By Mike Ricchione
On Feb. 11, a dual-meet between the Rider and Drexel wrestling team’s came down to the last match, with the nationally-ranked Broncs, needing an Ethan Laird win to secure a victory at Alumni Gym.
And then the senior heavyweight never set foot on the mat.
Surprisingly, Drexel forfeited the heavyweight bout after No. 22 Bryan McLaughlin’s 4-3 victory over graduate student Matt Correnti at 197 pounds, giving Rider the 20-16 victory.
“I did not know that [Drexel] was going to forfeit. I knew that they weighed one in but I thought, ‘Hey, we’re down by two points. That kid’s definitely going out,’’’ Head Coach John Hangey said. “If we were up by three or four, I would think differently. I don’t know what their thought process was on that at all.”
The Broncs started strong with three decisions from redshirt senior Jonathan Tropea, redshirt sophomore Richie Koehler and freshman McKenzie Bell at 125, 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, for a 9-0 advantage.
Drexel cut the lead down to two before the media intermission with a decision from Luke Nichter and a major decision from 21st-ranked Parker Kropman, who was ranked 21st by WrestleStat, at 149 and 157 pounds respectively.
Redshirt sophomore Jake Silverstein had to wrestle into overtime for the second straight match, coming away with an upset victory of Evan Barczak at 165 pounds, who was ranked as high as 23rd by FloWrestling.
“When it comes down to the third period, overtime, I’m that guy to come out on top,” Silverstein said. “I’m not gonna give up on those situations, even when it’s close. I’m always gonna come out on top and that’s how I train and that’s what’ll happen when I go out there.”
Silverstein’s victory gave the Broncs an 11-7 lead. Rider had one team point deducted for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The lead changed hands after each match the rest of the way. Michael O’Malley, handed freshman Angel Garcia his first collegiate loss at 174 pounds. Redshirt junior George Walton earned a 10-4 decision over Joshua Stallings at 184 pounds.
Before the match, the home team had taken the last seven matches in the all-time series between Rider and Drexel. That pattern continued.
“I think [Assistant AD for Sports Communications] Greg [Ott] wrote it in his article, the last seven years, the home team has won every year and the streak continues. The good news is that I’m 5-3 on that side of it, so we’ll just keep wrestling here instead of going to Philly.” Hangey joked.
Rider was once again without its star, graduate student Jesse Dellavecchia, who missed his second consecutive dual with a high ankle sprain. Dellavecchia is expected to be back for the MAC tournament, according to Hangey.
The Broncs closed out the regular season on a four-match winning streak and hope to keep their momentum into the MAC Conference Tournament, which is scheduled for Feb. 26-27 at CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton.