TCNJ-bound wrestler to use experience gained from “setbacks”

Petaccia to continue wrestling career in college

Petaccia+will+continue+his+wrestling+career+at+The+College+of+New+Jersey+%28TCNJ%29+this+fall.

Matt Austin

Petaccia will continue his wrestling career at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) this fall.

Ethan Perlman, Sports Writer

(Editor’s Note: The PV Student Publication will be releasing feature stories on senior athletes at Pascack Valley who will be continuing their athletic careers in college. A signing ceremony for these athletes was scheduled to take place in the fall; however, it was pushed back due to COVID-19 concerns and other conflicts. Five athletes will partake in the ceremony held on April 23, while there will be another ceremony in May for the remaining college-bound athletes.)

The transition from high school to college is a big adjustment for all high school seniors, but Luke Petaccia is looking forward to wrestling at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in the fall, anticipating a great opportunity to meet new people and improve his skills.

“I am most looking forward to being on the team, getting close with people and making new friends,” Petaccia said.

Petaccia was attracted to TCNJ because of its respected wrestling program, and will not be the only Pascack Valley graduate on the team next year. Petaccia and fellow PV senior Tyler Pizzi will both be attending TCNJ, although they did not coordinate their decisions.

This is nothing new for the duo, being that they have wrestled together for many years, spending a tremendous amount of time together on the mat.

“Since third or fourth grade, [Pizzi and I] were the two that were in the district finals, so we were always close,” Petaccia said. “We both wanted to wrestle at TCNJ and saw the benefits of TCNJ and it was just a coincidence that we ended up there.”

TCNJ’s interest in Petaccia may have begun as a result of his performance in high school, specifically when he reached the New Jersey state tournament as a junior in 2020.

“[TCNJ] Coach [Joe] Galante and I spoke last year at the state wrestling tournament in Atlantic City when Luke was wrestling there,” PV coach Tom Gallione said. “He liked what he saw with Luke wrestling [at the state tournament] last year.”

Luke Petaccia and teammate Tyler Pizzi will both be wrestling at The College of New Jersey next year after both completing their final season at PV in 2021. (Matt Austin)

Petaccia and Pizzi will not be Valley’s only connections to the TCNJ wrestling program, as assistant coach Steve Schneider wrestled at TCNJ himself and was instrumental in Petaccia’s recruiting process.

“Schneider had spoken to his former coach a lot about Luke,” Gallione said. “It was good to have coach Schneider there helping out and being that middle-man between Luke and coach Galante.”

Gallione has little doubt that Petaccia will be able to succeed at the next level, given his style of wrestling and his work ethic on the mat.

“I think Luke is going to have a tremendous college career,” Gallione said. “The ceiling is only going to be higher for him when he gets to TCNJ.”

It was clear that Petaccia had the ability to wrestle in college early on, after Gallione saw his skills improve drastically in the practice room.

“I saw [Petaccia] step into our [practice] room as a freshman, and then each year get better and better,” Gallione said. “If this was something he committed to, which he really did, [I knew] he could wrestle at the next level.”

Throughout his high school career, Petaccia was forced to find ways to recover after losing important matches, a skill that Gallione believes will serve him well in the future.

“Dealing with adversity and competing and battling through that adversity is probably one of [Petaccia’s] best qualities,” Gallione said. “To have that competitiveness and that mentality to bounce back after a tough loss.”

Petaccia understands the importance of being resilient, and that there is no way to avoid hard times in wrestling.

“Everyone has setbacks [and] everyone has injuries,” Petaccia said. “Losing big matches or heartbreakers that you really wanted to win can get your confidence down.” Petaccia said.

Despite reaching the collegiate level, Petaccia still has some regrets about his work ethic in his early high school years – a lesson that he will certainly take to the next level.

“At the start of my career I did not know I would be [this] good, so I think if I trained [harder] in my freshman, sophomore and junior years I would be a lot better,” Petaccia said.

Petaccia’s high school career is over, but not without some fond memories for him to look back on. The TCNJ commit remembers running out with the team before meets, and Valley’s win over Pascack Hills in the 2020 season will always stick around in his mind.

Although this season was stricken with COVID-19 guidelines, the wrestling team was still able to get on the mat, and Petaccia is thankful to have the chance to wrestle in his senior year at PV.

Petaccia is looking forward to moving on from PV and reaching the next step in his wrestling career.