By Bob Bonett
Experience may have been the biggest gain for the Hofstra wrestling team last Saturday, as the injury-riddled group took it easy at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With a number of wrestlers feeling the wrestling season taking a toll on their bodies, and a few wrestlers taking a short break in preparation for the big Penn State match, a modest amount of Hofstra wrestlers took ninth place at the yearly event.
While not necessarily Hofstra's greatest showing, coach Tom Shifflet felt that the experience gained by the younger wrestlers against some of the nations greatest competition was a big gain for the squad. "Some of the guys gained great experience," Shifflet said. "We faced some top-notch competition from the country which should definitely help down the road."
Hofstra's two best performers at the tournament were senior Chris Weidman and junior Joe Rovelli, both taking third place at the event.
Weidman, one of two Hofstra reigning All-Americans, was forced to bounce back after a controversial loss on Friday, (the first day of the invitational), in the championship quarterfinals. Weidman answered the call, managing to win all four of his Saturday matches, including a win in the third place match over George Mason's Harry Zander by fall at 4:39.
With the 6-1 tournament showing, Weidman's record for the season moved to 12-1.
Just as Weidman took home third place, Rovelli managed a third place finish, albeit in different fashion. Rovelli was Hofstra's only wrestler to make it to the semifinals in the championship bracket at the invitational. Rovelli lost the semifinal match to Michigan's Tyrel Todd, but came back strong, winning his final two matches of the tournament to finish third, finishing at 5-1 in the tournament, (14-3 on the season).
Hofstra's three other participants ended up with relatively disappointing finishes.
Senior James Strouse, entering the tournament undefeated on the season, managed a fifth place finish at the invitational, beating Mike Chandler in the fifth place match. Strouse finished the tournament 6-2, moving his overall record on the season to 16-2.
Charles Griffin, a junior, lost in the championship quarterfinals, and managed a seventh place finish on Saturday, culminating with a victory of Wisconsin's Kyle Rushell. Griffin's 4-2 showing moved him to 11-3 on the season.
The final wrestler on Hofstra's ticked was freshman Lou Ruggirello. Ruggirello was eliminated early Saturday by way of a 2-1 loss to Columbia's Matt Delorenzo. Ruggirello's 5-2 tournament record moved him to 13-3 on the season. Despite Ruggirello's elimination, though, Shifflet pointed out that Ruggirello gained some "valuable experience for a freshman against the nation's best" in the tournament.
When asked about the team's failure to take home any titles, Shifflet seemed as though he may have expected a better showing.
"We made some mistakes as a team," Shifflet said. "We weren't outclassed or outmatched. Any one of our guys could have taken home first."