What: #22 Hofstra University vs. Harvard University
When: Friday February 20th, 2009
Time: 7pm EST
Where: Malkin Athletic Center (Buffalo, NY)
The Matchup: #20 Steve Bonanno (HU) vs. (None)
Synopsis: This weight class is expected to be an automatic six for the Pride as Harvard has spent the majority of the season forfeiting 125 following an injury to expected starter, sophomore Dan Kelly. The likelihood of the forfeit was confirmed by a press release found on the Crimson athletic homepage where 125 was listed as “forfeit”. Steve Bonanno is coming off a split last weekend where he remained one of only four wrestlers this season to avoid surrendering bonus points to 2007 NCAA Champion, Paul Donahoe of Edinboro University. The true freshman from Wantagh, NY followed up that impressive (albeit in a losing effort) showing by winning a battle of Empire Staters over Buffalo’s Dan Bishop, 6-3 last Sunday. Given how well Bonanno has progressed from the beginning of the year till now, I believe I would have favored him against Kelly had the match been contested. However, no stranger to the injury bug themselves in 2009, the forfeit here should provide a solid start to what has the makings of being a 5-10 point dual in either direction.
Prediction: Bonanno Wins by Forfeit
Projected Team Score: 6-0 Hofstra
Result: Bonanno (HU) Wins By Forfeit
The Matchup: #8 Lou Ruggirello (HU) vs. Thomas Picarsic (Harvard)
Synopsis: A returning EIWA placewinner from last season (6th) Picarsic enters this dual with a record of 7-3 on the season. He is coming off of solid performances against opponents from Brown and Wagner last weekend, and has now won his last seven consecutive matches to be one of the hottest wrestlers on the Harvard roster. However, he will face his biggest test this season the person of Pride junior, Lou Ruggirello. Ruggirello himself in the winner of five in a row and 10 of his last 11 matches. During the duration of this mini winning streak, points have been at a premium against the former 3x NYS Champion, as he has pitched shutouts in at least three of the five bouts, scoring a pin and a technical fall (scores not indicated at the time of fall) in the two remaining bouts. At risk of sounding too confident, my gut feeling tells me that Ruggirello’s superb mat skills will be the difference in this bout. Expect for Lou to score the opening takedown and then from there, work tirelessly from top with bars and other tilting/pinning combinations. If Ruggirello, who will be looking to improve on a round of 12 finish at last season’s national tournament next month, is able to put Picarsic on his back early on in this match, it is likely that he will finish it. However, the longer that the Crimson senior is able to avoid the slap of the mat, the more I like his chances of keeping this to a major. In the end, if Ruggirello is not to earn the fall, I could see this bout ending in a 9-0, 10-1 type fashion.
Prediction: Ruggirello Wins By Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 10-0 Hofstra
Result: Ruggirello (HU) Pinned Picarsic (Harvard) 1:08
The Matchup: Justin Accordino (HU) vs. Corey Jantzen (Harvard)
Synopsis: Ranked as high as #2 in the nation at one point this season, Long Island’s own Corey Jantzen has been in and out of the lineup of late for the Crimson. Because it has been more of the latter the past few weeks, he has been removed from several of the national rankings. However, Jantzen does not need a number next to his name for opponents to know how truly dangerous and talented he is. A champion at the Keen Vegas Invitational, Jantzen has wins this season over the likes of defending National Champion, J Jaggers (Ohio State), Tyler Nauman (Pitt), Chris Drouin (Arizona State), etc…Sporting an 11-1 record this season, Janzten is nothing if not a steadying force in the Harvard lineup. If 100 percent healthy heading into March, it would be an understatement to say that he is in the running for his first All-American honors. An incredibly difficult wrestler to score on from the feet, perhaps Jantzen is at his best when given the opportunity to work from top. Much like his brother, former National Champion, Jesse Jantzen, Corey is a master of the crab ride and is capable of lighting up the scoreboard quickly with nearfall points. If Jantzen is unable to compete today, it is likely (as per the press release) that Fermin Mendez will step in to fill in for his teammate. Mendez is 0-4 on the season. Therefore, if it is he who gets the call at 141 for Jay Weiss’s group, the Pride would have to like their chances of opening up the lead slightly….After enduring something of a rough patch last month, RS freshman, Justin Accordino, seems to be well on his way to returning to form. A winner of four in a row with three pins, Accordino is quickly solidifying his place as the #2 pinner on the current Pride roster, trailing only Ruggirello. A master of the cement mixer, Accordino is capable of erasing any lead at any time. If it is Jantzen that he opposes, I would think that the Wilkes-Barre, PA native would be very anxious to try to set it up, given that Nauman was able to secure a fall against Jantzen in the Keen finals using the very same move.
