2013-14 Wrestling Outlook
Courtesy: Rider Sports Information  
Release:  11/21/2013

2013-14 Wrestling Outlook

The Rider University wrestling program enters the 2013-14 season in a new league, but has the same goals as always.

“We have the same goals that we’ve always had,” said head coach Gary Taylor, who has compiled 390 victories and produced 13 All-Americans in his 35 years at Rider. “To do as well as we can in the conference championship, even in our first year, qualify wrestlers for Nationals, and come home from Nationals with an All-American or two.”

The Broncs return six starters from last year, two others from the 2011-12 season, and have brought in a recruiting class that is ranked among the best in the nation.

“We have some good wrestlers in our program this year,” Taylor said. “If they work hard and stay healthy we can have a run at the EWL title. This year’s team is a better team than last year’s. We had a good recruiting year and that inspires the returnees.”

The list of returnees is led by graduate student Jim Resnick, senior Ramon Santiago, junior Donald McNeill and sophomore Ryan Wolfe.

Resnick begins the season ranked in the top 20 at 174 after red-shirting last year.  A three-time NCAA qualifier, Resnick has 58 victories, including three wins at Nationals in his career. “Jim has won matches at Nationals and this is the year for him to take it to the next level,” Taylor said. “He has beaten All-Americans, now it is time to become one.”

Santiago won his weight class at the CAA Championships last year and looks to vie for an EWL title this year, beginning the year ranked among the top 15 165 pounders. “Ramon is a fifth year senior who has everything on the line this year,” Taylor said. “He is a potential All-American, with a lot of hard work and if things fall right at Nationals. There are a lot of people in his weight class that are also potential All-Americans, but that is his goal and he’s working toward that. Last year was a break-out year for him, getting over the hump of being good but not great. He was a conference champion and now through hard work he can take it to the next level.”

Santiago won a team-best 30 matches last year on his way to Nationals and won a bout at the NCAAs.

McNeill won 21 matches on his way to Nationals last season.  “Donald had a great second half of last season,” Taylor said. “He started beating people he was losing closely to. He competed very well at Nationals. He got bigger and stronger this summer. He works hard. This could and should be his breakout year.”

McNeill placed third in the CAAs at 197, winning three of four matches. At Nationals he lost 7-3 to the undefeated National Champion, Quentin Wright of Penn State, after losing a major decision to Wright earlier in the season.

Wolfe was named to the 2013 Amateur Wrestling News National All-Rookie team and was ranked as the fourth best 184 freshman in the nation last year. He was expected to red-shirt last season but due to injuries he competed and won 23 matches, placing runner-up at the CAA Championships, and could use his red-shirt year this season.

Starting ahead of Wolfe at 184 this season will be Clint Morrison, the last of a long list of Morrisons who have excelled on the Rider mats, including father Tim, who earned All-America honors, and brothers TJ and Robbie, who combined to qualify for six NCAA tournaments.

Morrison won 11 matches last season before missing most of the year with an injury. He began the 2012-13 season by placing third at the Binghamton Open.

Other key returnees include Chuck Zeisloft, Curt Delia and Greg Velasco.

Zeisloft red-shirted last year after leading the 2011-12 team with 23 wins at 125. “We believe Chuck is going to take a big jump this year because he is very serious,” Taylor said of his 133 pounder.  “He’s working hard. He’s always had talent but now his level of commitment will help him be better this year.” Zeisloft went 2-2 at the 2011-12 Midlands.

Delia compiled 19 wins as a true freshman last year, the seventh most on the team, and placed third at the Keystone Classic.

Velasco won 11 matches last season as a red-shirt freshman at heavyweight, including seven in dual meets, and placed sixth at the Keystone Classic.  “Greg is a pretty good wrestler,” Taylor said. “He’s strong and powerful. He knows how to wrestle. Last year he was a freshman and sometimes wrestled like one. He is smarter this year and at heavyweight you have to wrestle smart. One mistake at heavyweight is often the match. He’s learned these things through maturity. He’s worked hard over the spring and summer to really improve and he’s gotten a lot better.”

The newcomers are led by Robert Deutsch, a transfer from Old Dominion, true freshman Wayne Stinson, and red-shirt freshman Paul Kirchner.

Deutsch compiled 29 victories last season, with six coming against eventual NCAA qualifiers, and was the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association runner-up while at ODU. “Rob is a returning national qualifier who has proven he is competitive on the national level,” Taylor said. “He has beaten the wrestler from North Carolina who is currently ranked seventh in the nation. He has a goal to be a national champion and he’s working hard to achieve that goal. He’s very talented and very serious, very committed.”

Stinson won the NJSIAA State Championship at 152 pounds last year and was ranked 11th in the nation in his weight class. “Wayne has high goals here, high aspirations,” Taylor said. “He’s working hard and getting better. We believe he will be a really good asset as a freshman.”  A four-time District 25 Champion and four-time Region 7 Finalist, Stinson compiled a 140-20 scholastic record with a school record 80 career falls.

