By Brandon Scalea
After struggles that saw the wrestling team lose five of six matches and fall out of national rankings, as high as 10th in early January, they were able to get back on track with wins over Bloomsburg on Jan. 30 and Hofstra on Feb. 1.
The Broncs (10-6, 3-1 EWL) traveled to conference rival Bloomsburg (0-8, 0-3 EWL) missing five starters from the lineup. Their substitutes held their own, allowing Rider to win six of 10 bouts for a 26-13 win.
Associate Head Coach John Hangey was pleased with how the backups stepped up at a crucial time.
“In a situation like this you need to have guys who will step up for you,” Hangey said.
For Rider, 157-pound freshman Chad Walsh improved to 22-6 on the season with his fourth pin of the year, giving the Broncs a commanding 17-3 lead.
B.J. Clagon, a 149-pound freshman, also came through, winning a major decision to improve to 18-7 on the year.
“It’s a good feeling knowing you did your job,” Clagon said. “Wrestling is a very competitive sport to the point where you simply want to dominate your opponent. Our coaches work us hard and when we need the extra points in the match we can earn them.”
The turning point in the match was an overtime win for Chuck Zeisloft, a 141-pound senior. In a tough bout that went down to the wire, Zeisloft was able to record a takedown to give Rider an early 7-3 advantage.
Rob Deutsch, a 133-pound junior and Greg Velasco, a junior heavyweight, also came through with wins.
Deutsch, who improved to 18-6 overall and 3-0 in EWL matches, explained the importance of more people stepping up and winning when the team is faced with injuries.
“It’s great to be able to put bonus points on the board for your team, especially when we are shorthanded,” said Deutsch. “It’s a long season so it’s important to dig deep and get tough.”
Velasco won the heavyweight match for the final score for Rider. It was the ninth time in 16 tries against Bloomsburg that the Broncs came out with a win. Last season, Head Coach Gary Taylor recorded his 400th career win against the Huskies.
Two nights later, Rider headed to Hempstead, N.Y., to take on Hofstra (5-9, 3-4 EIWA). Hangey believed this showdown was going to be a tough one.
“Hofstra is a challenge,” Hangey said. “They are always a good program and we really need to step up if we want to beat them. They are a better team than Bloomsburg.”
His team, however, was able to win five bouts over Hofstra, while still being shorthanded, winning 21-15 and getting their 10th victory of the season. Clagon led the way for the Broncs yet again, winning by fall for Rider’s final points of the match. It was Clagon’s 19th win overall, making him 12-4 in duals.
Also for the Broncs, 197-pound senior Donald McNeil returned from missing three meets with an injury, and he proved to be key, putting Rider on top early 9-6 with a win. Walsh, Deutsch and 165-pound junior Conor Brennan also earned wins.
It was only until last season that Hofstra and Rider were not conference rivals; they have been competing with each other since 1973-74. It was only the third time in the last 16 seasons that the Broncs were able to top Hofstra.
Rider will be back in action at Alumni Gym on Feb. 6 when they play host to another local rival, Drexel.