By Bethany-May Howard
The wrestling team went two for two at home this week, beating Princeton 25-11 on Feb. 16, and Maryland 23-20 on Feb. 18.
The Broncs are now 13-1 (5-1 EWL) on the season heading into the EWL Championships.
“This is a special team and it’s all the teams leading up to here that built the history and the quality of this program,” said Head Coach Gary Taylor.
Rider’s win over cross-town rivals Princeton on Thursday moved Coach Taylor ahead of Minnesota’s J Robinson and into sole possession of third place for the all-time NCAA Division I dual wins with 441.
“It’s a tribute to both our coaching staff and our wrestlers,” said Taylor. “They went after something at the beginning of this year and they worked hard to get it for me.”
The Princeton match was also Greek Night at Alumni Gym, which created an energetic atmosphere fit for the occasion. Delta Phi Epsilon won the loudest Greek house competition and took home $200 for their supportive efforts.
“Our kids really, really wrestled hard [Thursday night] and that’s what got them the victory,” said Taylor. “We set the pace, I liked the way that they were aggressive and fought the entire time.”
The Bronc’s come-from-behind win over Maryland then moved Taylor to 442 wins. It was an intense, emotionally fueled match in which both teams were deducted points for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The dual with Maryland was also Rider’s senior night, which honored Bronc seniors Brendan Calas, Zach Valcarce and Ryan Wolfe.
Ranked as highly as 10th by FloWrestling, Wolfe won both his matches at 197. The senior beat Princeton’s Troy Murtha 20-6 on Thursday night and Maryland’s David-Brian Whisler 8-3 in his last match at Alumni Gym.
The win against Whisler secured victory for the Broncs in what was also the final home match for Coach Taylor, who is set to retire at the end of the season after 39 years at the helm of Rider wrestling.
“I was happy that I was put in that position [to win the match],” said Wolfe. “To do it for Coach Taylor and for myself and for the team was just really an exclamation point on the season.”
Junior Chad Walsh also won both of his matches this week. Walsh, who is ranked fifth at 165 by both The Open Mat and Intermat Wrestling, pinned Princeton’s Matthew Gancayo with 1.02 left in the third period after having gone close with a near fall in the second. He picked up his 15th pin of the season against Maryland’s Patrick Gerish with 53.9 seconds left in the third period.
“I’m chasing the guy who’s number one,” said Walsh. “I’m hoping to get him.”
Junior Wayne Stinson, wrestling up a weight class at 184, also picked up two wins. He beat Princeton’s Ian Baker 8-5 on Thursday night, but it was his pin against Maryland’s Idris White at 1.46 which really stood out.
“I saw the kid with his elbows out and thought I might as well just go for it,” said Stinson. “I knew I had to get the pin because it was huge for the team.”
Taylor said Stinson’s win took a huge weight off the team’s shoulders for the remainder of the meet.
“Wayne Stinson is the hero of the day,” said Taylor. “When Wayne got the pin, it really took the pressure off.”
Junior B.J. Clagon, ranked 16th by FloWrestling, helped Rider to victory after scoring an 8-3 decision over Princeton’s Mike D’Angelo and a 3-0 win over Maryland’s Justin Alexander at 157.
At 125, junior J.R. Wert also won both matches for the Broncs. He beat Princeton’s Ty Agaisse 3-1 just 21.7 seconds into overtime after the match ended tied at 1 in regulation. Against Maryland, he got the Broncs on the board first with a 6-1 decision over Michael Beck.
Sophomore Anthony Cefolo went 1-1 at 133 after beating Princeton’s Pat D’Arcy and losing closely to Maryland’s Billy Rappo in overtime.
At 141, freshman Evan Fidelibus also went 1-1. He beat Princeton’s Jordan Reich 10-5, but was pinned at 3:49 by Maryland’s Ryan Diehl.
Sophomore Dean Sherry lost at 174 to Princeton’s Jonathan Schleifer 7-4, but came back on Saturday to tie the Broncs level at 14 with a hard-fought 7-3 decision over Maryland’s Josh Ugalde.
At 149, Princeton’s nationally ranked Jordan Laster won 12-2 over junior Jesse Rodgers and Maryland’s Adam Whitesell won by fall over sophomore Gino Fluri at 1.36.
Junior Mauro Correnti lost a major decision 11-0 against Princeton’s Ray O’Donnell at 285. Against Maryland, the Broncs forfeited that weight class and took home the 23-20 win.
The Broncs will next wrestle on March 4 in the EWL Championships which will be held at Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania. Taylor is fully confident in his team’s success moving forward
“This is a very special team,” said Coach Taylor. “I told them you’re as talented as the best teams that we’ve ever had here, you just have to believe that.”
Senior Ryan Wolfe will be looking to defend his EWL title at 197 and Rider will be hoping for a repeat of last year (2016) when they won the EWL championship, their first since joining the conference and their first overall title since 2000.
“We’re looking forward to sending some guys to nationals and going from there,” said Wolfe.
Walsh said the team wants to send its legendary head coach off with something he’s never had: a national champion wrestler.
“We’ve got to get [Coach Taylor] a national champion to go with some of the accolades he’s already got,” said Walsh.