By Mike Ricchione
After being limited to two decisions in its loss to Illinois on Feb. 7, Rutgers flipped the tables and held the Rider wrestling team to six points on Feb. 9 in front of a sold-out Alumni Gym.
“I wish this was like this for every dual meet,” Head Coach John Hangey said of the crowd. “Because our kids deserve to wrestle in crowds like that… because of the hard work they put on and I appreciate everybody that came out. I apologize for the end result because we didn’t get it done but we need that continued support and I think our kids deserve it because of what they sacrifice and devote their lives to in this sport.”
Rutgers (9-6, 3-5 Big Ten) took a commanding lead by winning the first four bouts before redshirt senior Jesse Dellavecchia, ranked fourth by WrestleStat, got Rider (10-3, 6-1 MAC) on the board. He gave the fans something to cheer about before the intermission with his decision over Mike Van Brill, 3-1, at 157 pounds.
“It’s a cool feeling,” Dellavecchia said of the crowd reaction. “It was really important to get that win and keep a little train going, trying to get Joe Casey pumped up.”
During the intermission, Rider honored two of its former All-Americans, Lou DiSerafino and Shawn Scannell. The men were approaching their 40th and 20th anniversaries of becoming an All-American, respectively.
On the other side of the intermission, the Scarlet Knights also took four out of the five bouts.
“We just lost a lot of tight, close matches and I think that was the difference in this match.” said redshirt senior Dean Sherry, who had the other Rider victory with his 5-3 decision over Willie Scott. Could’ve gone either way, there were a lot of toss-ups and we were on the short end of the stick.”
Redshirt senior Pete Lipari, who transferred from Rutgers earlier this season and ranked No. 25 by FloWrestling, wrestled against JoJo Aragona, who beat Lipari for Rutgers’ 141-pound starting spot on the roster.
During the sixth overtime period, Lipari had a one-point lead and was seconds away from protecting it until Aragona got the reversal and the victory.
After the bout, there was a fight in the stands near the Rutgers bench that delayed the start of graduate student Gino Fluri vs. Gerard Angelo at 149 pounds.
Another altercation occurred after the dual, in which Lipari needed to be restrained by the coaching staff after he went through the handshake line.
“I walked over and I just saw Pete [Lipari] and I don’t know who said what, what happened, I just grabbed him and got him out of there. That’s my responsibility as a coach to protect my athletes.” Hangey said of the incident. Lipari declined to comment.
The lone matchup involving two ranked wrestlers happened at 197 pounds where No. 19 Jordan Pagano wrestled junior Ethan Laird, ranked seventh by FloWrestling.
Laird scored a takedown and Pagano managed two escapes in regulation. Pagano was also sitting on a stalling warning and the crowd begged the referees to hit him with another stalling but it did not happen and the match went into overtime.
In overtime, the crowd was still looking for another stalling call but instead saw Pagano secure the upset victory with a takedown which prompted some fans to leave.
There were a total of three overtime bouts but Rider could not win any of them as Fluri lost his Southern Scuffle rematch against Angelo.
Rider was without its 133-pound regular in redshirt senior Anthony Cefolo, who is out with a neck injury. Cefolo’s status for the rest of the season is uncertain, according to Hangey.
Weighing-in redshirt freshman Chris Wright and Richie Koehler at 133 pounds, Hangey gave Wright the call against No. 9 Sammy Alvarez.
“Total style matchup in my opinion,” Hangey said of the decision to go with Wright. “That kid [Wright] has a couple of things that he’s very good at that Richie [Koehler]’s kind of a little vulnerable for. It had nothing else to do with anything other than that.”
Wright tried but Alvarez just barely got the major decision, 8-0, the only bout with bonus points.
Before being beat by Rutgers, the Broncs traveled to Lock Haven for a Mid-American Conference (MAC) dual on Feb. 7.
Lock Haven (7-6, 3-4 MAC) won the first three matches, all by bonus points, to jump to a 14-0 lead. Fluri with his decision over Brock Port and Dellavecchia with a major decision against Alex Klucker cut the lead in half through the midway point.
The Broncs captured the last four bouts to win, 20-17.
Rider could clinch a share of the MAC Regular Season title if it wins against Clarion (8-5, 5-3 MAC) on Feb. 16 and Missouri (10-6, 7-0 MAC) loses to SIU Edwardsville, which, in contrast, has not won a conference dual to this point.