PISCATAWAY, NJ – Rutgers University wrestling head coach John Sacchi has announced his 10-member recruiting class for the 2004-05 season. He welcomes six New Jersey standouts, along with two New York, one Connecticut and one Illinois scholastic product, in the fall. Highlighting the class is a four-time, three-time and two-time New Jersey State place-winner and an Illinois, a Connecticut and New England State Champion along with two New York State place-winners.
“We are really pleased with this class,” said Sacchi. “We filled some needs and combined with last year’s class, gives us a solid nucleus of young talent which will help us to maintain our position in the very competitive EIWA Conference.”
Joining the Scarlet Knights beginning in the fall of 2004 are Andrew Cardella (Baldwin, NY), Chris DeSena (Howell, NJ), Brandon Dobnick (Sandwich, IL), Ryan McCann (Toms River, NJ), Kyle Milanese (Delran, NJ), Bryan Nunziato (East Rutherford, NJ), Robert Orleski (Johnson City, NY), John Slevin (Montclair, NJ), Brandon Stavola (Bethany, CT) and Michael Whalen (Lake Hiawatha, NJ).
Cardella ended his senior season with a sixth-place showing in the New York State Championships. A product of Baldwin High School, he was ranked eighth in the state at 130 pounds. Cardella will look to compete at 133 pounds with the Scarlet Knights next season.
DeSena was a New Jersey State Qualifier last season for Howell High School. He lost to Andrew Jackson of Pennsville in the state tournament. He was a Third Team All-Shore selection by the Asbury Park Press at 215 pounds this past winter. DeSena placed third at the NJSIAA Region VI Tournament, punching his ticket to the state championship in Atlantic City. He finished the season with a 27-5 individual record. DeSena will look to compete at 197 pounds with the Scarlet Knights next season.
A product of Sandwich High School in Illinois, Dobnick won the Class A, 152-pound state title this past winter, defeating Gabe Brown by an 11-4 decision in the championship bout. He finished with a 34-9 individual record last season, leading the Indians to a 23-0 record. Dobnick was ranked second in the state in several polls.
McCann was a New Jersey state qualifier out of Toms River North High School and an Asbury Park Press Third Team pick last winter. He dropped a close, 8-7 decision to Brandon Tims of Rancocas Valley in the state tournament. He ended his season 26-7 overall. McCann competed at 171 pounds last season, but will bulk up to 184 for the Scarlet Knights next winter.
Milanese is a three-time state place-winner, finishing fifth in 2002 and 2003 and third in 2004 at 119 pounds. He defeated Bryan Tracy of Paulsboro, 3-1, at 119 pounds to take home third place in the New Jersey State Tournament. He is also ranked 30th nationally at 119 pounds in the Wrestling USA high school senior rankings released in early May.
Nunziato placed in the top four of the New Jersey state championships all four years, including runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2003. A Bergen Catholic product, Nunziato finished fourth in the state tournament his freshman and senior years. He ranked 30th in the Wrestling USA All-Class high school poll at 125 pounds this past season. Among senior wrestlers, Nunziato was ranked 17th nationally. Nunziato will compete at 125 pounds for RU next season.
Orleski placed third at the New York State Championships last season. A native of Johnson City, NY, Orleski competed at 171 pounds at the high school level. He will compete at either 174 or 184 pounds for the Scarlet Knights next winter.
Slevin, a product of St. Benedict’s Prep, was not eligible to compete in the New Jersey state championships as his school did not participate in the state tournament. He had tremendous success at the Prep level, finishing as a National Prep runner-up. Slevin will compete at heavyweight for Rutgers next season.
Stavola shared Connecticut’s Wrestler of the Year award, voted on by the state’s coaches association, this past season. The 135-pound wrestler won the Class LL and State Open title and was the only wrestler from the state of Connecticut to win a New England title. He had just one blemish to his record this past season, finishing 49-1. Stavola ended his career at Amity High School with a 161-22 mark. He led his school to a 24-3 overall finish and 9-0 mark in the Southern Connecticut Conference, winning the regular season and tournament titles. He is ranked 28th among the national senior class by Wrestling USA. Stavola will compete at either 133 or 141 pounds for Rutgers next season.
Whalen, of Parsippany High School, was a runner-up in the New Jersey State Championship this past season after losing to Vince Jones of Winslow in the state title bout. As a junior, Whalen placed fifth in the state. He won the Region 3 championship in 2003-2004, taking home Outstanding Wrestler honors. The 171-pounder is ranked 25th nationally in Wrestling USA’s senior class. He will look to compete at 174 pounds for the Scarlet Knights next winter.
Rutgers completed its 2003-04 season 10-4 overall and 5-1 in the EIWA. The Scarlet Knights placed fourth at the EIWA Championships, sending three members to the NCAA Championships where they finished 46th at Nationals.