The last time that the Hofstra University wrestling team took the mat in their home arena, they fought tooth and nail, making the Ohio State University earn every inch of their 19-13 dual victory. Sunday February 8th was an entirely different story. On a day that the Hempstead based university honored greatness and committment, the athletes representing the host school seemed to struggle to find that same magic that made their dual with the Buckeyes so special, falling to the third ranked team in the country, Cornell, 27-12.
Kicking off the dual at 125 pounds, Cornell’s two-time All-American, Troy Nickerson won a battle of former New York State Champions, controlling the action from the feet to the tune of four takedowns, including a final score with approximately five seconds remaining in the match to secure bonus points for the visiting Big Red. While Bonanno did battle valiantly, avoiding any nearfall points against the always tough on top Nickerson, his inexperience showed, as he was repeatedly out muscled and outworked by the Cornell veteran.
Following the opening bout loss to fall into an early 4-0 hole, the Pride bounced back incredibly well, winning the next two bouts of the evening to take a brief, but crowd pleasing 9-4 lead. Sparking this mini winning streak was junior, Lou Ruggirello. 0-3 in his career against Big Red opponent, Mike Grey, coming into the match, the two-time defending Colonial Athletic Association Champion picked a great time to break the schneid, scoring a takedown in the first and third periods to go along with an escape and the riding point, to post the 6-0 win over the wrestler that I previously referred to as Ruggirello’s unicorn.
RS freshman, Justin Accordino would maintain the momentum created by Ruggirello, rallying from a 7-5 second period deficit to land a big five point throw. Once the native of Wilkes-Barre, PA had his opponent, Cornell sophomore Corey Manson, on his back, he had no intention of letting him survive. Working tirelessly to get Manson’s shoulder down to the mat, Accordino would eventually earn the fall at the 4:05 mark. This win got the crowd on their feet and all of a sudden, that feeling that we were about to be a part of something special overtook the crowd. Unfortunately, the visiting Big Red had something different in mind, as they would go on to win the next six consecutive matches to establish a stranglehold on the dual.
Beginning the Cornell comeback was DJ Meagher. Knowing that he was not facing regular Pride starter, P.J. Gillespie, who has been out the past two weeks while nursing an injured shoulder, the Big Red sophomore come out aggressive from the onset, quickly finishing a takedown on HU’s Fran O’Brien. Dominating from the top position, Meagher was able to get a stall call on the RS freshman from Florida with a little more than a minute remaining in the opening period. Forced to finally open up on bottom, O’Brien quickly found himself getting turned to his back for three near fall points. Smelling blood, Meagher refused to relent, completing the fall with 54 seconds remaining in the opening frame to put his team back in front.
In what was billed as the featured bout of the dual, not only did the Pride lose the match, they may have lost the services of their 157-pound starter, Jon Bonilla-Bowman, for the remainder of the year. Entering the dual today with what was described as a cartilage issue in his ribs, the junior from Pomona, NY wrestled the first four and a half minutes against defending National Champion, Jordan Leen, like a man on the mission. While both wrestlers had their fair share of near takedowns, one would have to say that it was the 2008 CAA Champion who was coming forward, while his opposition was focusing more on countering. The double goose egg would last until approximately :25 seconds to go in the second period when Leen kicked out of a JBB single-leg attempt and quickly scored with a double-leg to take the 2-0 lead. Leen would pad the lead to 5-0 with an off the whistle escape followed by a lightning quick takedown to begin the final period. That lead would grow to 8-0 when Leen, regarded as an extremely well versed wrestler from top, threw in a leg and utilized a crossface to take Bonilla-Bowman to his back for a five count. It was at this point that thing went from bad to horrific for HU enthusiasts. Grimacing in pain, Bonilla-Bowman clutched his injured ribs and everyone at press row was certain that the bout was about to be defaulted to Leen. However, showing the heart of a lion, the Hofstra wrestler, shaking as he returned to the mat, decided to continue. This was a decision that may have ended his junior campaign. Off the whistle, Leen cranked back on JBB and all I heard was a scream. Obviously overtaken by the pain, Bonilla-Bowman did not put up much of a fight from his back, surrendering a fall at the 6:44 mark…Leen later apologized to the injured Pride wrestler during the post-match handshake. The fall would mean that the visiting Big Red would carry a 16-9 lead into the intermission.
