By Paige McAtee
The Rider wrestling team took a slim squad of five underclassmen wrestlers, consisting of four freshmen and one sophomore, to a tournament at Penn State in order to gain experience.
On Sunday, the wrestling team gave its regulars some rest and brought five wrestlers to compete at the Nittany Lion Open, where they performed well.
“We had a couple injuries to our key starters and with the young group, we were back and forth with the idea of, do we make them grind through or let them rest up, get technically better and build confidence in the practice room and that’s the way we chose to do it,” said associate head coach John Hangey.
Sophomore Alex Mortiz competed in the 125-pound weight class for the Broncs. In the pigtails, Mortiz defeated freshman Max Soria from Buffalo, 6-2, but then he lost in the first round to freshman Nate Morgan of Penn State, 6-2.
Mortiz then got the chance to redeem himself in the wrestle-backs. The Riverton native first defeated freshman T.J. Stanton from Mercyhurst College, winning 7-0 and followed it up by beating freshman Colton Dalberth of Lock Haven, 10-6, but fell to freshman Jenkins Monzey of Maryland, 7-3, in the consolation quarterfinals.
“Alex is a tough kid and he’s really coming along nicely,” Hangey said.
Competing for the Broncs unattached was freshman heavyweight Tim Gecaj. In the first round, he defeated sophomore Ryan Gray of Maryland 6-5, but was pinned 2:41 into his second match by junior Cameron Wade of Penn State.
In Gecaj’s first consolation round, he was pitted against junior Michael McCarthy of the Naval Academy. Gecaj was struggling with an injury and could not continue.
“Tim has a bright future,” Hangey said. “He’s a big, strong kid who has a desire to get better.”
Competing in the 141-pound weight class was freshman Nick Papa, who wrestled unattached for Rider. He went against freshman Dan Manley of Hofstra and was defeated, 9-4, in his first match.
Freshman Joe Benedetti lost in his first match as well. Paired against sophomore Jeffrey Brigham of Edinboro, he was defeated 10-2.
Four Rider wrestlers are currently ranked nationally. Sophomore 165-pound Jim Resnick, junior 133-pound Jimmy Kirchner and senior 174-pound Rob Morrison are the top Broncs who are currently ranked in the country.
Rider will be hosting Army in a dual meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Gym.
“We feel rested, healthy and ready to see what the team’s made of,” Hangey said.