Sports News for New Jersey Sun, 29 Mar 2015 22:18:13 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb In The Garden State and Beyond, Wrestling Is Up Off The Mat 165436852_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOE FAVORITO

A little over two years ago, wrestling as a sport was in trouble. Removed from the Olympics and struggling for relevance, what was one of the world’s oldest sports was on its way to infamy. Fast forward to today, and it looks like the sport is continuing to get up off the mat, with its best opportunities ahead with New Jersey and the area around here suddenly becoming one of the best points for growth and engagement.

This past weekend as March Madness played across a variety of channels, the NCAA Championships played out before a sellout crowd front and center on ESPN, a great opportunity to showcase the speed and style of America’s next champions before what was a surprisingly solid TV number. The interest was also buoyed by a little bounce from the popular film “Foxcatcher,” an increased partnership with the always engaged MMA community and some of its crossover stars, the expansion of the Big 10, still arguably the best overall wrestling conference, into the DC area and the New York area (Rutgers wrestling program has gone from life support to a revenue generator with big crowds and bigger recruits leading to positive dollars), an increased focus on women competing and of course, the Olympic reinclusion for 2016. All of which spells for brighter days ahead for the sport and tis governing body in the States, USA Wrestling.

Professional Fri, 27 Mar 2015 05:02:53 +0000
300 Words Or Less: Lavin, St. John’s Spinning On A Road To Nowhere New_Headshot_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOEY WAHLER

St. John’s had just been ousted from the NCAA Tournament on Friday, when Steve Lavin began doing what he does best: Spinning.

“The most satisfying season I’ve ever had as a coach,” said Lavin, after a year that ended with three straight bad losses, and no wins in the Big East Tournament or NCAA Tournament – again.

The Red Storm may have lost to San Diego State in their NCAA opener before it even began, when starting center Chris Obepka was suspended for smoking pot.

The real question is, what is Lavin smoking?

Observers gushed all year about the Red Storm’s athleticism and experience. Still, they started 0-3 in the Big East, digging an early conference hole for a second straight season. They failed to secure an NCAA bid until recent weeks, largely on the shoulders of one player, Sir’Dominic Pointer.

Professional Sat, 21 Mar 2015 18:31:26 +0000
Who Are This Year’s Kentucky Derby Sleepers? tomv_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY TOM VALLEDOLMO

At first glance, it would appear that the the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2 is simply a “Tale of Three Horses.”

Superstar trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher once again are loaded with 3-year-old talent this year and -- in American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem – they seem to have the Run for the Roses virtually locked up.

Baffert trains both American Pharoah and Dortmund while Carpe Diem is in the capable hands of Pletcher. The three leading contenders have run 13 races and have arrived at the wire first 11 times with the imposing Dortmund leading the way with a spotless 5-for-5 record.

They have received most of the accolades along the Triple Crown Trail so far, and deservedly so, but with just over 40 days remaining before “America’s Most Famous Horse Race” is contested at Churchill Downs let’s take a closer look at two up-and-coming challengers who may have something to say about who wears the roses the first Saturday in May.

The first is a bay colt named Firing Line who, like American Pharoah and Dortmund, is based in southern California. He is trained by a lesser known, 32-year-old conditioner named Simon Callaghan, who cut his teeth in England as an assistant to his father Neville before coming to America and working as an assistant to Pletcher.

Professional Sat, 21 Mar 2015 02:51:38 +0000
4 Best Memories of Chuck Bednarik chuckbednarik_optBY BOB HOLT

“Concrete Charlie,” or Chuck Bednarik, sold concrete in the NFL’s off-season to be able to pay his bills.

A lot of south Jersey NFL fans know Bednarik well. Bednarik, the Philadelphia Eagles legend who played both sides of the field, delivered tackles that often felt like an opposing player was being hit by concrete.

