By: Cristiana Votta
March 9 marked the end of team performances for the season as the Broncs (10-8, 3-3 CAA) took the road to the CAA Championship in Boston. Rider tied for second place with Binghamton (13-5), falling 13 points short of the CAA champion, Hofstra (6-15, 4-2 CAA). This marked the first time Rider has come this close to winning since the 2005 season, when it also fell to Hofstra.
Zac Cibula, a 149-pound senior, was proud of his team in his final hoorah as a Bronc.
“I felt confident in my team’s performance at the CAA,” he said. “Unfortunately, even after competing our hardest, we fell short of our goals.”
Although the ninth marked the team’s end, four Broncs advanced to the NCAA tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, which took place March 21-22. Cibula, 165-pound junior Ramon Santiago, 197-pound sophomore Donald McNeil and 133-pound sophomore Jimmy Morris were set to battle on the first day of the tournament.
Each of the wrestlers faced highly-ranked athletes and were eventually defeated. Although they didn’t make it as far as they would have liked, their efforts stood out.
“I feel that we improved from last year,” Associate Head Coach John Hangey said. “We wrestled much more to our potential at the conference tournament and the NCAAs. We were also a better dual meet team.”
McNeil and Morris went 0-2, while Cibula and Santiago went 1-1 on the first day of the tournament. The latter would advance to the second day of competition.
Hangey felt that those who qualified for the NCAA tournament proved themselves and looks forward to coaching all the returning wrestlers.
“The guys that qualified for the NCAAs represented Rider very well,” Hangey said. “They gained valuable experience and realized just how hard it is to become an All American at the Division I level. I expect them to make a bigger commitment to their training and lifestyle so they can put themselves in a position to make it happen again next year.”
Although this marks the end of the 2012-13 season, the Broncs feel sure that they can build off of everything they learned this year and continue making Rider history.
“The fact that we have established a solid foundation to build upon both in competition and training [was a positive],” Hangey said. “We only lose one senior and return several key red-shirts that should make us a better team this year. We also have a very good recruiting class coming in that will enhance the talent in the wrestling room.”
Being the only senior on a roster of 23, Cibula felt he finished off his career as a Bronc on a positive note.
“I learned a ton — not just this season, but throughout my career,” Cibula said. “In a way, I believe I went out the right way because I know I went down trying my hardest and don’t have any regrets.”
Hangey looks forward to preparing the Broncs for next season’s battles and hopes they can continue to improve.
“We truly appreciate the support from everyone throughout the season and look forward to getting back to work for next year right away,” Hangey said. “Our motto is ‘Rider strong — Bronc tough.’”