By Brandon Scalea
The quest to get back into the national spotlight continued last weekend for the wrestling team, with two home matches against Drexel and Cleveland State. The winning streak increased to three, as the Broncs edged out the Dragons by a 20-17 score, but were quickly halted against Cleveland State after a slow start hurt the Broncs and led to a 21-16 loss.
Against local rival Drexel (6-10, 3-1 EIWA), the Broncs (11-7, 2-2 EWL) won five bouts en route to another win at Alumni Gym. The Dragons put up a fight, however, winning three matches in overtime, including upsets in the 141 and 157-pound weight classes. Rider lost at Drexel last year, but has won 33 of 42 matches between the two schools.
Rider trailed early after 191-pound freshman Ali Yildiz lost by technical fall, but 197-pound senior Donald McNeil won in overtime to cut the lead to 5-3.
The two teams split the next two bouts before Rob Deutsch, a 133-pound junior, won a major decision to put the Broncs on top 10-8, improving Deutsch’s record to 20-6 on the year, including 14-3 in duals.
Rider and Drexel then went back-and-forth on victories for the final five bouts. While the Broncs only took two of those, they were key victories from B.J. Clagon, a 149-pound freshman, and Conor Brennan, a 165-pound junior. Clagon continued his success on the mat, winning his bout by major decision for a 14-11 Rider lead. Clagon, a four-time NHSCA National Champion at Toms River South High School, is now 20-7 on the year, as well as 13-4 in duals.
Brennan, who won by fall to give his team a 20-14 lead, feels it is crucial for team members like him to step up in these situations.
“Our team needs to get back on track to where we were in the beginning of the season,” Brennan said. “We had some injuries to key guys so our team needs all the bonus points we can get. Being the guy to get those points is a good feeling.”
On Feb. 7, the Broncs looked for revenge on a Cleveland State team, also a member of the EWL, who beat them last season. They were able to win four matches by pin and one by major decision, but it wasn’t enough to knock off the Vikings (6-2, 3-2 EWL).
After losing the first six bouts for an 18-0 deficit, 141-pound senior Chuck Zeisloft won to get Rider on the board.
Brennan was able to win by pin for the second match in a row, earning the final points for the Broncs.
Also for the Broncs, Clagon won another major decision for his 21st win in his freshman campaign, and 157-pound red-shirt freshman Chad Walsh won his team-leading 24th decision. He is 4-0 in the EWL. As much as anyone, Walsh appreciates the role he’s had for this team.
“It means everything to me to see my hard work paying off,” Walsh said. “I get back on the bus and I feel good about being a consistent guy who the coaches expect to step up for the team.”
Associate Head Coach John Hangey agreed that the pair of reliable freshmen have promise.
“B.J. and Chad are two special kids. They expect to win and these are guys we need around here,” Hangey said. “They have so many great qualities and they will take our program in the right direction in the coming years.”
Rider has now won four of its last six matches after falling out of the national polls. Hangey stressed that although being in the national spotlight isn’t the Broncs’ sole concern, they’d like to get back up there.
“We need to buckle down and keep grinding,” Hangey said. “Injuries have been an issue this year but with some guys coming back we expect to get back to where we were early in the season.”
The Broncs will look to continue their success on the road against another solid program, Lock Haven, on Feb. 13.