Prediction: Jantzen Wins By Decision
Projected Team Score: 10-3 Hofstra
Result: Accordino (HU) Pinned Motley (Harvard) 2:05
The Matchup: Jeff Rotella (HU) vs. Walter Peppelman (Harvard)
Synopsis: Until I hear or see otherwise, I have to assume that the Pride will continue to sit out P.J. Gillespie so as to ensure that he is at top form for the postseason. If this is in fact the case, Harvard will no doubt be looking to take advantage of the size advantage that true freshman, Walter Peppelman, will enjoy over the Pride’s Jeff Rotella, who despite having the heart of a heavyweight, has the body of a 133-pounder. A product of perennial powerhouse, Central Dauphin High School, Peppelman is a beast on top. If he secures the first takedown of this bout, as he is expected to, look for him to put on a tilting clinic. This is not a knock on Rotella. It is simply what Central Dauphin wrestlers do. They take you down and then tilt the heck out of you until the buzzer sounds or the match ends by termination. Peppelman will take the mat today sporting a very impressive 18-10 overall record. If you are a fan of the Crimson, you have to like the potential that this young man shows. For Rotella, the goal may be to try to keep this bout to a major decision. Against UPenn’s top-10 ranked wrestler, Cesar Grajales, Rotella seemed well on his way to accomplishing this objective before double bars in the closing seconds resulted in a fall. If Rotella almost salvage two points against an opponent the caliber of Grajales, I see no reason why he could not manage a similar result against a lesser experienced and polished opponent.
Prediction: Green Wins By Technical Fall
Projected Team Score: 10-8 Hofstra
Result: Peppelman (Harvard) TF Rotella (HU), 17-0
The Matchup: Fran O’Brien (HU) vs. #4 J.P. O’Connor (Harvard)
Synopsis: Again, another case of me being conservative and predicting that the HU coaching staff will act on the side of caution and allow defending conference champion, Jon Bonilla-Bowman, ample time to make a full recovery. Seemingly favored in six of 10 bouts, the Pride should have the luxury of resting their top-20 wrestler, JBB, in this dual. However, even if the match-up had been JBB against Harvard’s J.P. O’Connor, I still would have given the edge to the Crimson junior. Already a two-time All-American, O’Connor’s style would have posed a problem for Bonilla-Bowman. Like so many NYers, O’Connor is a monster with his riding ability. Hence, he is usually able to shorten any match against any opponents. For someone like JBB who likes to be going from the feet at all times, a shortened match would have prevented him from doing what he likes to do best, which is attack for a full seven minutes….Against a less experienced and developed wrestler in the person of Fran O’Brien, Pride fans must be concerned that instead of just a solid ride resulting in a one point time advantage, that O’Connor could threaten with nearfall points resulting in a MD, TF, or pin. For O’Brien, the objective from second one of the match has to be to wrestle intelligently and do his best to stay off of his back. Against a top-5 opponent like JPO, there is no shame in losing a 7-0, 8-1, 9-2 type decision. If he is able to avoid bonus points in this bout, I’d consider O’Brien as having done his job….JPO will come into this dual with an overall record of 24-2, tied with teammate Louis Caputo (184) for tops on the team in wins.
Prediction: O’Connor Wins by Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 12-10 Harvard
Result: O’Connor (Harvard) Dec O’Brien (HU), 8-1