Laird crowned champion, Broncs place fifth in MAC Tournament
By Logan VanDine
In an up-and-down effort, Rider wrestling placed fifth overall at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament and graduate student Ethan Laird was crowned conference champion along the way.
‘We need to regroup and finish strong’
On the first day of the MAC Tournament, the Broncs did not perform as Head Coach John Hangey had hoped. After the first day, the wrestling team found itself sitting in seventh place out of 13 teams with 59 points on March 3.
“We need to regroup and finish strong. Definitely wasn’t the day we were hoping to have today,” Hangey said.
If there was any silver lining in the Broncs’ disappointing showing, they did have two wrestlers reach the final. Redshirt senior Richie Koehler, who was the third seed entering this tournament, reached the finals as he looks to repeat as the MAC champion at 133 lbs where he squared off with Gable Strickland of Lock Haven.
Another key wrestler that was able to advance for the Broncs was Laird, who entered the tournament as the top seed at 197 lbs.
Despite his showing, Laird shared the same disappointment as Hangey.
“Overall the team did poorly. We were expecting to win a conference team title and have six or seven NCAA qualifiers. Instead, we were fifth and had two qualifiers,” Laird said.
Despite standout performances Hangey thought his team “stunk” on day one.
“It’s just the conference is tough, it’s very balanced and everybody is going there to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament and we just fell on the short end of the sticks sometimes,” Hangey said.
Laird wins MAC Title
In a much improved effort, the Broncs saw two wrestlers clinch spots in the NCAA Tournament, as they finished in fifth place overall with 86 points on March 4 at George Mason.
With both huge wins in their respective bouts, redshirt junior Quinn Kinner and Laird were able to clinch spots in the NCAA Tournament along with their teammate, Koehler, clinching on the first day of the tournament.
The biggest story for the Broncs during the tournament was Laird defeating Ohio’s Carson Brewer, the final obstacle on his path to being MAC Champion.
“You can always count on Ethan [Laird], he is the same guy who goes out and does his job and that consistency is going to help him in two weeks when we get to the NCAA Tournament,” said Hangey.
Hangey was complimentary of his other stars as well.
“Richie’s [Kohler] experience was valuable yesterday and today because he has been there before … he knew what to deal with, how to manage it and all that stuff to help put himself in that position to win those matches,” Hangey said. “Quinn Kinner is the same, he’s a returning conference champ, he hit a speed bump yesterday in the quarterfinals but he rallied really well and ended up finishing a really strong third.
Laird is excited to make the NCAA Tournament, but has his eyes set on the prize of winning the whole thing.
“The NCAA tournament is … always exciting when it’s coming up. But just being in the tournament isn’t the exciting part, winning the tournament is,” he said.
The Broncs will prepare for the NCAA Tournament, which is scheduled for March 16 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.