By Brandon Scalea
The nationally-ranked wrestling team began its 2015-16 campaign on Nov. 7, winning two of three matches at the Eastern Michigan Duals in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
For the Broncs (2-1), the duals started with a match against Central Michigan, where they lost 18-15. They were then able to win two in a row against Utah Valley and Kent State — 20-12, and 18-14, respectively.
Sophomore B.J. Clagon, an All-American who is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation at 149 lbs, did not get off to a great start. He won a major decision against Utah Valley, but went 1-2 on the day.
Although he struggled, he feels as though he’s still on track for a great season.
“It really just comes down to cutting my weight better,” Clagon said. “I perform my best when I feel great, so the main thing is to just maintain my weight better. I have to put these early matches aside and learn from them and just train harder.”
However, a pair of sophomores were able to step up. Michale Fagg-Daves (184 lbs.) and heavyweight Mauro Correnti won two matches apiece. Junior Wayne Stinson (174 lbs.) was also able to win two out of three, only coming up short to the No. 9 ranked wrestler in the nation in the weight class.
Stinson was happy about the way he wrestled in the duals and credited it to his hard work in the offseason.
“I felt good about my performance,” he said. “I thought I wrestled hard, even in the match I didn’t win. I am working on the things I need to improve on so I can help my team.”
Senior Conor Brennan, the two-time defending Eastern Wrestling League champion at 165, won three matches, including another major decision.
Brennan has succeeded as a Bronc, and this year, he said he is looking to reach new heights in his final season.
“I’m really looking forward to what this season brings and accomplishing everything I’ve trained for,” he said. “I’m looking for that third conference title and to get to the top of the podium at nationals.”
Against Central Michigan (2-0), only three Broncs picked up individual wins. Brennan picked up an 8-4 win while Fagg-Daves and junior Ryan Wolfe won 8-6 and 13-6, respectively.
In the win against Utah Valley (1-2), junior Paul Kirchner was able to win at 141, while senior Curt Delia picked up the win at 157. Also in the match, highly-touted 157-pound sophomore Chad Walsh, who went 33-7 last season, picked up a win and went 1-1 on the day.
Walsh felt that once the team settled down, it was able to dominate matches like last season.
“I feel like this weekend was a wake-up call for our team as whole,” Walsh said. “We got caught sleeping in our first match and fell behind early, but we still battled back and finished the day strong. We are finding our groove and throwing caution to the wind out there and I’m very excited for future tournaments.”
In the Kent State (2-1) match, the Broncs received notable performances from senior Jimmy Morris and Stinson. At 141, Morris won his bout convincingly, 11-4. Stinson picked up the win at 174 by a score of 7-5.
Rider will compete again on Nov. 22 at the competitive Keystone Classic, held at the Palestra in Philadelphia. The tournament will include some of the East Coast’s best wrestling programs, including N.C. State, Bloomsburg, and Duke.
Clagon feels that because he and the team have gained national recognition, there is a target on their backs. They need to avoid this and just focus on wrestling.
“My expectations are like everyone else; every wrestler has high goals,” he said. “Everyone wants to be a national champion and bring notoriety to their school. I have to ignore the hype and just work harder because of the expectations placed on me. As a team, we have to stay humble and focus on the goals we have set for this year.”