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Grappler Andrade Prevails in Section 1 Tourney

by Tom Pedulla – 


Joel Andrade

was a freshman at Irvington and assistant coach Ben Karol approached him about joining the wrestling team, he was intrigued enough to give it a try. When he reported for his first practice, doubt replaced curiosity.

He was barely five feet tall and weighed little more than 100 pounds. And he knew nothing of a sport that revolves around strength, technique and mental toughness.

Andrade came to build strength and learn technique. The will to win and mental toughness? He always possessed those in abundance.

“He can dig down deep when the time comes,” said coach Brian Bernarducci.

Andrade made a steady four-year improvement that culminated in the triumph he had long sought, when he prevailed at 120 pounds in the small school’s division of the Section 1 Wrestling Tournament.

Andrade will never forget the moment when he defeated Aidan Canfield of Pleasantville for the title.

“It was definitely a dream come true,” he said. “Winning the sectional, it was very magical.”

Andrade led a strong showing for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Aidan Daly also fared well, placing second at 195 pounds and giving him something significant to build on.

“We see raw talent and technique will come,” said Bernarducci of Daly. “Sooner or later, he’s going to put it together.”

Senior Nestor Ortiz (170 pounds), junior Cris D’Amelio (126) and freshman Ian Schwam (145) all took third in their weight classes.

Bernarducci is particularly encouraged by Schwam’s result. “He’s got an extremely bright future if he continues to work,” the coach said.

Andrade is the fourth sectional champion that Bernarducci developed in his five years at Irvington. He points to him as an example for others.

“It shows that if you come in as a freshman and join Irvington wrestling, you can achieve your goal and be a sectional champion at the end of the day,” Bernarducci said. “He’s a testament to some of the things we’re doing at Irvington that made us an improved program the last five years.”

Andrade’s rise was anything but easy. The combination of a 4-7 record and a strained elbow that cost him a chunk of his freshman season led him to question whether he should continue. He pressed on.

“I believe having a balance between academics and athletics will help you in the long run,” he said.

He improved to 16-16 as a sophomore and began to realize the potential was there for him to excel. His parents, Martha and Ed, made the time and financial commitment for him to join an offseason wrestling club known for developing top local talent.

Andrade worked and willed his way into being a force by the time he was a junior. Bernarducci saw the difference at the first practice.

“He came into his junior season with a lot of focus,” the coach said. “The way he warmed up, there was more confidence in everything he was doing. We were excited from that point.”

Andrade went on to a rousing 33-4 record as a junior and earned third place in the Section 1 Tournament at 113 pounds. He duplicated that victory total as a senior while completing his unfinished business in the sectionals.

He believes the discipline and focus that wrestling requires greatly benefitted him in the classroom. He made the high honor roll every year and will attend the University of Chicago next September. He plans to major in biology or chemistry with the aim of attending medical school.

As lofty a goal as that may be, history suggests it is well within his reach.


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