By Christopher Brooks
Following a 3-0 sweep at the Hokie Duals in Blacksburg, Va., this weekend, the Broncs appeared at No. 25 on the season’s first USA Today/NWCA/AWN coaches poll. This ranking comes as a result of three impressive victories against Old Dominion, Kent State and Chattanooga.
The 1996-97 Broncs were the highest-ranking team as Amateur Wrestling News ranked them seventh in the nation.
This week, the Broncs will have a chance to show that the No. 25 ranking was no mistake.
On Nov. 16, Rider will play host to three-time defending national champion, No. 1 ranked Penn State. Last season the Broncs traveled to State College, Pa., where they were shut out 48-0 by the Nittany Lions, but don’t expect a second shutout loss at the hands of the nation’s top team.
According to InterMat’s Tournament Power Index (TPI), which gauges a team’s potential strength based on individual rankings, Penn State again falls at No. 1 with a score of 97.5, while Rider places 41st with a score of 2.5, but the numbers shouldn’t fool you. This is a new season for the Broncs, who earned a national ranking coming into the contest. While I don’t see an upset victory for Rider in this matchup, I expect to see some points on the board.
The Lions boast nine individually ranked wrestlers including three-time All-American David Taylor, who ranks No. 1 at 165 pounds; junior All-American Matt Brown, who was an NCAA finalist last year and ranks No. 3 at 164 pounds; and junior Nico Megaludis, ranked No. 3 at 125 pounds.
The Broncs, in the same rankings, have two individually ranked wrestlers of their own. They include redshirt sophomore Robert Deutsch, who ranks No. 17 at 125 pounds, and senior Ramon Santiago, who ranks No. 13 at 165 pounds. Santiago will get a second shot against Taylor, who defeated him in last year’s tilt, but not without a fight, while Deutsch will square off against Megaludis.
Even if the Broncs suffer another defeat to Penn State this week, the match will come with a few positives.
This season, Penn State is averaging a whopping 6,412 attendees per contest. With the Lions being the No. 1 team in college wrestling, you can expect a horde of fans to follow. Though the Rider fans, myself included, won’t be happy to see a defeat, you can’t argue with the revenue that comes when a school like Penn State visits your campus.
Also, Rider, for the second season in a row, gets to compete with the best wrestlers in the country. This can only help the Broncs down the road as they prepare for the rest of their season. The Lions and their fans better not get too cocky because the Broncs will surely go down swinging.