After a 10-15 minute break that saw the host school pay tribute to outgoing senior Alton Lucas, as well as recognize the only national champion in university history, Nick Gallo, with a banner raising, the Big Red’s winning streak would continue as #1 ranked Mack Lewnes, back in the lineup after taking a few weeks off, won a methodical 3-1 decision over RS sophomore, Ryan Patrovich. Despite both wrestlers getting in deep on shots several times throughout regulation, all we had after seven minutes was an exchange of escape points. In fact, the defense displayed in this bout was so good that up and until the last 10 seconds, it appeared that the winner would be determined via tiebreaker. However, with short time on the clock, a Lewnes double-leg would be all she wrote for Patrovich, who despite putting forth a very noble effort, was unable to fend off this one final shot.
At 174, everyone in the building had high hopes on sending departing senior, Alton Lucas, out on a good note. After a scoreless first three minutes, Lucas elected to begin the second period on bottom. While there, the senior from West Babylon, NY seemed to be plagued again by gas tank issues, as he was unable to successfully build a base, getting ridden out for the entire period to put Anceravage in the driver’s seat. The returning All-American from Cornell was cut to begin the third period, essentially giving him a 2-0 lead. However, as was the case in the second period, Lucas’s lack of energy seemed to hinder his ability to get his usually explosive offense into high gear. In fact with :20 remaining in the bout and the Pride senior still trailing 1-0 (2-0 with RT), Lucas seemed so winded that he was relegated to standing motionless in the center of the the mat as the final seconds of his last home match ticked down. There would be no grand hoorah for Mr. Lucas.
Justin Kerber would officially put a wrap on the dual one match later, scoring a pair of takedowns, combined with an escape and the riding time advantage to cruise to a 6-2 decision victory over Pride true freshman, Ben Clymer. While Clymer was not lacking for effort, he simply could not find a home for any of his shot attempts, failing to penetrate Kerber’s defense.
Joe Fagiano continued to remain out of the lineup for the host school. This meant that the extremely undersized Anthony Tortora would be called into duty again….And, for the first two minutes of the bout, Tortora did a fair job of holding his own, keeping the match scoreless after three minutes. His fortunes would turn at the drop of a hat though. In other words, when it rained, it poured, as for Cornell freshman, Cam Simaz, it was raining takedowns for the final four minutes of action. One after another, the Michigan native kept piling on single-leg takedowns. With the score 10-4, Simaz looked in excellent position to rack up a bonus point, in deep on a shot with :10 remaining. However, to his credit, Tortora was able to fight it off and salvage an 11-4 loss.
The Pride would end the dual on a positive note, though, as true freshman, Jordan Enck, fought through a knee injury and significant size advantage to win a 2-1 match in the tiebreaker. During the match, Cornell big man, Zach Hammond, was able to get in deep on more than one occasion. Yet, relying almost entirely on his superior quickness, the HU frosh from Manheim, PA was able to fend off each and every one. Deadlocked at one apiece after eight minutes, Hammond begin the first of the two 30 seconds ride out periods on bottom. Getting to his feet twice, Hammond came close to getting his escape point, but could not seem to free his leg from Enck’s grasp either time as the clock struck zero….Enck would escape almost immediately to take the 2-1 lead. From here, he did a very good job of trotting around the mat, as the larger Cornell wrestler lacked the speed to catch up to him.
125- Troy Nickerson (Cornell) Maj. dec Steve Bonanno (HU), 10-2
133- Lou Ruggirello (HU) dec Mike Grey (Cornell), 6-0
141- Justin Accordino (HU) pinned Corey Manson (Cornell) 4:05
149- DJ Meagher (Cornell) pinned Fran O’Brien (HU) 2:06
157- Jordan Leen (Cornell) pinned Jon Bonilla-Bowman (HU) 6:44
165- Mack Lewnes (Cornell) dec Ryan Patrovich (HU), 3-1 SV
174- Steve Anceravage (Cornell) dec Alton Lucas (HU), 2-0
184- Justin Kerber (Cornell) dec Ben Clymer (HU), 6-2
197- Cam Simaz (Cornell) dec Anthony Tortora (HU), 11-4
285- Jordan Enck (HU) dec Zach Hammond (Cornell), 2-1 TB