By Rick Rissetto, Special to The Chronicle
From the onset, it looked like a daunting task for the Hofstra Pride wrestling team: a new head coach in Rob Anspach, a team without its nationally-ranked 133-pound wrestler in Lou Ruggirello, and an early dual match versus Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin.
But the Pride buckled down, winning seven out of ten matches, including the first three of the afternoon, to defeat the Badgers 25-12. "I felt going into the match we were a better team," said Anspach, "and if we just went out there and did the things we've been preaching all pre-season, then that was going to be the outcome."
Getting the meet started for the Pride was Steve Bonanno, in the 125-pound weight class. The 14th ranked wrestler in the country had no problem in his outing, beating Badgers wrestler Shane McQuaid by a 17-2 technical fall. The win gave Hofstra an early 5-point edge. "It's always nice to go out there in the first match and get a tech fall." Anspach said. "The people on the mat after him were excited about it."
The next match was in the 133-pound weight class. The match was a show-stopper as the Pride sent Jamie Franco to face Wisconsin's Thomas Keller. It took three overtimes to finally settle the match, but Franco would prevail 4-3 to get three points for the Pride. A tech fall win for Luke Vaith in the 141-pound class would make the score 13-0 in favor of the Pride.
Wisconsin would get on the board in the 149-pound class, as Justin Accordino of the Pride fell 7-2 to Cole Schmitt. The next class, was the 157-pounders, and Tyler Banks would score three points for Hofstra to give the Pride a 16-3 edge.
Hofstra would then take three of the next five matches from the Badgers, including the marquee match in the 165-pound weight class. Hofstra's P.J. Gillespie, the number-five ranked wrestler in the country at that mark, battled Wisconsin's Ben Jordan, who was ranked number 16 going into the match. At the final buzzer, Gillespie would walk away with a 3-1 victory.
"He was wrestling probably their best kid," Anspach said. "P.J. had some trouble getting into his shots but he controlled the whole match."
The Pride would lose the next match in the 174-pound weight class, as Jermaine John was pinned by Frank Cousins. John had led the scoring for most of the match, but the freshman lost via the pinfall.
"He got his head too close to his knees," Anspach said, "or maybe it was a little fatigue. I guarantee he does not make that same mistake and he is going to come back better from it."
Hofstra would get wins from Ben Clymer in the 184-pound weight class and Paul Snyder in the heavyweight division, only dropping the 197-pound class as Matt Loew fell by decision to Jackson Hein.
"We did a great job controlling our ties," said Anspach, "and establishing where we wanted to wrestle."
Hofstra now will travel to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational, a 34-team national tournament starting Friday. The Pride does not return home until January 6th, 2012, when the team hosts Drexel in a Colonial Athletic Association tilt.