By Mike Ricchione
Senior Chad Walsh ended his final season without earning All-America status. He reached that peak twice.
There were high expectations for the wrestling team going into the NCAA Championships, but Rider left without an All-American for the first time in four years.
The Broncs sent three wrestlers to the NCAAs this year: senior JR Wert at 125 pounds, two-time All-American Chad Walsh at 165 and junior Dean Sherry at 174. Walsh and Sherry received automatic bids as Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) champions and Wert received an at-large bid.
Wert and Sherry started the tournament in Cleveland with the odds stacked against them, facing undefeated opponents.
Wert began the tournament against the No. 4 seed Nick Suriano from Rutgers while Sherry faced off against the No. 3 seed Daniel Lewis of Missouri.
Iowa’s Spencer Lee ultimately won the 125-pound national title while Zahid Valencia of Arizona State took the crown at 174.
Walsh arrived at Quicken Loans Arena not knowing who he would face on day one.
His opponent came down to a preliminary match between Penn’s May Bethea, who Walsh beat during a dual meet on Dec. 1, and Lehigh’s Gordon Wolf.
Wolf won via a 13-8 decision, but his luck ran out when he faced Walsh.
Walsh ended up winning, 17-6, to advance to the second round.
Walsh racked up another major decision when he won over Te’shan Campbell of Ohio State, 9-0.
“Chad wrestled well today,” said Head Coach John Hangey after the opening session. “His past experiences at NCAAs helped him to stay calm and focus on his wrestling.”
Walsh began Friday with his quarterfinal matchup against Alex Marinelli of Iowa. A win would have earned him All-America status, putting him in the national semifinal for the second time in his career
Walsh had the lead through two periods, 5-4, but he had to hold off Marinelli for two more minutes to punch a ticket to the semifinals.
That didn’t happen, as Marinelli made a push toward the end of the match to come out on top, 7-6.
Walsh lost 11-9 in the consolation bracket against Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State.
“Chad established himself as one of the best wrestlers at his weight class in the entire country over the past three years,” Hangey said. “That’s what makes it really tough to see his career end this way. He is an amazing kid that does everything the right way.”
Walsh finished his career as a four-time national qualifier and a back-to-back All-American, receiving the honors when he placed fifth nationally in 2016 and seventh in 2017.
He was the first Rider wrestler to be a two-time All-American since current Head Coach John Hangey did it in the early 1990s.
“As much as the initial sting of the last match hurt me, deep down inside me I found out in that very moment there was a genuine sense of pride and resilience to help console my pain and disappointment,” said Walsh.
Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph won the title at 165 as part of the Nittany Lion group that earned the team national championship for the sixth time in seven years.
Next year’s Broncs will feature returning national qualifier Sherry as well as the second-place finisher in the EWL Tournament, Ethan Laird.