By Logan VanDine
After a disappointing 2021-22 season, Rider wrestling turned things around in a major way this past season, going 9-5 on the year with some impressive performances from upperclassmen.
As the Broncs now prepare for their first matchup of 2023 on Nov. 5, Head Coach John Hangey, who’s entering his seventh season as the head coach, provided some insight on how his team is looking as the Broncs hope to make a much deeper run in the Mid-Atlantic Conference Championships and the NCAA Tournament this season.
“They look really good,” Hangey said. “They look energetic; they had a very good summer and that’s important because the pressure is off during the summer. You can work on things to get better, you can work on technique.”
The Broncs have many key upperclassmen back for 2023: seniors Tyler Klinsky, Shane Reitsma, McKenzie Bell and Quinn Kinner, junior David Szuba and graduate students Richie Koehler, Mike Wilson and Jake Silverstein.
Hangey recalled a meeting he had with most of his wrestlers about how he hopes this season plays out.
“I told them enough is enough. You all had success at a very high level in your lives with the expectation of the NCAA’s, and amongst that group of kids, we had three wins at the NCAA’s and that’s not gonna get it done at the next level,” said Hangey. “They are all very capable of having success at that level so it’s now time. It’s long beyond the time for you to do what you’re capable of doing to do what your dreams and your goals are and to stop sitting back to make it happen.”
The Broncs this year also have some new wrestlers on their roster, bringing in 10 freshmen.
“I really like our group of freshmen, I really do. They’re coming in, they’re staying quiet, keeping their mouths shut, working hard, learning from the upperclassmen,” said Hangey.
Freshman Gio Alejandro, who wrestled at Saint Joseph High School in Metuchen, New Jersey, said that the team and Hangey have helped him prepare for the season ahead.
“Everything is good with the team, all the older guys are good leaders and they really push you as well making you feel welcome,” Alejandro said. “Coach Hangey has helped with everything in the wrestling aspect and making sure everything is going good with classes. Everything he teaches in the room is very helpful for me, and making me get better every day.”
Hangey touched on his tenure as well as being the head coach for the Broncs so far, and gave his job performance an interesting grade.
“I give myself a C+. We’ve had some All-Americans, and we’ve had some hiccups in some dual meets I would like to have back, haven’t won a conference championship so there’s work to be done. I got to be honest with myself, evaluate myself, make some adjustments so we can get these things done,” Hangey said.
Hangey also gave his thoughts on his team’s turnaround in 2022 going 9-5 after just having four the previous season in 2021.
“I would say getting Ethan Laird and McKenzie Bell back off of redshirt was a major help for that team, it injected some energy and some point scoring from duet meets, tournaments and stuff like that,” said Hangey. “But also if anyone could get injured that year, they did, it was like a rash that I hope never happens again. It made us appreciate the work that you put in so you can achieve the success that you hope for.”
Hangey also opened up about if he thought he would be the head coach of the Broncs for such a long period of time.
“Yes and no. It’s something that goes by so fast, you have to cherish all the time that you have,,” Hangey said. “I had 17 [years] as a head assistant, and it still seems like I started yesterday. I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world.”
As the season approaches, Hangey gave his thoughts on the team’s schedule, which consists of four Big Ten Conference schools, and listed which matches he was looking forward to the most.
“I would say Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rutgers and Pitt at the end of the season,” he said. “My kids will have the competition they need to win a conference championship and put themselves in position to earn All-American status.”
The Broncs’ first match of the season will be on Nov. 5 at Princeton, with their home opener against Michigan scheduled for Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.