When Joe Manchio went over to his uncle’s house as a kid during the holidays, he watched his cousin’s wrestling highlights.
Mark Manchio, his cousin, won the NJSIAA state championship three times at Sterling and finished his career with a 125-2 record.
“I really looked up to him,” said Joe Manchio, a Seneca senior 113-pound wrestler who will wrestle at Columbia University next season.
“I wanted to be exactly like him when I got to high school. Win everything. Win states three times. I wanted to win states four times, but you can only do so much.”
Since Manchio arrived at Seneca, he’s been trying to leave his own legacy. He is currently 23-0 after defeating Mainland’s Logan Sands on Wednesday.
Like his cousin, Manchio won a state title as a sophomore after recording a 38-0 season. He lost in the state quarterfinals his junior season and tore his right ACL in wrestlebacks to settle for eighth.
The injury, Manchio said, helped him readjust his mindset to succeed and make another run at the state title. While winning another state title ranks high on Manchio’s bucket list before he graduates, he also wants to become the all-time winningest wrestler in Burlington County.
Manchio entered the season 38 wins away from Matt Correnti’s 162-win mark set at Holy Cross in 2016.
“That would mean the world,” Joe Manchio said. “There are 14 state champs per year, but there’s only one person that won the most wins in South Jersey ever.”
When Manchio tore his ACL in March 2017, the doctors gave him and Seneca coach Greg Bauer a recovery period of nine to 12 months.
Bauer said the initial time frame for Manchio to return was late January or early February. But Manchio refused to allow his senior year of wrestling be washed away.
In November, Manchio was able to shadow on the mats. About a month later, in the second week of December, the doctors cleared Manchio to return to practice as a full participant.
The nine-month span was the longest he’s been away from wrestling during his career, Manchio said.
“I knew he was hungry to get out there and compete,” Bauer said. “So I kind of felt bad for whoever was his first opponent.”
But Bauer wasn’t surprised by Manchio’s recovery. He wouldn’t be surprised if he made another run at the states in Atlantic City, either.
“It’s New Jersey,” Bauer said. “It’s never going to be easy. No matter what way he ends up going it’s going to be a gauntlet, and he knows that.”