By Mike Ricchione
It was domination from the get-go as the wrestling team handed George Mason a 32-3 thrashing in an empty Alumni Gym on Jan. 24.
Rider (2-1, 2-0 MAC) started at 141 pounds instead of the usual 125 pounds, but that did not affect it as the Broncs opened by winning the first three bouts, two of them with bonus points, to jump out to a 12-0 lead.
Overall, the Broncs took the first six bouts before sustaining a loss at 197 pounds when Austin Stith defeated graduate student Matt Correnti, 11-5, for George Mason’s (0-1, 0-1 MAC) only decision.
Graduate student Jesse Dellavecchia and senior Ethan Laird continued their hot starts with technical falls over Daniel Segura and Ali Salem respectively at 157 and 285 pounds.
Dellavecchia and Laird are both now 4-0 on the season with bonus point victories in all their matches between them. Both are ranked inside the top 10 of their weight classes, according to WrestleStat.
Freshman Angel Garcia also moved to 4-0 after his 6-5 decision over Paul Pierce. Garcia’s been filling in the big shoes left behind by the departure of three-time NCAA qualifier Dean Sherry at 174 pounds.
Freshman McKenzie Bell and redshirt senior Jonathan Tropea recorded major decisions against AJ Poindexter and Josh Jones at 141 and 125 pounds respectively.
Bell was featured twice more after the dual during the extra matches, laying waste to George Mason’s remaining 141 pounders with a technical fall over Tyler Johnson and a 12-2 major decision over Shawn Nonaka for a 3-0 day.
“It felt good. I wasn’t really expecting anything else,” Bell said of his performance.
Redshirt sophomore Richie Koehler was the other Broncs starter who wrestled a second match, closing not only the dual meet but the action as a whole, with a decision over Anthony Glasl, 10-4 in the dual, and a major decision, 12-1, over Patrick Schellpfeffer.
Redshirt junior George Walton, ranked no. 23 by WrestleStat, pulled out a last-second takedown to survive a near-upset at the hands of Eli Dickens, 7-6.
With the victory, the Broncs extended their winning streak to 11 against the Patriots and have only lost once in 19 duals.
Wrestling in empty gyms still hasn’t settled in with Head Coach John Hangey, saying that today felt weird without the fans.
“It was really weird today,” Hangey said. “I kept trying to walk around and talk to people on the bench and stuff like that. It just seems weird. It almost seems like there’s a disconnect.”
Tropea, who said he finds motivation in his family to wrestle, did not mind the emptiness of Alumni Gym.
“It hasn’t affected me at all honestly because in the back of my mind, I know that they’re always watching on TV or whatever website you can,” Tropea said. “So I know that right after the match, I can talk to my family about my performance and we can go over what I need to work on but I really only wrestle for my family just to make them proud.”
With the absences of regular season tournaments and opens, teams have been wrestling extra matches to get looks at more guys. While they don’t impact the dual, they go against a wrestler’s record.
When the dual ended and the ESPN+ broadcast signed off, Rider and George Mason wrestled another 10 matches with Rider taking seven of them. Sophomore Michael Wilson won via major decision, 8-0, over Tyler Kocak.
Freshman Tyler Klinsky, sophomore Bryan Miraglia and redshirt junior Travis Layton came out victorious as well along with Wilson, Bell and Koehler.
Coming home from their season-opening loss against Binghamton on Jan. 9, Hangey suffered a mild stroke which sidelined him for one match, which was first reported by Advance Media.
“I’m feeling 100 percent better now. This probably would’ve never happened if we performed like this against Binghamton,” Hangey joked.
Assistant Coach Nic Bedelyon got his first career win as acting Head Coach during their win over Clarion, 30-9, on Jan. 16.
“[Bedelyon’s] everything to me. He is my right hand man and anything, I have a question, I have a comment. Whatever we do, he thinks like I do,” Hangey said, “His number one focus is the kids in the program and the program moving forward.”
Before the match, George Mason was one of eight Division I programs yet to get underway. The Patriots were one of four teams to start the season that day.
Just like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are gearing up to play in Super Bowl LV, the Broncs also have a bye week before a Sunday matchup on the road against Lehigh (0-2, 0-1 EIWA) Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. Off to a rough start, the Mountain Hawks will face Binghamton and Army to gain some positive momentum before their date with Rider.
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