By Christopher Brooks
The wrestling season came to a close for Rider on March 21 at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in Oklahoma City. Five Bronc wrestlers made the journey, placing 37th out of 66 of the top schools in the nation.
The first day of competition was successful for Rider, as it was victorious in six of 11 matches, having all five wrestlers escape the consolation round. The second day of the tournament proved more difficult for the Broncs as they dropped all but two of their seven bouts.
Robert Deutsch, a 125-pound sophomore, was the 11th seed in his weight class, going 2-2 in his matchups. This is Deutsch’s second trip to the NCAA tournament, but first with the Broncs. He earned a victory in his first match, pinning Ohio State freshman Nick Roberts, but Deutsch was pinned for the first time this season in his second match against Oklahoma State sophomore Ed Klimara.
Although Deutsch was not exactly pleased with his performance, he was happy to have the opportunity to wrestle against competition from all over the country.
“I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do,” he said. “However, now it just becomes another learning experience on things to work on for next year. I wish I had stuck to my game plan a little bit better.”
Ramon Santiago, a 165-pound senior, won three of five bouts in his second NCAA tournament appearance. In the consolation round, Santiago pinned senior Jake Kemerer of Lock Haven, but went on to lose his next bout in the first round to junior Michael Moreno of Iowa State. This was Santiago’s final competition as a Bronc. He finished with 78 wins in his career.
Chuck Zeisloft, a 133-pound junior, finished 1-2 in his bouts. Zeisloft lost to Central Michigan senior Joe Roth and Stanford senior Ryan Mango, but was able to defeat Airforce senior Greg Rinker earlier in the competition during the consolation round for his first win in the national tournament.
Zeisloft admitted that he was originally excited just to be a part of the NCAA tournament, but after his bouts he wished he could have done better.
“At first I was just happy to be there,” he said. “But after only winning a match and experiencing the tournament, I was disappointed with my performance. I wasn’t happy because I didn’t train just to get there. I trained to get on the podium.”
Junior Clint Morrison picked up one victory in three matches in the 174-pound weight class. Morrison lost 5-4 in his first match to three-time NCAA qualifier, junior Max Thomusseit of Pittsburgh, but turned it around later in the tournament, pinning Virgina senior Jonathan Fausay.
The fifth and final NCAA qualifier for the Broncs was 174-pound sophomore Conor Brennan, who went 1-2 at the competition. Brennan secured a 7-2 first round victory over Ohio State sophomore Mark Martin, but went on to lose in the second round 14-5 to Nebraska junior Robert Kokesh.
Overall, Deutsch was pleased with the Broncs’ performance in Oklahoma City. He will now look forward to taking a small breather before preparing for next season.
“I think my teammates did a great job representing Rider at the NCAA tournament,” he said. “Everyone fought the best they could have.”