Four NRHS and total of seven county wrestlers will compete in state championships this weekend
BY TONY PINCIARO
THIELLS, N.Y. – When Blaise Benderoth and many of his current North Rockland varsity wrestling teammates began with the North Rockland youth mat club, little did they know what the future would hold.
Benderoth, along with fellow 2014 Section 1 Large-School champions Matt Caputo, Nick Didio and Alex D’Angelo and placefinisher Derek DiMarsico, would eventually have a major impact on the varsity wrestling program. This nucleus would be instrumental in leading North Rockland to the head of Section 1’s wrestling class.
North Rockland recently won its second consecutive Section 1 Large School team title, outdistancing runner-up Fox Lane by 66 points (179.5-113.5 points). North Rockland also set a single-season program record with four sectional champs – D’Angelo (106 pounds), Caputo (138 pounds), Benderoth (152 pounds) and Didio (160 pounds). Overall, North Rockland had eight wrestlers place among the top six in the section.
The sectional champs qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships, Friday-Saturday, Feb. 28-March 1, at the Times-Union Center in Albany. They will be joined by fellow sectional champions John Muldoon of Pearl River and small-school winners Joe Dillon and Frankie Paratore of Nanuet.
Benderoth, who will be making his third trip to the state championships, credited North Rockland youth coach B.J. Slapp with instilling a hunger in the young wrestlers.
“Coach B.J. Slapp kept us in line and he made us little wrestling monsters so we would be ready for our varsity career,” Benderoth said. “He’s a big reason why North Rockland has become dominate in the county and section.”
North Rockland, which has monopolized the Rockland County team wrestling championship the past five years, wanted to repeat as sectional champs to reinforce a point.
“Repeating as section champs was a great feeling to know that all of the hard work the team put in during the offseason and in season has truly paid off,” Benderoth said. “It also lets everyone know that North Rockland wrestling is on the rise.”
Benderoth also cited North Rockland varsity assistant coach and former Red Raider standout, John Hoke, with impacting the program.
Winning the sectional team title gave North Rockland a wrestling hat trick as the Red Raiders also won the 2014 Rockland County championship and the Section 1 Dual-Meet Large School title.
“We feel we have the hardest practices in the section that push us mentally and physically to the fullest and JVH Performance has been a big part in making North Rockland wrestlers bigger, stronger and quicker on the mat,” said Benderoth of Hoke’s business.
North Rockland leads all large schools with four sectional champs competing in Albany. This accomplishment just adds to North Rockland’s status as Section 1’s elite team.
“We made history this year with four section champs,” Benderoth said. “This week we want to show the state what North Rockland’s best wrestlers can do.”
This will be Caputo’s fourth trip to Albany in his five-year varsity career. Caputo placed fifth in the state as an eighth-grader and has won consecutive 138-pound sectional titles. Didio and D’Angelo are first-time state participants.
Muldoon (138 pounds), who placed fourth in the state last year at 120 pounds, is a two-time sectional champ. Dillon (120 pounds) is returning for a second time to the state championships and Paratore (152 pounds) is making his first appearance.