By Bob Bonett
It appears there may be a new king of the Hofstra sports castle in Hempstead. Just ask the (formerly) top seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers.
As opposed to the struggling, nationally renowned Hofstra basketball team, the Hofstra wrestling team is making some serious noise. This excellent work culminated last Saturday in the biggest win in the program's history, an 18-17 dual meet victory over the number one ranked perennial powerhouse, Minnesota.
Entering the match ranked 11th in the country, coach Tom Shifflet felt that the wrestlers had something to prove. And despite a lack of respect, and a clear status as the match underdogs, pride showed on the mats in Guilderland.
"We have a group of guys that can win on any day," Shifflet said. "We knew Minnesota would be tough; but we knew we definitely had a shot."
The match started off big for the Pride in the Journeymen/Brute Northeast Duals. In what Shifflet felt was the "key to the match," Hofstra jumped out strong, gaining two decisions in the first two matches First, 20th ranked Dave Tomasette defeated 19th ranked Jayson Ness in the 125 pound by a 12-9 decision. Then, to keep the momentum in the Pride's corner, freshman Joe Ruggriello increased the Hofstra lead to 6-0 with a 5-2 victory over fellow freshman Mike Thorn at 133 pounds.
With pressure building on the Gophers' shoulders, Minnesota knew that a couple of wins were necessary to keep the Pride from pulling away. And two of Minnesota's best wrestlers did just that. 10th ranked Manny Rivera, a junior, first defeated Pride junior Charles Griffin, ranked 14th, 5-1 in the 141 pound match. Then, top-ranked Dustin Schlatter won handedly by tech fall, 17-0, over Pride senior Mike Parziale at 149 pounds, thus giving Minnesota the 8-6 advantage in the match.
With momentum quickly swinging in Minnesota's favor, the Pride needed to rebound if they wanted a shot to shock the wrestling world with a win over the powerhouse program.
And just as they have done all season, the Pride did just that. First, 12th ranked James Strouse came up with a huge upset over sixth ranked C.P. Schlatter, winning 4-2 in the second sudden victory period at 157 pounds. Next, automatic Mike Patrovich, ranked third in the country at 165 pounds, defeated junior Jeremy Larson 8-5.
With the lead in hand, perhaps the turning point for the Pride came in the next match. Knowing they needed a victory with Minnesota's nationally ranked big guns coming to the mat, unranked sophomore Alton Lucas took on 12th-ranked Gabe Dretsch, a junior, at 174 pounds. The outcome, to everyone's surprise except the Hofstra wrestling team's, was an amazing 5-3 victory that gave the Pride a huge seven point advantage, 15-8.
With the momentum clearly back on Hofstra's side, Minnesota's second-ranked Roger Kish downed fifth-ranked junior Joe Rovelli in a close 4-1 match at 184 pounds, inching Minnesota to within four points of the lead.
Hofstra's clutch big man, sixth in the country Chris Weisman, then took the mat against unranked Yura Malamura at 197 pounds, and promptly took a 2-0 lead. However, a few mistakes later, Malamura was up 7-2 going into the third period. And with top-ranked, nationally renowned heavyweight Cole Konrad on deck Weidman needed an incredible comeback to keep Minnesota from dashing Hofstra's upset hopes.
And just as Hofstra's wrestling team never seems to disappoint, Weidman, did the unthinkable, scoring nine of the match's final ten points, defeating Malamura 11-8, clinching Hofstra the match, despite Konrad's pin of Hofstra senior Matt Pollock.
The win for the Pride, as mentioned above, was certainly the biggest win in program history, topping the defeat of second-ranked Lehigh two years ago.
Not only was the defeat big historically for the Pride, though. It also gained Hofstra some serious recognition, which showed up in the polls, as Shifflet noted the team moved to "fifth in the country, with a few individuals becoming ranked as well."
It looks like it might be coming time for Hofstra basketball to step aside. Hofstra wrestling in on the national map, and according to coach Shifflet, they are here to stay.