The two wrestlers will anchor the Chiefs’ lineup this season.
Cherokee High School wrestlers Andrew Aromando and Cooper Pontelandolfo share a common goal entering the 2018–19 season.
Both of them want to be two of the last wrestlers standing in Atlantic City at the NJSIAA State Wrestling Championships in March.
That goal isn’t far-fetched for either wrestler. Aromando, a junior, made it to the state tournament at 106-pounds last year, while Pontelandolfo, a sophomore, narrowly missed making it to states at 120 pounds after having a solid freshman year for the Chiefs.
For Pontelandolfo, finishing in fifth place at the Region 7 tournament and missing states was a major disappointment. He felt he had to ability to place in the state tournament last year and dedicated this past offseason to preparing for this season.
“I did a lot of things in the offseason to prepare,” Pontelandolfo said. “I went to a couple of camps, took some time off to think, talked to my coaches and put a lot of time in the offseason to preparing my mind.”
“Last year kind of left a bad taste in his mouth,” Cherokee head coach Mike Booth said. “Throughout the year, he competed with and beat several state place winners. He’s put a lot of time in, especially this offseason.”
Pontelandolfo admitted he struggled to cut weight last year wrestling at 120 pounds. This year, Pontelandolfo will be wrestling at 138 pounds, a big jump up from last season.
“Last year, by the end of the season, I was drained,” Pontelandolfo said. “I didn’t really have fun at practice and really just focused on my weight. This year, I’m trying to cut less weight and focus more on being ready.”
Pontelandolfo worked on a number of things in the offseason, including refining his skills on the top position while also getting better from the neutral and bottom positions as well. He’s confident he’s on the right path to make a run at states this season.
“Right now, a lot of the preparation is done,” he said. “I’m just focusing on staying where I’m at, getting better during the season and peaking at states.”
Aromando also has confidence this year after getting his first taste of the state tournament in 2018. Despite reaching Atlantic City, Aromando admitted he was a little nervous in his first match, where he lost Emerson Boro High School’s Nick Babin, 13–0.
“When I got there, it was kind of surreal,” Aromando said. “My first match, I walked out there and had to take it all in. I was starstruck. My second match, I finally got into it and started to wrestle.”
Aromando would recover to win his first match in the wrestleback rounds, a victory Booth felt was important to boosting Aromando’s confidence.
“He got down to states and wasn’t expecting much,” Booth said. “He won a match and then realized, I do belong here. That’s made him hungrier for this season.”
Aromando is also changing weights this season, as he will be moving up to either 113 or 120 pounds. Aromando doesn’t see a big difference in those categories from 106, saying he will still concentrate on moving quickly on the mat.
Aromando believes he has improved most in his conditioning, saying his increased stamina has allowed him to become more dangerous late in matches.
“I think my freshman year, as I hit the third period, I would get tired and less aggressive,” Aromando said. “I think that was the difference between freshman and sophomore year because sophomore year, I was pushing the pace in the third period.
Booth has a lot of confidence in both of his wrestlers. Her believes both are capable of making runs in the state tournament and sees them as anchors for Cherokee’s lineup as the Chiefs aim to win a second straight Olympic Conference title.