Winter of Champions: Hermits Capture 3 State Championships
Prep News exclusive by Connor Bogan ’23
This winter was full of success for Hermits Athletics. Swimming and Hockey both brought home state titles, and Wrestling finished their season with several podium finishes in states, as well as a state championship won by Richie Grungo ’23.
Last season, Hermits Swimming ended the year with a stinging loss against Seton Hall Prep 86-84 in the Non-Public A semifinals. This season, the Hermits came out looking for revenge and sought to take home a state title. The Hermits won the Cape-Atlantic Championship with a win against EHT, and entered the playoffs with some momentum. All in all, they had their sights set on a state playoff rematch against Seton Hall Prep. With some help from a talented freshman class, the Hermits were able to defeat Seton Hall Prep in a semifinal rematch 91-79. The success didn’t stop there, the Hermits went on to fulfill their preseason goal by capturing the state championship a week later against Christian Brothers Academy – this is the seventh state title in the swim program’s history and the first since 2017.
The state championship meet was expected to be the closest tilt of the season. Throughout the season, the Prep and CBA had been going back and forth in the Non-Public A standings. The Hermits were the only team capable enough to disrupt CBA’s ten-year state championship streak. The Hermits came in hungry, taking six first-place finishes and winning two crucial relays. The thrilling meet came down to the final race – the 400 freestyle relay. The Prep’s A relay of Cole Jennings, Anthony Mortellite, Dante Buonadonna, and Trevor Nolan pushed the Hermits to victory and their coveted state title with a time of 3:09.85. The senior class in particular was the standout group. Senior captain Massimo Catania secured two second place finishes, Trevor Nolan and Cole Jennings held down the freestyle events, and Hayden Clay prevented a sweep in the 100 backstroke with a third place finish.
The Hermits ended the season with an undefeated 10-0 record and a state title. In the seniors’ freshman year in 2020, they lost to CBA in the Prep’s last state final appearance, so it was extra special to see them take it all the way. “I feel honored to be around such a great team and win on the biggest stage”, said senior leader Matt Stanker. “Being that we’ve lost in previous years, we know what it’s like to work hard and not win, so the underclassmen definitely need to enjoy that”. Junior Anthony Mortellite secured two first place finishes for the Hermits and also helped win the two freestyle relays. From his perspective, this was a complete team effort. “Winning my races was great, but helping the team to win overall felt even better. I’m glad to have been a part of it, and I can’t wait for next year”. The Hermits hope to defend their state title next year, as most of this team will be returning for the 2023-24 season.
Everyone loves an underdog…
Hermits Hockey’s season can best be described as an “underdog story”. On March 6, 2023 the Prep Ice Hockey team traveled north for a state final matchup against Delbarton, the highest ranking hockey team in the state. Ranked 13th in the state, it was the Prep’s first state final appearance since 2011. Enzo Fanelli’s overtime winning goal 11 seconds into overtime sealed the deal and set off an electrifying celebration on-and-off the ice. In the process, St. Augustine Prep beat second ranked CBA, third ranked Don Bosco, and the #1 seed Delbarton to bring home the trophy in a true Cinderella story. This is Ice Hockey’s second state title, and the first since 2008. They are also the lowest seed in the history of the state to win a Non-Public championship.
After the win, state championship game hero Enzo Fanelli spoke about his goal and the win overall. “Approaching the play, the plan was to get the puck in the net at all costs”, said Fanelli. “When Kai Ackerman gave me a great look it didn’t fully process that I had scored and won a state championship until I finally held the trophy. It felt too good to be true.”
Though Fanelli led the Hermits to victory with his goal, he doesn’t take sole credit for his team’s win. “I owe this win to every single person involved in the program. Without one, the job wouldn’t have been finished. Every parent, fan, and staff member that showed out to any of our games definitely motivated us and we truly loved it. Our coaches believed in us and when we started to believe in ourselves that’s where we found our success.”
Fanelli also scored the first goal for the Hermits to set the tone, Ryan Vaites scored the second goal to send the game into overtime at 2-2, and Goalie Bobby Kennedy had 27 saves in the Prep’s win.
Hermits Wrestling, a tradition unlike any other…
Last but certainly not least, Hermits Wrestling also experienced a historic, record-breaking season. The team came out of Districts with eight champions, which is the most in program history. At Regions, five Hermits came away as champions, setting yet another program record. Ultimately, seven wrestlers moved on to the state finals in Atlantic City where they faced off against the best in the state.
Richie Grungo ’23 and Brady Conlin ’23 made it to the state finals in their respective weight classes with Kaden Naame ‘23 and Jake Slotnick ‘23 advancing to the consolation semi-finals.
In the state final for the 144 weight class, Richie Grungo was impressive as he defeated the #1 seed to secure an individual state championship. “I would like to thank the Prep Community along with my entire support system for helping me make this happen”, said Grungo after his win. “Truly is a dream come true, and I wouldn’t want to represent any other school while achieving it.”
It was certainly a winter to remember in Richland and the Brotherhood is looking forward to what the spring has in store!