By Tyler McCord, Staff Writer
The summer recess at Hofstra is given to students for a break from academics for a few months. The past summer months were far from a break for Hofstra wrestlers.
"Last year we were decimated with injuries and we walked out of the conference in either fifth or sixth," Hofstra head coach Tom Shifflet said. "The guys really took it upon themselves to be here all summer, start [training] last spring, and then [train] all summer and made sure we got back on top. They really worked hard."
"While other people are going to the beach or going home, our guys decided to stay here and work with [strength and conditioning] Coach Wilkes, get stronger, stay in good shape, spend some time on the mat and get that mentality that you need to be successful as a team."
Last March, Binghamton University snapped Hofstra's streak of eight consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championships at the conference tournament. The poor showing at the tournament motivated the Pride to work towards getting back on top, where it has been for the eight years prior. "The guys did a really good job responding to the things that we needed to do to get back on top," said Shifflet.
This past weekend the Pride got what it has been working towards and brought the CAA Championship trophy back to Hempstead for the program's ninth CAA title.
The team finished the Championships on Saturday with 94 points, 17.5 points ahead of runner-up Binghamton. "I'll remember this one more than any of the rest," said Shifflet of his fourth championship in his five years at Hofstra.
The Pride crowned four champions, three runner-ups, a third place finisher and two fourth place finishers. Senior Lou Ruggirello (133 lbs.) captured his fourth CAA title, defeating Old Dominion's Kyle Hutter 2-1. Ruggirello became the third CAA wrestler to win four conference championships. "Lou is the student-athlete that every coach wants to be around," said Shifflet. "[He] gets it done in the classroom, works hard in the wrestling room, has a winner's attitude, carries himself in a very mature way, and he's going to be the guy that's going to show you how to win and how to become successful."
Senior Ryan Patrovich (174 lbs.) won his first CAA title, beating Boston University's Hunter Meys 5-4. The win secured Patrovich's third trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships. "[Ryan] had a brother here that was an All-American, and I think that is motivation that he wanted to exceed what his brother did," said Shifflet. Obviously, being a senior, it's too late for Ryan to become a two-time champion like his older brother Mike, but he brought another CAA championship to the Patrovich family regardless of his nine knee surgeries. "He's had to really battle back with some adversity," said Shifflet.
Junior Ben Clymer (184 lbs.) decisioned top-seeded Binghamton's Nathan Schiedel, 4-3. Clymer was previously 0-4 lifetime against Schiedel. "[Ben] was more aggressive," said Shifflet. "He was able to get in the guy's head a little bit and in this sport it will take you a long way." With the win, Clymer earns his second appearance at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Top-ranked sophomore Paul Snyder (285 lbs.) won his first CAA title with an 11-5 decision over Drexel's Jack Callendar. The victory sealed Snyder's first trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships. "This tournament is the pinnacle of college wrestling, so we're hoping that Paul will come back from the tournament and he'll use it as motivation to work harder," said Shifflet.
Redshirt sophomore Steve Bonanno (125 lbs.) fell to top-seeded James Nicholson, 5-3. "Steve had a slow start giving up two takedowns within the first 30 seconds of the match," said Shifflet. "Win or lose that match, I like the way Steve wrestled minus the first 30 seconds." This is the second year in a row Bonanno finished second to Nicholson, a 4-time CAA champion.
Top-seeded junior Vince Varela lost to Binghamton's Anwar Goeres in the championship, 8-6. "I don't think he wrestled a great final," said Shifflet. Although the winner of the 141 lbs. bracket is the only qualifier for the NCAA tournament, Varela received an at-large bid and will be wrestling in Philadelphia. Second-seeded junior P.J. Gillespie (165 lbs.) lost, but still qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Hofstra had four CAA champions, but seven of the ten Pride wrestlers will be participating in the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on March 17-19.