By Rick Rissetto , Special To The Chronicle
By most accounts, the Hofstra wrestling team performed well at the Cliff Keen-Las Vegas Invitational.
The Pride finished 10th as a team out of 34 squads, its second consecutive top-15th finish. Hofstra wrestlers, senior 166-pound P.J. Gillespie, junior 125-pound Steve Bonanno, and junior 149-pound Justin Accordino all placed in the top 10 in their respective weight classes. Coming back from Las Vegas, you would think everyone would be happy with the result -- but not first-year head coach Rob Anspach.
"I think we kind of had an up-and-down tournament." Anspach said. "Some guys really wrestled well and we definitely had some weight classes where we did not perform nearly to our potential."
Bonanno went into the Cliff Keen Invitational as the fifth seed in the tournament. After falling in the quarterfinals to the top-seeded wrestler, Bonanno battled through the consolation bracket to a third-place finish.
"It was a really good, solid tournament for Steve," said Anspach. "And something for him to continue to build on as we move forward."
The 133-pound weight class saw the beginning of the Pride's struggles. Sophomore Jamie Franco fell in the first round to eighth-seed Steven Keith out of Harvard. Anspach though was quick to compliment Franco on his efforts.
"He lost a 2-1 match and was very aggressive. Overall, I thought he wrestled pretty well," said Anspach. "What I like is that I'm seeing improvement from him."
In the 141-pound class, sophomore Luke Vaith fell in the fourth round of competition and battled hard in the consolation bracket, but missed placing in the top 10.
Accordino performed well in the 149-weight class, finishing 10th overall. Accordino fell in the quarterfinal match to the seventh-ranked wrestler out of Ohio State.
Following him in the 157-pound weight class was junior Tyler Banks, who also fell in the fourth round and missed out on placing.
Hofstra's strongest competitor was Gillespie, who went into Las Vegas as the number-two seed and fought his way to the championship match. There, he met Wyoming's Shane Onufer, and the two battled hard for the full seven minutes. Onufer scored a late takedown to beat Gillespie 4-2.
"He (P.J.) came in as the number two seed and finished second," said Anspach. "So he wrestled to his seed. He was very aggressive, he attacked a lot more. It was the best I've seen him wrestle all season long."
Unfortunately for the Pride, Gillespie turned in the last outstanding performance at the tournament.
Freshman Jermaine John was taken down in the second round at the 174-pound class. Senior Ben Clymer, who was ranked number seven in the 184-pound class, lost to the 10th-seeded wrestler in the second round. Sophomore Matt Loew and junior Paul Snyder, in the 197-pound and 285-pound classes respectively, were both bounced in the first round.
"I feel we're a better team and we should win this match fairly easily," said Anspach, "If we don't go in with the right mindset, it will be tough."