Joe Manchio looking to make history after recovery from knee injury

About nine months after suffering a torn ACL, Manchio was back on the mat for Seneca High School with a chance to become the winningest wrestler in South Jersey history.

Seneca High School senior Joe Manchio has achieved a lot in his high school career.

Manchio is the greatest wrestler in Seneca High School history, holding the school’s records in wins and pins. He has been a regional champion in all three seasons of his high school career and won the 106-pound state championship in 2016, becoming the first Golden Eagle to ever win a state title.

This season, however, Manchio faces his toughest challenge yet. At last year’s state tournament, Manchio suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the wrestleback rounds. Nine months after the injury, Manchio was back on the mat for Seneca, aiming to make history in his final high school season.

Manchio entered the 2017–18 season with 122 career wins, just 39 away from the all-time South Jersey record of 161 that was set by Matt Correnti of Holy Cross High School in 2016. Manchio has averaged more than 40 wins per season his first three years, making the record well within reach.

“I would be really hyped about that,” Manchio said. “I think I have to stay consistent. Just wrestle like I know how. I have to have my heart in every match.”

Manchio said recovering from the knee injury was the hardest thing he ever did in his wrestling career. He still recalls vividly what happened when the injury occurred.

“Honestly, it didn’t hurt,” Manchio said about the injury. “It just swelled up and I just filled with emotion. I was just devastated it had to happen like that. I never got hurt before. I knew something was wrong.”

At first, there was some doubt as to whether Manchio would be ready for his senior season. He said doctors gave him all sorts of timelines ranging from nine months to a year. Manchio’s recovery from the injury began before he even had surgery.

“Before I even got surgery. I had to go to pre-rehab,” he said. “When I tore my ACL, it shot up into my knee cap. I couldn’t straighten my knee and I needed 100 percent range of motion before I got surgery.”

Following surgery, Manchio began working his way back to full health. He did some physical therapy, but said most of the rehab process took place at home.

“The first three months were pretty rough as I started to get back into things,” Manchio said. “A lot of single leg squats, a lot of stretching. It was a lot of core and single leg stuff.”

Manchio’s hard work during the offseason paid off and he was ready to wrestle again when Seneca held its first practice in late November. The preseason was the first time Manchio was wrestling on a regular basis against on his surgically repaired knee.

“My first practice, I flew through it, I was doing great. The next day, I woke up, can’t move it, stiff,” he said.

“I just jumped into wrestling every single day and running every single day,” Manchio added. “I think that took a toll on it.”

All of the challenges with recovering from an injury motivated Manchio even more in what could be a history-making season. In addition to breaking the South Jersey wins record, Manchio is also hoping to become a four-time regional champion and is aiming for a second career state title.

After all of the struggles he went through recovering from his injury, Manchio said he has all the motivation he needs for the 2017–18 season.

“After not wrestling for nine months, my motivation is through the roof,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”