By Michael Mack
Rider wrestling teams have been consistently successful over the past few years, but they have been unable to capture a CAA Championship. This year, things are shaping up differently.
A wealth of returning talent mixed in with some promising newcomers has this team feeling like it can take the conference title.
“We will have a young team this year with as many as six freshmen and sophomores starting for us,” said head coach Gary Taylor. “The freshmen will help the team by being in the lineup and winning as much as they can.”
One of the returning wrestlers is senior Rob Morrison, who boasted a 28-15 record at 165 pounds last season. Morrison has high hopes for this year.
“I’m expecting us to be in the top 25 [nationally] and conference champs by the end of this season,” Morrison said.
Morrison, who went 4-1 in the CAA tournament and qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, has high expectations of himself as well for this season.
“I expect to finally fulfill my biggest goal since I began wrestling,” Morrison said. “That’s to become an All-American.”
Some other returning seniors include Joe Ferber, who went 3-4 last year at 184 pounds, and Tim Trivisonno, who went 2-5 at 125 pounds.
When looking over the rest of the returning talent, a few names stand out. Sophomore Jim Resnick had a 19-16 record at 174 pounds and qualified for the NCAA tournament as a freshman last year.
Junior Tyler Smith went 24-16 last year at 197 pounds and was the only one on the team to win a match at the NCAA tournament. He begins the season as the 20th ranked wrestler in the country at his weight class.
Finally, one of the names that is the most impressive is junior Jimmy Kirchner. The 133 pounder held an impressive 21-13 record last season and also qualified for the NCAA tournament. Kirchner is ranked 18th in the nation in his respective weight class.
These three, combined with the aforementioned seniors, will look to lead a relatively young team. Kirchner, Smith and Morrison are all ranked in the top 33 in their respective weight classes by wrestlingreport.com.
“I look for the returning NCAA qualifiers — Rob Morrison, Tyler Smith, Jimmy Kirchner and Jim Resnick — to be good and have big seasons,” Taylor said.
This returning talent, along with 16 freshmen who will look to make an immediate impact, should make for a promising season. Out of the 16 freshmen, two look to shine early as they are set to start the season for Rider in their respective weight classes.
“The 125-pound class and the heavyweight class will be manned by outstanding freshmen,” Taylor said. “At 125, Chuck Zeiloft will be representing Rider and at heavyweight, it will be Evan Craig. We expect both of these outstanding true freshmen to be impact wrestlers in their first year.”
The freshmen will have big shoes to fill as standouts Mike Kessler and Ed Bordas both graduated last year, along with Mike Ward and Ramon Santiago.
“With the right mix of guys we have this year and the new attitude we’re implementing, I don’t see why all of our goals can’t be achieved,” Morrison said.
The Broncs will open up the season in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday with matches against Gardner-Webb at 9 a.m., Virginia at 10:30 a.m. and Anderson at noon.