By Logan VanDine
The Rider wrestling team headed to the Keystone Classic in Philadelphia, riding high after winning their first two matches of the season against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Purdue. The Broncs kept the good times going as they placed third in the Keystone Classic on Nov. 21 with 120 team points.
A total of 10 Broncs reached the podium during the tournament, most notably juniors McKenzie Bell and Shane Reitsma.
“I thought they wrestled well overall. There were matches that [I] would have liked to have back to reverse the outcome, but I thought that we competed hard, wrestled hard. We were in good shape, but there’s always things to work on … they’ll get better from going through in this competition,” Head Coach John Hangey said.
Perhaps the most notable moment from the competition was when graduate student Ethan Laird took home the 197-pound crown at the Keystone Classic. Laird came into the match as the No. 2 seed. After receiving a bye in the first round of the tournament, he dominated his opponents in the second and third bouts. He took both of them by fall which put him in the finals against Arizona State’s No. 15 seed Kordell Norfleet.
Laird later won the final bout by a score of 7-6, winning the Keystone Classic for the first time in his career.
“Ethan [Laird] keeps doing his thing. He’s wrestling really well this year. I think the freestyle success he had in the offseason helped him out a lot. It’s really helped him grow and mature and slow the sport down in his eyes, and he’s just a quiet leader. He’s a very good wrestler as well. He just calculates things and figures things out and uses people’s weaknesses against [them] during matches, so he’s doing really well and I’m pleased where he’s at, but we have to continue to get better,” Hangey said.
Laird gave his input on his top finish in the Keystone Classic and noted that there is still room for improvement in his performance.
“I wrestled pretty well, but I wouldn’t say I’m impressed with my performance. I expected to win the tournament and I did, but I had a close match in the finals and found some things I still need to work on. It was a good tournament to see some good competition and find some of the things I need to work on and the team needs to work on,” the 285-pound wrestler said.
Laird also talked about how his team performed overall, but didn’t shy away from talking about how first place was something they wanted even though they finished third.
“As a team we did alright. Coming into the tournament, we were looking to place first, but we definitely didn’t wrestle our best. So still taking third when we didn’t wrestle our best gives us some positives, but it also showed us a lot of stuff we need to work on,” Laird said.
The Broncs’ next matchup will be against a tough opponent in Penn State as they look to keep up the momentum when they play the Nittany Lions on Dec. 2 at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, at 7:30 p.m.