By Mike Ricchione
Four Rider wrestlers entered the NCAA National Championships but none earned a spot on the podium at the event in Pittsburgh from March 21 through March 23.
The three-day tournament held at the PPG Paints Arena didn’t see any of the Broncs wrestle past the second day.
“It’s always tough on both the athletes and the coaches to leave the NCAA’s without an All-American,” Head Coach John Hangey said. “That’s always been the goal and will remain the goal for our program.”
Junior Dean Sherry and sophomore Ethan Laird qualified for the tournament by winning Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) titles at 174 and 197 respectively.
Juniors Anthony Cefolo and Jesse Dellavecchia came up short in their EWL title matches but were able to secure the few automatic qualifying spots available for non-champions at 133 and 165 respectively.
Dellavecchia, the highest-seeded Bronc at 14th, made it the furthest in the championship bracket.
In the first round, Dellavecchia made it past 19th-seeded Tanner Skidgel of Navy with a 9-2 decision.
Dellavecchia would be majored by his second round opponent, three seed Josh Shields of Arizona State, 10-2.
Laird also won a match in the championship bracket but was a step back. Drawing the 32nd seed in the tournament, Laird had to wrestle in a pigtail match against Chattanooga’s Rod Jones.
Laird got the deciding takedown in overtime for sudden victory. Following the pigtail victory, Laird drew the No. 1 seed. Laird suffered a first-period pin to the eventual champ, Penn State’s Bo Nickal.
Sherry also fell to the eventual champ at 174, repeating title-winner Zahid Valencia of Arizona State via major decision, 11-2.
Cefolo’s first round match against Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak was a tight one but he wasn’t able to close the gap to upset the number six seed as he fell 3-1.
The title at 133 ended up in the state of New Jersey when Rutgers’ Nick Suriano captured it over Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix.
Dellavecchia and Laird made it the furthest in the tournament, both making it to the third round of consolation brackets.
Dellavecchia joined the consolation bracket in its second round after the loss against Shields and bounced back with a 14-6 major decision over West Virginia’s Nick Kiussis.
He dropped his next match, 11-3, to Michigan’s Logan Massa.
Laird earned decisions against Drexel’s Stephen Loiseau, 7-1, and Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley, 4-0, before falling to Cornell’s Ben Honis, 10-5.
Sherry also won a match in the consolation bracket when he pinned Indiana’s Jake Covaciu with nine seconds left in the match.
“Our kids gained some extremely valuable experience,” said Hangey. “I know it will motivate these four guys to work harder to put themselves in position to get back here and get it right next year.”
Rider posed no threat to Penn State’s eighth national title in nine years.
All four NCAA qualifiers return next year as Rider joins the Mid-American Conference.