By Mike Ricchione
To close the book on Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) history, the wrestling team gained four automatic bids for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh during the EWL Championships on March 9.
Starting in the 2019-20 season, Rider will join the rest of the EWL in merging with the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
“It’s really exciting, there’s a lot of good teams,” said junior Jesse Dellavecchia. “You got Missouri, a nationally ranked team. It’s going to be a tough transition, but I think we’ll handle it well.”
The seven-team EWL will join the eight-team MAC to bring the total to 15 teams, making it the second largest Division I wrestling conference.
When asked about the expectations for wrestling in the MAC, junior Anthony Cefolo said, “Good matches, more matches and it just excites me to go out there and win this year’s conference and next year’s conference.”
The 44th and final EWLs, held at George Mason University, got off to a great start for Rider as all 10 wrestlers advanced to the semifinals.
Six of 10 wrestlers made their way into the finals, and with that, the Broncs’ first automatic bid was granted.
The EWL was given three automatic bids at the 165-pound weight class. Dellavecchia, ranked No. 14 by theopenmat.com and FloWrestling, punched his ticket to Pittsburgh following his 14-6 major decision over George Mason’s Colton DiBlasi in the semifinals.
Dellavecchia had a chance to grab an EWL title but he would have to go through Lock Haven’s Chance Marsteller, ranked No. 5.
On Feb. 8, Marsteller got the best of Dellavecchia in a dual meet, 11-5.
Marsteller was again able to get the best of Dellavecchia, winning via a 12-3 major decision in the title match.
One way to punch a ticket to the NCAA Championships that never fails is winning the conference outright. Senior Dean Sherry and sophomore Ethan Laird did exactly that at 174 and 197, respectively.
Sherry’s path to his second EWL Title began with a first-period pinfall over Cleveland State’s Colton Carroll.
Clarion’s Toby Cahill was next to face Sherry.
In the first period, Sherry jumped out to a 5-3 advantage, thanks to two takedowns and an escape.
Sherry took down to begin the second period. He escaped and took Cahill down for the third time. Sherry would ride out Cahill for the rest of the period.
The third period ended in neutral. Sherry’s riding time point was added and gave him a 9-3 decision to put him in the finals.
Laird’s path to his EWL title began in the semifinals, as he received a bye for the quarterfinals.
His matchup came against Bloomsburg’s Kyle Murphy. On Feb. 10, they battled it out and Laird came out with a 3-1 sudden-death victory.
Laird would only need seven minutes this time around as he would shut Murphy out, 4-0.
His finals matchup was against Eli Spencer of George Mason. Laird won 6-2 behind the efforts of two takedowns, an escape and a riding effort long enough to secure an extra point.
The fourth qualifier came when Cefolo placed second in the tournament. Cefolo was in the finals against Lock Haven’s DJ Fehlman but lost in overtime, 3-2 at 133.
The EWL was granted two automatic qualifiers at 133. With that, Cefolo would have to wrestle a true second to determine that second automatic bid.
The only wrestler standing in Cefolo’s path to Pittsburgh was Edinboro’s Richie Gomez. Cefolo beat Gomez 7-4 to claim that spot.
The other two Broncs who made it to the finals were junior Evan Fidelibus and redshirt senior Michale Fagg-Daves at 149 and 184, respectively.
Junior Jonathan Tropea, sophomore Travis Layton and senior Gino Fluri placed third at 125, 141 and 157 respectively.
As a team, Rider finished in second place with 93.5 points, 18 points behind Lock Haven.
“Overall, I thought our guys wrestled well today. They were very focused and aggressive,” said Head Coach John Hangey.
The Broncs didn’t receive any at-large bids for the NCAA Championships which will be held in Pittsburgh from March 21 to March 23.
The first session begins on March 21at 12 p.m. and the entire tournament will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPNU.