• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph wrestling continues to rebuild


St. Joseph Academy’s Gahad Hughes (top) looks to pin Schalick/Cumberland’s Alberto Rubi Leon during their match last week. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Another season of rebuilding began for St. Joseph Academy’s wrestling team last week, as the Wildcats won their opener before dropping a pair of dual meets.


St. Joe has just eight wrestlers on the roster this season, but head coach Joe Melchiore is encouraged by their progress and has high expectations for the season.


“We’re small and young, but there are some solid wrestlers here. I think the kids we put out there will compete,” Melchiore said prior to St. Joe’s match against Schalick/Cumberland last week.


St. Joseph’s roster features a sophomore and three freshmen, and many wrestlers are still learning the basics of the sport.


“Some of the kids don’t have a lot of experience, but they’re picking it up and getting better. That’s the challenge, to teach them and make them better wrestlers,” Melchiore said.


Adding to St. Joe’s issues is the fact that two of its most experienced wrestlers, juniors Bryan Butkus and P.J. Williams, both compete as heavyweights, meaning only one will be on the mat in most meets.


Last week, St. Joseph opened the season with a 36-18 win at Atlantic City.


For possibly the only time this season, the Wildcats had a larger roster than their opponents, and were able to pick up five forfeit victories. There were also five double forfeits during the meet.


There were just two matches on the mat, and at 160 pounds, freshman Nick Melchiore pinned Aryon Darji in 1:38, notching his first varsity win.


In the other contested match, Atlantic City’s Chase Calhoun took down St. Joe’s Douglas Farinaccio in 3:45.


Earning forfeit wins for the Wildcats were Anthony Cruz (145), Gahad Hughes (152), Gavin Steiner (182), Luciano Mazzeo (220) and Williams (285).


St. Joseph’s next dual meet was its home opener on March 18, where the Wildcats lost to a Schalick/Cumberland 39-22.


The meet opened at 152 pounds, where Hughes was able to score a 25-14 major decision against Alberto Rubi Leon.


Following a double forfeit at 160, Melchiore bumped up a weight class and picked up a win by injury default against David Bennett, giving the Wildcats an early 10-0 lead. At 182, Steiner was pinned, and a forfeit at 195 allowed Schalick/Cumberland to take the lead, 12-10. That lead stretched when Mazzeo lost 6-1 at 220 pounds, but Williams earned a forfeit at 285 to put St. Joe back on top 16-15.


After two double forfeits at 106 and 113 pounds, St. Joe forfeited at 120 to fall behind 21-16.


Farinaccio pinned Devin Italiano in 5:35 at 126 pounds to put St. Joe in the lead, 22-21, but the Wildcats forfeited two more matches before Schalick/Cumberland won with a pin at 145 to close the meet.


The week’s action ended on March 19 at Cedar Creek, where St. Joseph lost 51-24. The Wildcats forfeited six matches in the loss, while earning three forfeit wins.


Hughes (152), Steiner (182) and Mazzeo (220) each won by forfeit. Williams picked up six points for St. Joseph at 285, pinning Nur Ibn Al-Islam in 2:38.


This week, St. Joseph hosts Mainland at 6 p.m. on March 24, then wrestles at home again on March 26 against Vineland at 6 p.m.


St. Joseph Academy’s girls volleyball team opened its 2021 season with a pair of losses last week, falling to both Cedar Creek and Our Lady of Mercy Academy (OLMA).


The Wildcats visited Cedar Creek on March 16, and lost 2-0. The host Pirates won the first game of the match 25-9, before clinching the victory with a 25-14 win in the second game.


Three days later, St. Joe traveled to take on OLMA, and also lost that match 2-0. The Villagers rolled to a 25-3 win in the first game, then competed the sweep with a 25-5 win in the second.


No individual statistics were reported for St. Joseph in either loss.


Earlier this week, the Wildcats played at Oakcrest, but that match ended too late for this edition. On March 26, St. Joe visits Atlantic County Institute of Technology at 4 p.m.