For four years, Haddon Township High School wrestler Renato Paoli has spent workout after workout wondering what it would be like to score a victory over a rival wrestler from Haddonfield. It is a thought that has driven him past the sweat and through the exhaustion.
“Every time I run and go up and down the steps in my school, it is so I can beat Haddonfield,” Paoli said. “That’s all I work for.”
Paoli got that elusive victory Friday night and it couldn’t have been a bigger moment.
Paoli pinned Haddonfield’s William Benedict in three minutes, 18 seconds to clinch a 39-21 win for the Hawks. With one slam of the mat by the official, years of frustration went out the door.
“I’ve had tough matches here every time I have wrestled Haddonfield in my career,” said Paoli. “I just went out there and gave it my all. I tried to put my guy on that mat and hold him there and that’s what happened.”
Paoli, who wrestles at 113 pounds, upped his record to 5-2 with the pin. After suffering through losing seasons earlier in his career, Paoli seems poised to end his career with a breakout season.
“A kid like Reato Paoli is the type of kid that coaches enjoy working with for four years—not because they are the superstar of the team, but because they care, work hard and do sports for all the right reasons,” Haddon Township wrestling coach Brian Farnham said. “I couldn’t be happier for anyone. He took some butt kickings his first couple of years wrestling, but he stayed at it. He never quit on himself and that’s a testament to his hard work.”
The win was also the first for the Hawks over the Bulldawgs in the past four years, making the night that much more special for Paoli.
“We spent three years working so hard to accomplish this and I’m glad that we finally did,” said Paoli. “It’s been such a big rivalry with Haddonfield for such a long time and I am glad we finally conquered this.”
Now the focus for Paoli and the rest of his teammates is to keep it going. The season is still less than a third of the way through and the win over Haddonfield may only be a footnote by season’s end. However, the win could also translate into so much more if Friday’s success has a carry-over effect on the rest of the season.
“It means everything to us,” Paoli said. “I have already heard my friends talking about us going after Paulsboro now. We got momentum here and that’s big for us.”