Kirchner red-shirted last season after twice being a New Jersey State qualifier who won over 100 matches before finishing eighth in New Jersey in 2012.  “Paul has done a lot of hard work and is improving a lot right now,” Taylor said. “He can surprise some people this year. He competes hard. He is getting better postionaly and technically right now.”

Other key newcomers include 125s Zach Valcarce and J.R. Wert, 141 B.J. Clagon and 149 Chad Walsh.  “Wert is also going to be very good,” Taylor said. “B.J. could also see some action at 141 this year, and Walsh is an outstanding wrestler who could red-shirt this year.”

Valcarce was a two-time District 32 runner-up, finished third at Region 8 and was a NJ State qualifier at 125 pounds.

Wert was ranked fifth in the nation last year at 120 pounds by Flo Wrestling and 10th by InterMat as a three-time Virginia State Champion.

Clagon won four NHSCA National Championships, one of only three wrestlers to ever achieve that, and two NJSIAA State Championships at Toms River South.  He was ranked third in the nation at 145 pounds as a senior and compiled a 155-6 scholastic record. Clagon was the tenth highest ranked recruit in all weight classes according to InterMat.

Walsh was ranked 18th in the nation at 152 last year as a four-time NJ State place winner at Camden Catholic.

A new conference and six home matches, including hosting the two-time National Champions, highlight the 2013-14 schedule.

After beginning the season at the Virginia Tech Hokie Open, Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium will host the three-time National Champion, Penn State, on November 16.

“I think hosting Penn State will not only be good for Rider University but for the wrestling community in the entire state of New Jersey,” Taylor said.  “I really thank Cael (PSU head coach Cael Sanderson), Cody (associate head coach Cody Sanderson) and Casey (assistant coach Casey Cunningham) for doing this.  Penn State is a program that tries to help the smaller programs.”

“Hosting Penn State is a great opportunity for our University and wrestling program,” said associate head coach John Hangey.  “It provides our student athletes with critical experience against some of the best wrestlers in the nation.”

“They didn’t have to come here so I have a lot of respect for them,” Taylor said.  “I’m looking forward to it. Last year when we went there our kids competed hard and we’ll be ready for them this year.”

The Eastern Wrestling League dual meet season begins November 22 when the Broncs host Lock Haven. “I have a ton of respect for the EWL,” Taylor said.  “When I first came to Rider (1978) these were the teams I began scheduling. These tough programs with great tradition helped prepare us for the NCAAs.”

“The EWL is a long standing wrestling conference that has a great tradition and history of success,” Hangey said. “We look forward to the challenges that the EWL presents and feel that it will help us become better prepared for the NCAA Championships.”

“We’re very excited to be in the EWL,” Taylor said. “It is a league with great tradition. It will serve well to get our wrestlers ready to compete at the national level. It is a league with a lot of parity.   Edinboro has been the class of the league in recent years by Clarion had a great recruiting class and Lock Haven is back to where they used to be. Bloomsburg was a great dual meet team last year and has some good individuals. Cleveland State has had All-Americans. George Mason comes into the league with us and they are improved. Even when you take out Penn State and Pittsburgh who used to be in the EWL, there are still a ton of All-Americans who came from this league.”

Rider schedule mainstays such as the Keystone Classic at Penn, dual meets at Binghamton, Edinboro and Clarion and the prestigious Midlands Championships highlight the first semester. “The Keystone Classic a great tournament,” Taylor said. “They bring in different teams each year but it is always tough. This year will be one of the toughest in recent years.”

“The Keystone Classic, VA Duals and the Midlands Championships are very important events for our program every year,” Hangey said.  “We get exposed to several nationally ranked teams and individuals that help prepare us for the National tournament in March.”

The Broncs begin the 2014 calendar year by hosting Harvard and EWL-rival Bloomsburg, sandwiched around the annual trip to the Virginia Duals.

Rider will visit former conference rivals Boston University, Sacred Heart and Drexel, while hosting new rival Duke and the Broncs’ oldest rival, Hofstra. 

“We have been together with Drexel and Hofstra since the old East Coast Conference,” Hangey said, “so it only makes sense to keep those rivalries going.”

“I’m hoping we can continue with these traditional rivalries,” Taylor said.  “We’ve had lots of good battles with them. There was a stretch when we won five conference titles in a row (1996-2000) and then they won five in a row (2001-2005) and it was going back and forth.”

The dual meet season concludes at EWL foe Cleveland State and cross town rival Princeton, before heading back to Cleveland State for the EWL Championships.

The NCAAs this year will be held in Oklahoma City.

“Oklahoma City is a great venue for the NCAA tournament in March,” Hangey said.  “We look forward to traveling there and having the opportunity to compete with the nation’s best athletes for All American status.”

“I feel good about going back to Oklahoma,” Taylor said.  “We’ve only been there for Nationals two other times, and both times we came home with an All-American.  (Tim Morrison in 1983, John Lucerne in 1985) So I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Oklahoma City since the first one, the second one confirmed it and I’m hoping the third one does even more.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


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