By Christopher Masiello
The wrestling team’s season got off to a fast start going 3-0 in the Hokie Duals at Virginia Tech on Nov. 10, where the Broncs picked up victories against Old Dominion, Kent State and Chattanooga.
As a result of its impressive performance in the first week of the season, the team was ranked No. 25 on the season’s first USA Today/NWCA/AWN coaches poll, which was released on Nov. 12.
Old Dominion, whom the Broncs defeated 20-12, went on to beat No. 22, University of North Carolina, and No. 8, Wisconsin.
Associate Head Coach John Hangey was pleased to see his athletes competing for the full duration of every match.
“Our kids competed very hard for the full seven minutes, which was the difference in winning the close individual matches,” Hangey said.
Robert Deutsch, a 125-pound sophomore, led the way, winning three of his matches in his first appearance as a Bronc after transferring from Old Dominion. Deutsch is currently ranked 11th in his weight class.
Donald McNeil, a 197-pound junior, also did well, picking up two decision victories and one major decision, but he did not feel he had given his best performance.
“Personally, I think I could have wrestled better,” McNeil said. “I was 3-0, but my matches were sloppy. I definitely have to focus on cleaning up some things.”
Paul Kirchner, a 141-pound freshman, picked up two wins, including a crucial pin that gave the Broncs the edge against Chattanooga.
“Paulie Kirchner wrestled very well all three matches. The pin he got for us in the last dual was huge,” McNeil said.
Conor Brennan, a 157-pound sophomore, picked up two decision victories and had to do it wrestling at a weight class he is not used to. Brennan moved up in weight to 174 pounds from 157 in order to replace injured graduate student Jim Resnick.
McNeil was impressed with Brennan’s performance in his new weight class.
“Conor Brennan beat two very good wrestlers and barely lost to another,” McNeil said.
Ramon Santiago, a 165-pound senior, and 184-pound junior Clint Morrison picked up two victories each, both earning one by decision and another by major decision.
The Broncs were also able to get one victory each from 133-pound junior Chuck Zeisloft, 149-pound sophomore Curt Delia and 285-pound sophomore Greg Velasco. Velasco’s victory came in the final seconds against Kent State, during which he earned a crucial takedown that gave him the decision win and clinched the team victory for the Broncs.
The strong start for Rider sets the stage for a matchup with three-time defending national champs and the current No. 1 team in the country, Penn State, on Nov. 16. The match will be televised by The Comcast Network.
Hangey looks forward to the match because it will show who is ready to compete at the highest level.
“The Penn State match is a great opportunity for the kids in our program to wrestle some of the best kids in the country,” Hangey said. “It is important for our kids to prepare like they have so far this season so they are ready to go Saturday.”