By Tyler McCord, Staff Writer
The Hofstra University wrestling team has seven of its ten wrestlers competing in the NCAA national tournament, or what head coach Tom Shifflet calls "the pinnacle of college wrestling."
"Our guys are healthy and put a good week of work in, so they're ready to go," said Shifflet.
Sophomore 125 lbs. Steve Bonanno is making his second trip to the tournament to face Utah Valley's Ben Kjar. Bonanno and Kjar met earlier this season with Kjar winning the bout 3-1 in overtime.
Bonanno will have the chance to have a Colonial Athletic Association championship re-match with Old Dominion's no. 4 James Nicholson. Bonanno is 0-2 against Nicholson this season.
Senior 133 lbs. Lou Ruggirello, who is the only seeded wrestler for the Pride, drew a five seed, that will have him facing Tennessee-Chattanooga's Demetrius Johnson in his first match.
Like Bonanno, Ruggirello has the chance to have a CAA final re-match against Old Dominion's no. 12 Kyle Hutter. Ruggirello beat Hutter 2-1in the prior matchup.
It is also possible that Ruggirello and Wisconsin's Tyler Graff may meet in the quarterfinals. Graff beat Ruggirello 2-0 earlier this season at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Tournament.
"I think he really wants to win the tournament," said Shifflet. "I think he's capable of it and I think he believes he can win."
Ruggirello is on a 14 match-winning streak entering his fourth appearance at the tournament.
Junior 141 lbs. Vince Varela has had a rough stretch going 3-3 in his last six matches, but he has proved that he can wrestle with the best, losing 3-2 against Michigan's no. 1 Kellen Russell and 4-1 against Oklahoma's no. 8 Zack Bailey.
Varela, has a chance to wrestle Russell again in the second round. He first has to get past Oregon State's Michael Mangrum in his first appearance in the tournament.
Junior 165 lbs. P.J. Gillespie makes his second appearance in the tournament and will take on Oklahoma State's no. 6 Dallas Bailey.
"Any time he's wrestling guys he's never seen before, it's an advantage for P.J.," said Shifflet. "He's not easy to wrestle."
Gillespie is on the bottom bracket along with Wisconsin's no. 2 Andrew Howe and Missouri's no. 10 Zach Toal. Gillespie lost to Howe 2-0 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Tournament, but beat Toal 8-2 at the Missouri Duals.
Senior 174 lbs. Ryan Patrovich will face Purdue's Luke Manuel whom he lost to 4-2 in the first dual match of the season.
If Patrovich prevails against Manuel, that would send him to a possible second round match against no. 1 Johnathan Reader from Iowa State.
Junior 184 lbs. Ben Clymer will take on no. 6 Ryan Loder from the University of Northern Iowa.
"If Ben wrestles the way he did at the conference with his offense, I'll tell you what, he's going to go a long way in this tournament," said Shifflet. "He is very capable of doing very well in this tournament."
Clymer is riding a seven-match winning streak into his second appearance at the tournament.
Sophomore 285 lbs. Paul Snyder will face Wisconsin's no. 12 Eric Bugenhagen. Synder is in the top half of the bracket and is making his first appearance at the tournament.
"You really are getting the best 33 guys in your weight," said Shifflet. "When I was in college (1992-‘95) you didn't get that."
Out of the 330 wrestlers who meet at the Wells Fargo Center from March 17-19 in Philadelphia, PA, only 10 of them will be crowned champion.