By Brandon Scalea
The wrestling team had high hopes heading into Head Coach Gary Taylor’s final season. Rider has certainly lived up to those expectations thus far.
With another pair of home victories, the Broncs moved to 11-1 on the year, one of their best starts in Taylor’s nearly 40 years at the helm. The win over Drexel gave Taylor 440 career wins, tying him with Minnesota’s J. Robinson for third-most in Division I wrestling history.
Junior Chad Walsh said the experience under Taylor has been a meaningful one.
“It’s pretty amazing that after 39 years, he’s still able to come out here every day and help us out and give us his two-cents on all the wrestling he’s seen over the years,” Walsh said. “He’s really shaped me into a better wrestler.”
On Feb. 10, Rider dominated long-time rival Hofstra from start to finish in Alumni Gym. Winning nine of the 10 matches, the Broncs pulled away in the middleweight bouts and saw three straight pins by All-American juniors Walsh and B.J. Clagon, and sophomore Dean Sherry. The final score of the dual meet was a resounding 40-4.
Rider jumped out to an early 12-0 lead thanks to an overtime win at 125 by senior Brenden Calas. Sophomore Anthony Cefolo kept the success going with a convincing 7-1 victory over the Pride’s Vinny Vespa. At 141, freshman Evan Fidelibus, who is nationally-ranked for wins by fall, won by forfeit.
The streak of pins soon followed Rider’s lone loss. At 157, Clagon won by fall in 1:34, Walsh in under six minutes at 165 and Sherry in under 4 minutes at 174. At that point, it was a 30-4 Broncs lead. Nationally ranked senior Ryan Wolfe also earned a significant win at 197 to wrap up the evening.
The following night, Rider won again, but this one proved to be much more hard-fought. Local rival Drexel battled, but the Broncs were ultimately too much to handle, winning a tight, 18-16 contest.
Rider won a total of five bouts, with three of them earning bonus points for the team. After freshman J.R. Wert got things going on the right foot for Rider with a win at 125, the Dragons stole the next three bouts over Cefelo, Fidelibus and Rodgers, respectively.
Nationally-ranked Clagon then got the momentum back into Rider’s favor, winning his match 14-5, to pull the overall score to 10-7, with Drexel on top. Walsh then improved to 24-5 on the year with another victory at 165 and put the Broncs back ahead.
The late success for the Broncs set up a scenario for junior heavyweight Mauro Correnti where all he had to do was not get pinned in the final match, as Rider led 18-13. He lost the match, 4-1, to the No. 16 wrestler in the country, but Correnti did all he had to do to hang on to a Rider win.
On Feb. 16, Rider has a big test against cross-town rival Princeton in Alumni Gym. The match against the nationally-ranked Tigers will be at 7 p.m.
Walsh said this is the time of year when the Broncs start to look at the bigger picture.
“We’re happy with the 11-1 record,” he said. “But at the end of the day, our goal is to win another conference title. This is the time of year where we start to really focus on what we need to do to have solid individual performances and get some national titles. And if we win the Eastern Wrestling League again, that will sort of solidify that we had a good year.”