Most people go to Atlantic City hoping for one win. Frankie Greco went there looking for win 100.
When the Verona High School senior started this year’s wrestling season, he seemed to have a lock on 100 career wins. “I expected to make it past 100, maybe even to 110,” Greco says.
Then came the January 16 match against Barringer High School. Greco pinned Kyle Cato, but he came off the mat shaking his right hand. Tests the next day confirmed the worst: Two broken bones. Greco would be out of the lineup for a month and the sure thing suddenly didn’t look quite so sure. “When I broke my hand that changed the entire season,” he says. “We didn’t even expect me to be back to wrestle.”
But he got back to wrestling on February 16, and quickly got back on track. Greco handily won the NJSIAA District 13 championship at 182 pounds, and similarly dominated the Region 4 contest. And on March 8 he went to the New Jersey state championship, just one win away from 100.
Up until that day, only three VHS wrestlers had achieved 100 career wins, and two of them accompanied Greco to Atlantic City. Dillon Lawler and Chris Hardenberg, who both reached the magic number in 2008, are now assistant wrestling coaches for VHS. (Colin Farawell scored his 100th win in 2011.) Something else accompanied Greco, though he didn’t know it at the time: A banner celebrating his 100th win. “My mom surprised me,” Greco says. “She hid it until the moment.”
As the Region 4 champ, Greco had a bye in the first round in Atlantic City. He then stepped up and defeated Mike Burns of Morris Knolls 8-6, and for a brief moment, the wrestling world stopped. The announcer asked the crowd to direct their attention to mat seven, and the Grecos’ banner honoring their son was unfurled. “I actually didn’t hear it until they got to my name,” says Greco. “I was happy just to have won.”
The rest of the championship, alas, didn’t go Greco’s way. He lost to Ali Yildiz of South Brunswick in the next match, and wound up finishing in the top 12, the highest place of the four Verona wrestlers who made it to states. Greco believes he was wrestling at 100%, but adds that “I’ll never be able to tell because I wash’t able to wrestle for a month and a half because of the broken hand.”
The banner is now at the Greco home, where it will stay. The 100-club banner in the VHS gym will see the name Greco added below that of Hardenberg, Lawler and Farawell, giving Verona one more 100-win wrestler than rival Cedar Grove.
“It was really awesome for him to get that 100th win coming back from a broken hand and getting it at states,” says Hardenberg. “Hopefully we can continue to add names to list of guys with 100 wins.”