Fort Lee Falters in Wrestling Home Opener
Cliffside Park scores the final 38 team points in the 50-19 victory.
With the lights dimmed and the crowd filling nearly every seat in the gym, the Fort Lee Bridgemen wrestling team took to the mats for their home opener against Cliffside Park Wednesday night.
Before the match, junior Demir Radoncic pumped up the Bridgemen with chants of "Let's go," and "Go hard!" Most of the wrestlers said they were excited to wrestle in front of the home crowd, and some even admitted to being a bit nervous.
"I had some pregame jitters," said senior Anatoliy Alkazov.
Freshman wrestler Devin Sokolicn went even further with describing the atmosphere.
"Scary," Sokolicn said. "[The] heart was racing, blood was pumping."
But the final message from Radoncic may have set the tone for an early Fort Lee advantage.
"They don't come into our house and disrespect us," Radoncic yelled.
With that, the tone was set, and the night was underway with a 3-0 Fort Lee lead.
Alkazov wrestled in the opening match, earning late points for the early advantage.
"I didn't think I wrestled my best," said the senior wrestler. "After I got thrown on my back, and I fought off, that gave me a lot of confidence. If I fought back from that, then I could fight back."
But the Red Raiders returned with back-to-back pins in the 160 and 171 weight classes to go ahead 12-3. Following the 171 pound match, Fort Lee wrestler Thomas Tantillo vomited on the mat, forcing a delay of several minutes.
"Throw-up I've never seen," said Fort Lee trainer Tom Hur, after cleaning up the mess.
Out of the delay, the Bridgemen struck for 17 consecutive points to re-gain the lead.
Freshman Devin Sokolicn earned the last points of the run in a large decision over Cliffside's freshman wrestler Aaron Moon at 103.
"Devin is great," said Bridgemen head coach Alex Almeyda. "He finally wrestled someone his weight; he's soaking wet ninety points. And seeing him wrestle someone his weight was great."
But after that match, Fort Lee failed to earn any team points the remainder of the evening. Trailing 19-12, the Cliffside Park Red Raiders earned the final 38 points of the match in the Wednesday night victory.
"We started towards our strength and the lightweights are our weakness," the Fort Lee head coach said. "Hopefully by the end of the season it won't be."
Now 0-2, the Bridgemen are already eyeing their next matchup against Dumont on Friday. It will be a different sight for coach Alex Almeyda, who will now see his junior varsity coach from last year leading the team he will be facing.
Almeyda called his good friend and new Dumont coach, Kenny MacIver, after the match and said that "your team is wrestling your team Friday night."
The matchup is now set for MacIver to see how his wrestlers from last year will fare against his wrestlers from this season. If the atmosphere is anything like it was on Wednesday, Fort Lee and Dumont will be wrestling in front of another packed gym. The match begins at 7 p.m. Friday night Fort Lee High School.