By Thomas Albano
Despite entering with victories in four straight meets, the wrestling team suffered a heartbreaking loss on Feb. 6 at the hands of Drexel in Philadelphia.
The Broncs (9-9, 4-2 EWL) were able to win four bouts, and the meet boiled down to the final contest of the evening. Unfortunately for the team, a fifth-straight win slipped away with seven seconds left, and the Dragons (8-7, 4-3 EIWA) came away with the win instead.
Associate Head Coach John Hangey felt some of the team worried too much about score and holding onto a lead.
“Overall it felt like we only had half a team show up,” Hangey said. “The half that did wrestled well. The other half wrestled a little tentative. Drexel’s not an overly aggressive team, but we allowed them to slow the pace down and that’s why we lost some of those matches.”
Rider got off to an early lead with a win from senior Curt Delia at 174 lbs. It was the first time Delia has competed at that weight class this season, as he previously competed in two lighter ones. After 184-pound sophomore Michale Fagg-Daves was defeated, junior Ryan Wolfe gave Rider back the lead with a major decision victory at 197 lbs.
“My win at Drexel was consistent on how I have been wrestling all year, and the consistency is what I need to have going into conferences,” Wolfe said. “I try to wrestle to dominate each and every match.”
The Broncs’ redshirt sophomore Mauro Correnti and sophomore Zach Valcarce then dropped the next two bouts — at the heavyweight and 125-pound weight classes, respectively — before the team was helped back up with a victory from 133-pound senior Robert Deutsch. Deutsch defeated Drexel’s David Pearce, who was a competitor in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Rider then lost another two bouts, as 141-pound junior Paul Kirchner was defeated. Sophomore B.J. Clagon, entering ranked No. 15 in the 149-pound weight class, then suffered a loss at the hands of Drexel junior Matthew Cimato, who was ranked No. 11.
Chad Walsh, a 157-pound sophomore who entered the meet ranked No. 14, scored a victory to set up a dual-deciding matchup. That match, a 165-pound bout between senior Conor Brennan, faced No. 19 ranked in the weight class, and Drexel redshirt sophomore Austin Rose. Brennan was leading with less than 15 seconds to go when Rose pulled out a takedown that turned into a fall, ending the match in favor of Rose and giving the Dragons the win.
Clagon felt that the team did not live up to its potential at this meet.
“The performance we all had was not the best to any of our ability,” he said. “We are one of the best teams in the country without question when we are all prepared, myself included.”
Walsh more specifically feels the team needs to remember the strategy of seven minutes of aggressive action on the wrestling mat.
“Some guys attacked the entire match, and some slowed their pace and tried to hang onto a lead,” Walsh said. “If we learn to dominate and attack opponents through the whole seven minutes, we will be hard to beat, both as a team and as individuals heading into the postseason. As individuals, we are focusing on technique adjustments that have kept us from wrestling at the high caliber level that we are capable of.”
Rider’s next matchup will be on Feb. 11 against Hofstra. This will be the final home meet for the team this season, and there are only three meets remaining before the EWL and NCAA Championships.
“You got to have a short-term memory in sports, and you can’t have that loss hover over,” Hangey said. “You got to make some adjustments — as far as our tempo, our style, our approach — and you just got to keep going because there’s no rest for the weary.
“We mark the date of the conference tournament and train backwards to it. Our conference preparation will spike our conditioning, will really zero in on individual sessions with the guys — what they do well, what they need to work on, what they need to improve on — and then getting them prepared and resting them up for the conference tournament so they can hit it correctly.”