St. Peter’s Prep opens season in model with win over West Essex

Even with a handful of parents in the stands, the muffled noise that bounced off the walls of the St. Peter Prep gym was deafening.

The combination of buzzer, whistle and coaches yelling back and forth made the season opener on Saturday a long overdue reunion for the wrestlers.

The sound was a different experience.

Almost everything else, however, stayed the same.

St. Peter’s Prep drew on veteran experience and a formidable debut for a freshman in a 37:18 win over West Essex on Saturday morning in Jersey City.

The win was St. Peter’s first in “The Barn” in over a year after the pandemic delayed the start of the season until March 16. A midweek rejection against Hoboken added a few extra days, but the Saturday performance was well worth the wait.

“I’m just so happy for them to have this and the opportunity to wrestle,” said Anthony Verdi, St. Peter’s prep coach. “It seems like 400 days since we last met.

“I knew they were excited yesterday and I knew that today they were happy to be here and have fun. This puts things into perspective because that’s how it should be. It should be fun. “

Starting with a fall of sophomore Donovan Chavis at 120 pounds in the first period, St. Peter’s Prep scored five straight wins from Pat Adams (126), Jonathan Fuller (132), Sean Rendeiro (138) and Felix Lettini (145) to take control of the game after West Essex took the lead 12-9 in the first five fights.

Fuller won the fight of the day in his first high school match and took a 3-2 win over West Essex junior Rick Cassidy, a finalist in the Essex County tournament last season, in the second tiebreaker.

After the bout went 2-2 in overtime, Fuller got the point in tiebreaker one after Cassidy was hit with his second stall call. Neither of the two wrestles could escape in extra time.

“That was a big win for us and a big shift in dynamics,” said Verdi. “That started a little for us.”

Verdi said Fuller should be on the radar of wrestling fans across the country.

“He had a lot of success and the level of youth and middle school,” said Verdi. “He’s in a situation where we’re going to put him on the line-up with a couple of different weights, but he’s going to perform for us. He is a really talented boy and he will have a bright future. “

With four qualifiers in the bottom weights, Verdi said finding the right spots for his excellence was a good problem. In total, St. Peter Prep returns five state qualifiers from 106-145.

That group Saturday turned out to be too much for a team from West Essex, which are similarly strong in the lower half of their lineup.

Adams hit a 5-3 decision over Mike Pescatore while Chavis, Reindero and Lettini won with bonus points. Chavis and Reindero won in the fall, while Lettini made a 9-0 decision over Carson Barry, last year’s Essex County champion at 132.

Verdi said he thought his team’s conditioning helped St. Peter Prep win. Jake Talarico made a decision at 106 while Roger Diaz and Antonio Villatoro finished the game with decisions at 170 and 182 respectively.

West Essex (2-1) competed on Saturday with wins against Clifton and Livingston.

St. Peter Prep (1-0) returns against Bayonne on Tuesday, while West Essex try to get back on their feet in Verona on Wednesday.

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Patrick Lanni can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ PatLanniHS and like his Facebook site.