Chuck Bednarik died in Pennsylvania on Saturday at the age of 89. TIME reports that he knocked New York Giants running back Frank Gifford out of the NFL for a year-and-a half in 1960 after giving him a bone-crushing tackle. Bednarik said 50 years later, “It was the most important play and tackle in my life. They were from the big city. The glamour boys. The guys who got written up in all the magazines. But I thought we were the better team.”

The Eagles won their last NFL championship in 1960, before the first Super Bowl was ever played. reported that the Green Bay Packers trailed the Eagles in the final seconds of the championship game, and were driving for the winning touchdown. Green Bay’s Jim Taylor was heading for the end zone, but Concrete Charlie wrestled him to the ground and sat on him until the game ended.

"You can get up now, Jim," Bednarik said after the game ended. "The game's over."

Professional Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:28:52 +0000
Well Done NJIT: Last Jersey Basketball Team Standing 165436852_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOE FAVORITO

In November the college hoops scene in New Jersey was brimming with optimism. Seton Hall was rolling, FDU was coming off of an upset of St. joe’s and was ready to rock, Rutgers was rebuilding, Monmouth and Rider were ready to challenge in the MAAC, St. Peter’s was improving, Princeton could battle in the Ivy League. NJIT? An afterthought. Yet here we are steaming past St. Patty’s Day and the Highlanders are the only New Jersey Division I men’s school left standing.

Now they are playing in the pay for play not the NCAA or the NIT, but without a conference affiliation that’s almost the best coach Jim Ingles squad could have hoped for, and they made the most of their opportunity by ousting New Hampshire at home this past week and now will get another intimate home game against Cleveland State on Monday night at the Fleisher Athletic Center. Hey it was SRO for round one, and AD Lenny Margolis and crew more than earned a shot at another full house for the visiting Vikings this coming week as well.

NJIT has to be one of the feel good brand stories of the year, at least in the Tri-state area. The lone team without a home conference shocked Michigan in December and continued to play well and draw attention throughout the winter, using that win and a lot of hard work to finally announce the approval for a 200,000 square foot "wellness and events center," to cost a little over $100 million that could be ready for 2017. In that facility will be a new 3,500 seat basketball arena, as well as new facilities for the other varsity sports, many of which have various conference affiliations.

Professional Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:29:55 +0000
300 Words Or Less: Tommy John Surgery Needs A New Name; Just Ask the Mets New_Headshot_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOEY WAHLER

Two years ago, Matt Harvey was enjoying his seemingly too dominant-to-be-true rookie season, when a jealous Yankee fan friend uttered his now infamous, snarky remark.

“Should we just go ahead and schedule the Tommy John Surgery now?”

Shortly thereafter, well, you know the rest.

The Mets have far more Tommy John on their pitching staff than any team did when the elbow surgery namesake was pitching for them.

With Zach Wheeler now joining Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Jeremy Hefner, the Mets could eventually field baseball’s first All Tommy John starting rotation. Add Josh Edgin to Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell, and three Met late inning relievers could one day have All John Squad status.

Years ago, Sexually Transmitted Disease became so prevalent that it’s become known as STD. Shouldn’t Tommy John Surgery be shortened to simply, TJS?

Professional Tue, 17 Mar 2015 01:49:35 +0000
Ex Record Editor Looks For "A Daily Payoff" 165436852_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOE FAVORITO

Earlier this week, The Daily Payoff, the first U.S.-based platform to cover all business aspects of the gaming and gambling businesses had its official launch. The site will look to have the most comprehensive national and international news in verticals that will include the casino business, fantasy sports, horse racing, e-gaming, games of skill, the lottery and others.

The editorial side for The Daily Payoff will be overseen by Frank Scandale, the award-winning media veteran who most recently has served as Vice President, Print Production for Digital First Media but before that was editor and a vice president of The Record (Bergen County, NJ) newspaper from 2001-2011 (he has also contributed to new Jersey Newsroom from time to time).

