PV wrestler makes splash amid first ever wrestling season


Jeremy Lesserson

Pascack Valley senior Andrew Demboski has accumulated a 20-11 record in his first season wrestling.

By Jeremy Lesserson, Pascack Valley High School

PV Senior Andrew Demboski broke the news to his parents on the morning of Nov. 4, 2018.

Just a few days after his senior season of football ended, Demboski had committed himself to wrestling. He told his parents, Lorraine and Charlie Demboski, that he was going to get breakfast with his friends. As he started to walk out, he broke the news to his family with a calm demeanor.

“As I’m walking out the door, I say, ‘by the way, I’m wrestling,’” Demboski said. “I dropped that pipe bomb and then walked out.”

The former football lineman knew that his parents would be shocked, so he wanted to let the news settle with them. After they talked about it at a subsequent time, they understood his desires and became very supportive. They come to every match.

Jeremy Lesserson

Aside from roughing around with his older and younger brother as a kid, Demboski had never wrestled prior to his senior year of high school. However, his rise to the starting 285-pounder has been quick. In his first tournament, the Lakeland Tournament, he placed third. In the Bergen County Tournament, he placed sixth. His record stands at 21-11. To him, it doesn’t seem like enough.

“To me, it’s not that amazing,” Demboski said. “I’m just working hard, trying to get the job done, trying to help the team in any way I can.”

He said he always wanted to wrestle, but his winter training for the next football season always stood in the way of another big commitment. As a senior, he no longer had that obligation, so he decided to pursue his longtime goal of wrestling.

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The transition from football to wrestling sat fairly well with him. He was already in shape from the fall, which means that he didn’t need to cut or gain weight. He said that the biggest difference between the two sports is the lack of rest in wrestling. In football, he learned how to play hard for a couple of seconds and then take a short rest. His bouts are definitely shorter than one of his football games, but there is also much less, if any, time to rest on the mat.

Demboski admitted that the hardest part about wrestling is not always knowing what moves will give him a takedown and what will give him a pin. He also isn’t quite caught up on the illegal moves, but said that he has learned a lot in a short amount of time.

“I learned that I can’t clasp while I’m on the ground,” Demboski said. “That’s something I’d do a lot in my first few matches and I’d get called for that a lot. They said that I’d have to adjust that and then I’d be good from there.”

Thus far, Demboski’s strategy has yet to work in his favor against North Bergen’s Nick Huntt. Over two months, they have already wrestled three times. The first time was in the Lakeland Tournament, then the County Tournament, and most recently the Sam Cali Tournament in West Orange. All three times he has lost, but he took away valuable lessons from each of the matches.

“My third time I tried to change it up,” Demboski said. “I tried to be more aggressive. But he knows his stuff, so he’s watching the clock knowing when to shoot. [I want to] learn a few more moves, so that next time I can execute.”

Lorraine and Charlie mentioned the impact that their son’s new commitment has on their life. They said that they’ve talked to the other parents and coaches that have taught them about the PV wrestling culture, and that they’ve been so helpful. They were also warned of the intensity of the matches. They feel pressure during the matches, but recognize how much Andrew loves the sport. Charlie said that watching the matches can be tiring itself. After watching the Sam Cali tournament, he joked that he was “physically exhausted.”

Charlie said that wrestling reaches a level of intensity that he has never witnessed before. He helped coach a lot of sports when Andrew was younger, but never with wrestling. They think the sport as a whole has shown their son “the toughness to go man versus man.”

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Coach Tom Gallione said that he has always wanted Demboski to wrestle given his physicality. He praised his strength, agility, and fluid movement.

“I’m amazed every time at certain things he can do,” Gallione said. “He’s got good footwork and he’s as strong as an ox. He’s athletic, he’s got great hips for a heavyweight. He can get out of certain situations almost like a lightweight.  He’s been a great anchor for us at the top half of the lineup.”

Demboski is reminiscent of another former PV football lineman-turned wrestler. Joe Figueroa, who graduated from PV in 2016, also wrestled only after his last football season. Both Gallione and PV football coach Len Cusumano said that playing football is a “huge” advantage when it comes to wrestling.

“Wrestling [helps in every aspect from football], and especially as a lineman,” Gallione said. “When you look at the position, they need to be his size on the mat, which is very similar to when you’re pass blocking, run-blocking, stuff like that out on the football field.”

Cusumano also said that Figueroa wishes he wrestled more. Being at that size is very helpful with the transition from football to wrestling. Cusumano said that he’s not surprised at all with Demboski’s success, and categorized him as “someone you hold in high regard.”

Demboski said that he cares most about getting “a ring on the finger.” He loves the individual aspect, but his sights are set on the team accomplishments. He wanted to reach the echelon that the team reached last year by winning the state sectionals and going to the Group Sectionals. In their first round state match against River Dell, PV won 34-27 and Demboski defeated Declan Rolle in a 0:54 pin. The Indians fell short in the semifinals of the state sectionals against Montville by a score of 34-30, but Demboski pinned his opponent Chris DeFrank in 4:31.

Overall, the support received and given has propelled Demboski to where he is now. Even though his parents were concerned about how he’d fare in the sport, he has received the help necessary.

“This is a kid brand new to a tough sport,” Gallione said. “It’s not easy, you’re going to deal with failure. And there’s nobody to look around and say ‘what happened?’. You’re the only one the mat, and for a kid that’s picking that up as a senior and been successful? [His parents] have [been supportive], always with a smile on their face no matter what happens. And that’s going to help in the long haul, so I’m happy he decided to come out.”

Demboski’s next task is the District Tournament, which starts on Saturday Feb. 16. The team currently awaits their seedings.

This story was originally published on The Smoke Signal on February 11, 2019.