By NICK KOSKO Staff Writer Coming into this season, Mainland Regional never had a wrestler achieve 100 career wins on the varsity level. But it’s 2016, and times have changed for the Mustangs’ program. Two wrestlers accomplished the feat this season: Justin Bishop and John DiNofrio. Bishop was seen as the more accomplished wrestler, with a district title under his belt and arguably the face of Mainland wrestling. He became the first wrestler in school history to reach the coveted 100-win mark when he recorded a pin during a dual match against Vineland in early February. Not many people outside the wrestling room in Linwood, however, were aware there was another wrestler on the verge of joining Bishop in an elite group. DiNofrio is a tall, rangy wrestler who didn’t make a lot of headlines during his career. He was more of a grinder, just piling up wins by being a good, consistent wrestler. Mainland Regional — and now all of South Jersey — will remember his name as he earned his 100th win during the preliminary round of the Region 8 tournament. In a do-or-die situation, DiNofrio was facing possibly the final opponent of his career. A loss would have ended his career and left him stuck at 99 wins. Putting all of that pressure aside, DiNofrio came out on top, beating Peyton Jones of Timber Creek 5-0 in the first round of the 145-pound bracket. “The whole week I knew it was there for the taking. I could feel the pressure of it leading up,” DiNofrio said. “I practiced hard, my teammates helped me out and I had more than enough motivation to not end my career with 99 wins.” Head coach Clayton Smith said the moment turned out to be one of the best he has seen in his years of coaching. Senior 145-pounder John DiNofrio, right, became just the second wrestler in Mainland Regional history to reach 100 career wins, following in teammate Justin Bishop’s footsteps. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “It made it that much more special knowing it came down to one match, do-or-die type of situation,” Smith said. “John was concerned about when it would happen — or even if it would happen. We had to cancel matches this season because of weather and skin conditions, but to see it finally happen for him, it couldn’t have happened to a better kid.” DiNofrio worked hard heading into his final season, focusing solely on wrestling as he dropped cross country and track. In addition to his 100th win, DiNofrio ended with a record of 27-8 to cap off his senior season. Smith said it was quite the accomplishment having two wrestlers reach the milestone achievement in one season, especially considering Mainland had no 100-win wrestlers in its more than four decades of existence as a program. “Nobody coaching a team has that happen very often, so I thought it was pretty neat to happen to the two of them. I’ve always said — and half joked — that John and Justin are the types of kids you wouldn’t mind your daughter dating. I’m glad they were able to achieve it.” Smith said. DiNofrio watched Bishop earn win No. 100 in February, and worked hard with him in the room in an effort to reach the same milestone as his longtime practice partner. “We’ve always practiced with each other a lot, so it was pretty cool to see him achieve that great feat this season as well,” DiNofrio said. “I’ve wrestled with Justin for about 12 years, and knowing we are the only two to get 100 wins feels pretty special. I kind of got some extra motivation to match him, considering he did it before me.” DiNofrio has been accepted, and plans to attend, the Naval Academy after graduating. He said the decision came down to the Naval Academy and the Air Force. If anything, competing in arguably the toughest sport has prepared him for the next chapter of his life after high school. “For probably about six years I’ve been thinking about the military, and I also haven’t necessarily decided on wrestling yet, but probably won’t,” DiNofrio said. “After getting my 100th win, I felt like I accomplished everything I wanted to do, and anything after that would have been a bonus.” [adsense]
About The Author
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography. A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.
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