Every summer, hundreds of young wrestlers from across the country descend on Fargo, N.D., with their own objectives. Improving their attack while getting a chance to battle distant rivals at the USA Wrestling Cadet Greco and Freestyle Nationals is pretty much the most popular of the reasons.
Voorhees sophomore 113-pounder Kyle DiNapoli was one of many from New Jersey to make the trip last July. What he has accomplished so far this season is an indication that the experience wasn’t done in vain.
DiNapoli is the top seed at 113 pounds for Saturday’s District 17 Tournament at the Hunterdon Central Fieldhouse. Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. with finals to start about 4 p.m.
He was the No. 2 seed at 106 to Hunterdon Central’s Kyler Rodriguez last year, but was beaten 9-6 in the semifinals by North Hunterdon’s third-seeded Paul Robinson, who beat Rodriguez for the title. DiNapoli finished 26-12, but comes into the districts at 27-4 this season.
A breakthrough came in the 24-hour period spanning Jan. 10 and 11 when he lost to Delaware Valley freshman Matt Kolonia 11-10 in a Friday night dual meet, then beat Kolonia 6-3 the next day on his way to a Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament title. DiNapoli, fifth at the tournament last season, beat Pope John XIII top-seeded senior Austin Cisco 9-4 for the title. Cisco is 27-3.
“Kyle has become even better on his feet and improved especially on bottom,” said Voorhees coach Eric Hall. “He has great preparation and focus. We anticipate him to have a good postseason.
“We knew that Kyle was a hard worker and good athlete,” added Hall. “We did not anticipate him becoming this good that quickly. He really trains hard and takes wrestling very seriously.”
He has won nine straight bouts since a 3-1 dual meet loss to Somerville’s Evan Drill (29-1). The two know each other well and have drilled together.
“Kyle got caught in Evan’s best move, next time we can’t let this happen,” Hall said.
Next time is likely to happen sometime next week. The chance of them seeing each other at the Region V is likely. Drill is the top seed at District 18.
“He’s good on his feet,” said Drill. “We have the same style as it’s always been close. He’s technically better this year, and he’s a lot bigger than he was at 106.”
DiNapoli loves freestyle, but it’s at the National Cadet Greco Tournament that he really flourished. He was 5-2 with a fall, making it into the top 12.
“It was the biggest stage, the biggest tournament I’d ever been to; there was like 25 mats,” said DiNapoli. “There was a lot of talent; I adapted to it and I relied on my throws.”
The experience will be something he can count on if he can get to the NJSIAA Tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, where first-night jitters in the buzzing atmosphere has toppled more than a few good wrestlers.
First there’s the districts where Princeton freshman James Verbyst (22-5) is the No. 2 seed and Kolonia third. DiNapoli majored Verbyst 9-1 in a Jan. 4 dual meet.
“I just have to stay hungry,” DiNapoli said.