Three Indians to wrestle for glory

Natelli, Beyer, Chiellini to compete at NJSIAA State Championships


Curstine Guevarra

Matt Beyer wrestles Dylan Barry of Demarest. Beyer won by a major decision (8-0).

Jeremy Lesserson, Sports Writer

Pascack Valley holds three wrestlers in the upcoming state tournament in Atlantic City. Robbie Natelli, Matt Beyer, and Tommy Chiellini all advanced after placing in the Region 1 tournament. Natelli and Chiellini are wrestling in the state tournament for the first time, while Beyer is getting his second shot at placing in the tournament after making it last year with a third place finish at 132 in the Region 1 tournament. Here are the three Indian wrestlers looking to come back to Hillsdale with a medal:

120: Natelli

He is the No. 23 in the tournament and faces the No. 10 seed in the first round, Matthew Armamento (39-1) of Roselle Park. He was the top seed in the Region 4 Tournament.  He was down 6-1 before making up the six from back points and an escape, winning the match 7-6. The winner will likely have Phillipsburg junior Travis Jones in the next round.

Natelli wrestled for most of the year at 126, but dropped down to 120 for the postseason after regular Tyler Pizzi was lost for the season to a knee injury.

“Robbie got a 100 wins, and I’m happy that Robbie was able to get the chance to keep competing. It couldn’t have happened to a greater kid,” Coach Tom Gallione said.

In the bottom half of the draw with Natelli is No. 2 seed Antonio Mininno (35-0), a state champion at 113 in 2017. The top seed is Joe Manchio of Seneca (40-0), who placed eighth in the state at 113 in 2017. In 2016, Manchio was the state champion at 106.

“I think the first weekend at District was a little tough since he hasn’t wrestled at that weight all year. But now he’s used to it. When it comes to seeding, he doesn’t have a lot of head to head matchups with a lot of these guys in that weight class. He only had one or two common opponents where some guys like Matt and Tommy have six or seven guys they’ve wrestled.

138: Beyer

Beyer (24-6) is the No. 13 seed here and faces the No. 20 seed Connor Kraus (31-5) of St. Augustine Prep, a Catholic School in South Jersey, in the first round. He was second place in the Region 8 tournament, as he lost to top seeded and reigning state champion Quinn Kinner (39-0) of Kingsway.

The winner would likely face Kennedy-Iselin’s Aaron Coleman (32-2). Interestingly, Coleman was seeded No. 4 in the Region 4 tournament. In the semifinals, he stunned No. 1 Andrew Gapas (34-2) of North Hunterdon and went on to beat the No. 2 seeded Christophe Fuschetto (21-2) of Johnson Regional in the finals. Gapas placed eighth in the state last year while he and Fuschetto are currently seeded No. 5 and No. 17, respectively, in this bracket.

Aside from an absolutely stacked Region 4, No. 3 seeded Joseph Aragona (37-1) from Pope John bested Beyer to claim Region 1 champion. The only chance that Beyer would have to avenge his loss to Aragona is to meet him in the finals. Beyer has one of the tougher weight classes in the tournament.

“Matt’s got a loaded weight class, but he’s one of those kids that makes it tough as well. He’s been there before, so that’s a good thing. He’s been in that atmosphere before, so that’s not going to be new to him. He’s had a great year after his injury and we’ll see,” Gallione said.

160: Chiellini

Chiellini (37-3) is the No. 10 seed in the state after winning the Region 1 tournament. He will match up against No. 23 Matt Benedetti (34-8) of Manalapan. Benedetti was third in Region 6. The winner would likely face No. 7 Garrett Bilgrav (33-4) of Robbinsville, who placed second in Region 6. Bilgrav lost to the State Tournament No. 2 seeded Robert Kanniard of Wall in the Region tournament final.

Other opponents in Chiellini’s draw include Hasbrouck Heights’s Matthew Dallara (35-3), who defeated Chiellini in the Bergen County Tournament in December. Dallara placed second in Region 2. Another familiar face is Piscataway’s Michael Petite (34-1), who defeated Chiellini in their dual match on Jan. 20. Petite (34-1) placed first in Region 5 and also placed fourth in the state last year. Dallara and Petite are seeded No. 6 and No. 4, respectively. The No. 1 seeded Shane Griffith (34-1) of Bergen Catholic placed second in the state last year and was the champion in 2016 and 2015 at 138 and 132, respectively.

“I think you could eventually see a rematch (with Dallara) with where Tommy’s placed. He lost to a few tough kids in his bracket but he also beat a handful. Kid from Ridgewood, (Northern Highlands’ Anthony) Sciuto, (Kyle) Jacob from Paramus. They all had great weekend at the regions in West Milford. If they can just keep that going, they can all be standing on the podium,” Gallione said.

Coach Gallione’s Bottom Line: “Inside they’re all competitors. They all want to make it to the podium. It’s nice to make it down there, it’s a great atmosphere, one of the best settings in all of high school athletics. But I think now that they’re there, their mindset isn’t just ‘Hey, we’re here, let’s have fun.’ They want to place, and I think that should be the mindset. They obviously placed in a real tough region, so their mindset should be ‘we want to get to the podium.’”