By Christopher Brooks
The end of the wrestling season is coming fast for the Broncs, but on Feb. 17, Rider faced its stiffest competition yet and looks to a future match against Boston University (BU) on Feb 23.
The wrestling team traveled to Penn State to take on the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Penn State (12-1) shut out the Broncs 48-0 in the defeat. However, 157-pound senior Zac Cibula believes that the loss will help prepare the team.
“Our team definitely took something away from the match,” Cibula said. “We learned what the environment is going to be like at the NCAA tournament and what it feels like to wrestle some of the best kids in the country. Penn State has a pretty special team, so we can learn the amount of work we need to do to be able to compete with guys like them.”
Penn State was able to pick up five pins and three major decisions on the way to its 12th win of the season. This match was no easy task for the Broncs, considering Penn State has several wrestlers ranked in the top of their respective weight classes.
“My biggest concern wrestling at Penn State was that some of our guys would be overwhelmed,” Cibula said. “I was not intimidated going into the match, but excited from the energy that the environment brought to the match.”
Cibula wrestled Dylan Alton, the fifth-ranked 157-pounder in the nation, while his teammate, 184-pound freshman Ryan Wolfe, battled against the top-ranked wrestler in the country, Ed Ruth.
“Wolfe has stepped up and done a great job filling in for Clint Morrison after his injury,” Cibula said. “I expect him and the rest of the team to finish the dual season strong.”
The Broncs will host BU in a CAA dual meet on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. This will be the wrestling team’s final match before preparing for the CAA and NCAA tournaments, which are right around the corner.
“BU is a team that we are in much better shape than,” 197-pound sophomore Donald McNeil said. “If everyone wrestles hard and sets the pace the whole match and wears them down, each person on the team should win their match.”
Cibula feels that the team learned from the match against Penn State and that it will help the Broncs against BU.
“If our team gets ready like we did against Penn State and wrestles with confidence against BU, we should come away with the win,” Cibula said.
Rider’s meet against BU will be very crucial to the Broncs’ seeding in the upcoming tournaments and could provide the momentum they need to perform well in the tournaments.
“It is critical that we begin to pique during this time of the year and build our confidence,” Cibula said.
McNeil feels that the Broncs can contend with anybody, considering the way they have wrestled this season.
“We learned we can compete and stay in matches with the best wrestlers in the country,” McNeil said. “We have a lot to work on for conferences, but there were certain positions and matches where we fought hard against Penn State. It was a good match to see where we are against some of the best wrestlers in the country.”
The CAA Championships will be held on March 9 in Boston, while the NCAA Championships will be held March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Broncs are very eager to compete in these two events, but will need a strong showing against BU to obtain good seeding.
“This match will have an impact on several of us for seeding at the conference tournament,” said Cibula. “Wrestling BU at home is a great opportunity for us to make a statement.”