on the individiual and the team as a whole during the season," Tota said. "I want to see them step up from where they were last year and for different guys that means different things."
Instead Tota will rely on returning starters such as Brendan Campbell, DJ Tirelli, Tyler Kallensee, Danny Lynch, Nick Baranello, Nick Siegel, Ethan Hartman, Cenzo Cariddi, Dylan Mitchell and John Buller to lead the way in the highly competitive Big North Patriot Division.
On Tuesday, River Dell will face Ramsey (5pm), Northern Highlands (6pm) and Leonia-Palisades Park (8pm) followed by Wednesday's matches against Ridgewood (7pm) and Emerson-Park Ridge (8pm). All of the Hawks competitions will take place in the upper gymnasium.