ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — While his teammates were bound for the state tournament this time last year, Paramus High School wrestler Michael Daniele was heading into emergency surgery.
On Friday night, Daniele left it all on the mat -- topping an undefeated opponent to advance in the NJSIAA Wrestling Tournament in Atlantic City.
“He never gave up,” PHS Coach Chris Falato said. “The kid he wrestled was tough.”
Elyezer Oliviery of Union City was 27-0 coming in.
But Daniele "came through when he needed it to get the pin,” Falato told Daily Voice.
Daniele was battling his second bout of cauliflower ear, and the infection was spreading to his brain, during tournament time last year. A month earlier, his teeth went through his lip during a match, requiring four stitches. A month before that, he needed sutures on his eye after being accidentally elbowed by a friend.
He'd also been rehabilitating a torn labrum since early August.
Daniele — whose father died in a car accident just before his freshman year— had no choice but to cancel his trip to Atlantic City for last year's tournament.
Not this time.
“This is kind of, like, my final straw,” said Daniele, who doesn't plan on wrestling as an incoming student at Rowan University next year.
He won’t be the only one retiring from his wrestling career at the end of his weekend. His mother, Carol Daniele, has been the team’s photographer and co-chair of the parent organization since he joined the team.
“I’ve never missed a match,” said the elder Daniele surrounded by a group of Paramus High parents in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall on Friday. “It’s very emotional.”
Seated next to her was Daniele’s father’s best friend, Ted Demetrio of Pottsgrove, Penn.
“I couldn’t miss this,” Demetrio said. “Michael has matured beyond belief. When you’re out there on the mat it’s just you — and that’s real life.”
Daniele needs to win one more round in the 220-pound class on Saturday in order to place.
No matter what happens, he said, “it’s a dream come true.”
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