By Mike Ricchione
An opposing All-American wrestler dashed the wrestling team’s chance at victory as Rider lost, 22-16, to Maryland on Feb. 24.
Rider was weakened without its heavyweight regular, junior Ryan Cloud, who dealt with shoulder injuries sustained during the Bloomsburg dual on Feb. 10 and will be ready for the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championships, according to Head Coach John Hangey.
The man competing in Cloud’s place was redshirt sophomore James Brady, a former Big Ten athlete that transferred from Rutgers, where he played football. Brady faced Maryland’s only ranked wrestler, ranked No. 9 by InterMat, All-American Youssif Hemida.
He started out with high energy, and got the first shot in on Hemida. Hemida thwarted that takedown attempt and countered to turn it into two points.
Brady didn’t make it out of the second period as Hemida chose down, escaped, took down Brady again and pinned him 58 seconds into the period to win the match, 22-16.
“I believe Jimmy gave me a fight, he just isn’t at that level yet,” Hangey said.
Brady would have been in for an even tougher week if the Minnesota dual, scheduled for Feb. 21, had not been canceled. He was projected to face No. 1 Gable Stevenson.
The match against Minnesota was canceled due to travel conditions impacted by snowstorms in both Lawrenceville and Minnesota.
The Feb. 24 match against Maryland was the Broncs’ Senior Day as Rider honored three seniors, Jovanni Gomez, Jesse Rodgers and Michale Fagg-Daves.
“[I] definitely felt it a little more this week leading up to it,” Fagg-Daves said about Senior Day. “I was telling myself to seize the moment, enjoy every day and spend a little bit of extra time on the mat just taking it all in and embracing it.”
Senior day didn’t have a satisfying start as the Terrapins took three of the first four bouts.
Senior Gino Fluri had to stop the bleeding both physically and metaphorically at 157 as his match with Adam Whitesell stopped multiple times because of a gash between his eyebrows that required stitches after.
Despite that, Fluri diced Maryland’s lead in half with a 7-3 decision.
“A lot of things to work on but I’m glad I fought through adversity there,” said Fluri. “Get the cut, and my shoulder [was] bothering me a bit. Just happy to get the win.”
Things were looking up for Rider after the first five bouts as junior Jesse Dellavecchia, ranked No. 14 by theopenmat.com and FloWrestling, exploded for a 10-1 major decision over Philip Spadafora at 165.
“The kids need to take a page out of [Dellavecchia’s] book,” said Hangey. “As soon as that whistle blows, he’s all over that guy.”
Fagg-Daves finished his career at Alumni Gym with a 14-7 decision over Kyle Jasenksi that put Rider within three points of Maryland.
“It was bittersweet because it was my last time wrestling at Alumni [Gym,]” Fagg-Daves said. “But the end goal is to win conferences and make a run for the nationals.”
With the loss, the Broncs finished their dual meet season at 8-5 (5-1 EWL).
Hangey laid out what adjustments the Broncs will make before the EWLs.
“Excitement. Energy. We need to hit them with a jolt of energy and fire when they step on that mat,” said Hangey. “We’re too calculated. We’re wrestling not to lose. There’s just not enough passion and excitement about going out there and trying to tear someone’s head off.”
Rider will travel to Fairfax, Virginia where it will compete in the EWL Championships hosted by George Mason on March 9.
The wrestlers that win their EWL weight class will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Wrestling Championships that begin on March 21.