Given the interest in the gaming and gambling space in the state, we caught up with the Glen Rock resident to talk about why now, and where the industry is going.

How is this venture different from your other stops, and what elements of the business today will help this venture grow?

This is really an outgrowth of all the journalism stops I've made over 30 plus years. One thing about journalism, it evolves and the challenge is to evolve with it.

Professional Fri, 13 Mar 2015 02:29:16 +0000
300 Words Or Less: NEC Basketball Finalists Are A Tale Of Two Backgrounds New_Headshot_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOEY WAHLER

When St. Francis College and Robert Morris University meet tonight for the Northeast Conference Championship in downtown Brooklyn, they’ll share the court – and little else.

Sure, the Terriers and Colonials, seeded first and second respectively, have their similarities: Tough, defensive minded, offensively disciplined, their whole equaling more than the sum of their parts. The teams’ histories, locations and coaches, however, couldn’t be more different.

St. Francis is one of just five original Division 1 programs that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament, centrally located in sprawling Brooklyn, on a “campus” consisting of a single building, housing its home court, classes and everything else.

Robert Morris has an NEC record seven NCAA appearances, located in the league’s sticks in Moon Twp., a Pittsburgh suburb, on a 230-acre campus.

Terriers coach Glenn Braica, 51, was an assistant there for 15 years – think about that - twice reaching the NEC Final without a win. After becoming Norm Roberts’ St. John’s assistant, the Brooklyn native returned in 2010, taking over a program that hadn’t exceeded 11 wins the previous five seasons.

Professional Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:46:20 +0000
Brighter Things Ahead For Sixers and Devils, Says Blitzer 165436852_opt_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOE FAVORITO

It hasn’t been the easiest of winters for the owners of the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers, at least on the court and the ice. The Sixers have spent the season dumping salaries, name players and expectations in exchange for a run a free agents and high draft picks, while the Devils continue to dance with a distant playoff spot in what has become an extended dry spell for a team looking to retool under Lou Lamoriello. Still even with finishes out of the playoffs, ownership continues to find ways to engage with fans to have the best experience possible while at the game, and try and bring in new brands that are looking to get in on the ground floor of what will be a steady rise back up both on the hardwood and on the ice.

This coming weekend for example, the Devils will stage a massive celebration around the 20th anniversary of their 1995 Stanley Cup Championship team, replete with a whole list of fan experiences, auction items and activities all designed to not just remember the past, but to get the fans more engaged about the current brand, In many ways because of the efforts, the Devils are more brand relevant today despite their on-ice issues in and around New Jersey than they were when they were toting Cups around the parking lot of Brendan Byrne Arena, and that relevance is in good part to the ownership changes that have occurred since the Prudential Center became the home for hockey in New Jersey.

Professional Fri, 06 Mar 2015 04:10:43 +0000
300 Words Or Less: Bozella, Seton Hall Women Reaching New Heights New_Headshot_opt_copy_copy_copy_copyBY JOEY WAHLER

After winning a preseason transfer battle with Alabama, the Seton Hall women’s basketball team has won the Big East’s regular season war – for the first time ever.

“My most special moment,” coach Tony Bozzella told

The Pirates are ranked 23rd and 25th nationally by the coaches and AP respectively, their first time ever in both polls. Bozzella made the NCAA Tournament coaching LIU-Brooklyn and the MAAC Final leading Iona, but the Hall is his alma mater, Class of 1989.

“Our university is special to me,” Bozella said.

The Pirates are the Big East Tournament’s top seed at DePaul, playing Sunday. They’re 26-4, one win from the school’s victory mark, and 15-3 in the Big East. They had a school record 12-game winning streak, and were at 17-1 Walsh Gym.

After national media outcry, including from Keith Olbermann, guard Daisha Simmons was granted immediate eligibility after transferring from Alabama, which first tried blocking her from playing this season.

Professional Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:29:25 +0000