The members of the wrestling team have a tough season ahead as they wrestle in a difficult conference, facing some of the top teams in the country.
But that shouldn’t worry the Broncs, who were among 11 teams that received votes in the USA Today and InterMat polls but fell short of the top 25 in the nation.
“You usually have two goals,” said Head Coach Gary Taylor. “One is on a conference level and one is on a national level. People have come to expect that. We have a very tough conference. We ultimately want to win the Conference Championship.”
This year, Rider will face off with two extremely challenging teams in the beginning of its season. The team will face Iowa State and Missouri, ranked third and seventh in the nation, respectively, by USA Today and InterMat.
“When Iowa State comes, [Head Coach] Cael Sanderson is the only undefeated wrestler, with a record of 159-0,” said Taylor. “He was one of the top wrestlers and is one of the top coaches in the country.”
Though Iowa and Missouri are both tough opponents, Rider sees Hofstra and Lehigh University as its biggest rivals in the conference championships.
This season, the team has nine wrestlers who are ranked in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Among the nine wrestlers, three of them are also ranked on the national level.
Senior Don Fisch is ranked fourth in the nation in the 141-pound weight class and second in the CAA.
“Don Fisch is a returning champion,” said Taylor. “He is an All-American.”
Also ranked nationally is junior Doug Umbehauer. He wrestles in the 184-pound weight class, and is currently ranked 13th in the nation and second in the CAA.
“I expect to be an All-American this year,” said Umbehauer. “I did very well last season but got worn down when it came to NCAA tournament time at the end of the year. I have changed a few things in my training to correct that.”
Senior T.J. Morrison is ranked 14th in the nation. He wrestles in the 197-pound weight class, and is ranked second in the CAA competition.
“He has placed every year since he has been at Rider,” said Taylor.
Wrestling in the heavyweight class this season for Rider is a transfer student from Binghamton University, junior Eddie Bordas. He comes to Rider ranked first in the CAA.
Another Rider wrestler ranked in the CAA is junior Zac Cunliffe, wrestling in the 133-pound weight class, ranking second.
“Zac is a one-time NCAA and CAA conference champ,” said Taylor. “He is back from an injury this season.”
Also qualifying for the NCAA championships last season was Mike Miller. This year Miller and Umbehauer will switch weight classes, with Miller taking over in the 184-pound weight class.
Junior Jason Lapham is ranked third in the conference in the 165-pound weight class.
Ranked third in the conference in the 157-pound weight class is sophomore Rob Morrison. Freshman Aaron Nester is ranked sixth in the CAA in the 149-pound weight class. Lastly, ranked sixth in the 125-pound weight class is freshman Mitch Fenton.
The official roster for the 2007-08 season will not be confirmed until soon after the season begins.
Rider will not be wrestling at 100 percent to start off the season. Because of NCAA rules and problems of eligibility, some key wrestlers will be out for the first part of the season.
They will not be eligible until sometime in December, Taylor said.
The effect that this will have on the beginning of Rider’s season is uncertain. But with matches against nationally ranked teams, Rider needs to be at its best.
“We definitely will be a much stronger team in the second semester,” said Taylor.
Last season, the Broncs had a winning record of 11-7. This year they hope to improve their record and dominate in the CAA and NCAA championships.
For the opener, Rider will play at home against Missouri State on Nov. 9, at 8 p.m.