By Carlos Toro
Even with several injuries, the wrestling team managed to beat Northwestern on Dec. 5 in a dual meet that also saw the Broncs fall to No. 6 Lehigh.
Despite the loss, several Broncs (3-3, 0-1 EWL), such as sophomore 157-lb. Chad Walsh and junior 197-lb. Ryan Wolfe, managed to defeat nationally ranked wrestlers, with Walsh downing No. 6-ranked Mitch Minotti and Wolfe beating No. 11 John Bolich, both from Lehigh.
The Broncs then beat Northwestern, with help from three medical forfeits in Rider’s favor. Head Coach Gary Taylor knows that beating a Big Ten team like Northwestern is always a good thing, no matter the circumstances.
“Northwestern has a good group,” Taylor said. “They are in the same situation we are. They are banged up just like we are. So you saw two teams that are banged up go at it with the matches that were contested. It’s definitely better than losing.”
Rider’s day began with a series of matches against Lehigh (5-1, 1-0 EIWA). The Mountain Hawks started the match with four victories to give them a 12-0 lead. In what was described as the match of the day, Walsh and Minotti’s match at 157 lbs. was tied after the three periods and had to go to three overtimes before Walsh eventually earned the 8-7 decision.
It was the highest-ranked opponent Walsh has ever beaten and the win showed him that he can hang with some of the best wrestlers of his weight class.
“I’ve been preparing to wrestle Minotti all week long and have a game plan set,” Walsh said. “It’s now a matter of using this confidence and then putting some wins together starting with the next match against Penn State.”
Rider senior Conor Brennan, ranked No. 14 at 165 lbs., won his match against freshman Ryan Preisch in a 6-5 victory. Wolfe defeated Bolich for his seventh win of the season in a 5-3 victory.
Rider sophomore B.J. Clagon, ranked No.12 in the nation at 149 lbs., lost his match against junior Laike Gardner in a 9-7 decision. This was Clagon’s first match since suffering a concussion at Keystone Classic a couple of weeks ago.
Senior 133-lb. Robert Deutsch also suffered an injury at the Keystone Classic and has not competed since then.
Despite the wins against ranked opponents by Walsh and Wolfe, the Mountain Hawks won by a total score of 26-12 for their fifth team win of the season.
Against Northwestern (1-2), Rider earned several breaks as the Wildcats also had injuries that let Clagon, Walsh and Wolfe win their matches by forfeit.
As for matches that did occur, Brennan continued his great start by defeating freshman Luke Norland in an 8-2 decision to remain undefeated this season with a record of 10-0.
Broncs junior Paul Kirchner defeated redshirt senior Jameson Oster 8-5 in a bout at 141 lbs. Senior heavyweight Mauro Correnti finished the match against the Wildcats when he defeated redshirt freshman Conan Jennings 8-3 to give the Broncs the 27-19 team victory.
Rider will now face the tough task on Dec. 19 of playing host to Penn State, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. Aside from staying healthy, Taylor stressed that preparation will be pivotal.
“The key is that we have to get our starters back in,” Taylor said. “Then we’re going to have to fight against Penn State, which has won national titles.”