Olympic well wishes for North Bergen’s Mocco Abreu may start for Scarlet Knights; Brown’s career at UVa over

The Olympic Games in Beijing, China began with its opening ceremonies Friday night and Hudson County, in particular, North Bergen was well represented.

That’s because North Bergen native and longtime resident Steve Mocco is a member of the United States Olympic wrestling team and will compete as Team USA’s heavyweight during the Games.

Mocco isn’t slated to compete until sometime next week (Thursday, Aug. 21, to be precise), so he will have time to prepare for his moment of international glory.

Just the fact that there is a Hudson County athlete competing at the Olympics is a major accomplishment.

However, if Mocco achieves the goal of his lifetime and captures a medal at the Games, even perhaps a gold (which is not out of the realm of possibility), then it would become one of the biggest achievements in Hudson County sports history.

It should be a moment of pride for everyone in Hudson County and especially North Bergen, but still, the township fails to recognize Mocco’s immense achievements, even after all this time.

When Mocco won the NCAA wrestling championship for the University of Iowa in 2003, it was written here that the township should do something to honor him and they did not. Mocco tried to make the Olympic team in 2004, but returned to collegiate wrestling in 2005, this time for Oklahoma State and he won yet another national title. Still no recognition from his hometown.

And why? Is it because of the political hatred between Mocco’s father, Joe, and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, a deep-rooted feud that stretches decades?

But this has nothing to do with the father. This is all about Steve Mocco, who is not political, just athletic. He has told this columnist time and time again that he would love to be honored by the people of North Bergen and holds no ill will toward the powers-that-be.

If Steve Mocco comes home from China with a gold medal draped around his neck and the administration of North Bergen does nothing to honor and recognize him, then each and every last elected official in the township should hang their head in shame.

This is the proverbial once-in-a-lifetime situation here. When other New Jersey athletes have done well in the Olympics, it has been duly recognized by their respective hometowns.

Take a trip to West Milford and the minute you arrive, you are reminded that it’s the hometown of Olympic gold medal freestyle skier Donna Weinbrecht. Journey to Haledon and you are instantly hit with the thought that it’s the hometown of Olympic gold medal-winning heavyweight wrestler Bruce Baumgartner, ironically one of Mocco’s childhood heroes.

There are signs all over those New Jersey towns to remind you of their achievements.

But there’s no mention in North Bergen.

So this is the time. No matter what happens in China, North Bergen should stand up and recognize the immense talents of one of their own. Forget about what has happened in the past and concentrate on the here and now; that a North Bergen kid is competing in the Olympic Games. Just the thought of that fact should bring chills to everyone.

Here’s to hoping that Mocco comes home with the gold or at the very least, represents himself and his country well when he takes the mat. One thing is for sure. The public address announcer will say his hometown as “North Bergen, N.J.” when he takes the mat. How incredible is that?…

Talk about your highs and lows. In the same week that it looks like former Union Hill great Manny Abreu will get a chance to start for the Rutgers football team this fall, the college football career of former St. Peter’s Prep standout and former Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year Mike Brown has officially come to an end. The University of Virginia officially dismissed Brown Monday, while he awaits trial for federal burglary charges…

Former Hudson Catholic pitcher and former Reporter Baseball Player of the Year Chris Lugo is having a solid season pitching for the Hagerstown Suns, the Washington Nationals’ Class A team in the South Atlantic League. At last check, Hoboken native Lugo has a 2-0 record in 20 games, totaling 38 innings. He has struck out 27 and has a 3.32 ERA. Lugo gets a chance to play close to home later this month (Aug. 28 to 29), when the Suns play the Lakewood BlueClaws at First Energy Park…

It’s never easy when someone dies young, so the losses of Jim “Duke” Morley and especially young Amanda Callagy hit close to home over the last week or so.

Duke Morley was a longtime friend who was a standout basketball player at Marist during his days and later made his mark as an assistant coach with Bob Hurley at St. Anthony and as an employee of Jersey City Recreation. “Duke” really loved working with kids and although he fell on some tough times in recent years, his heart was always with the kids. He will be sorely missed.

Amanda Callagy, the granddaughter of our Hudson Reporter colleague Barbara Dillon, was a brave soul in battling a crippling and devastating illness for many years. But she fought through her illness to the bitter end and became the adoptive soul of many local organizations, including the Weehawken Police Department, where her father, Mike, has worked for years.

Whenever there was a fund raiser, either at the high school or in the township of Weehawken, Amanda was always the first one on everyone’s mind. She was only 16 years old, but now, she’s in a much better place and the pain and suffering is over.

Prayers and condolences go out to the incredible Callagy and Dillon families on the loss of a wonderful young lady… – Jim Hague

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group