By Rick Rissetto, Staff Writer
If this is the first time you're hearing about the Hofstra University wrestling team since December 8, you have missed quite a lot of action. The Pride went into winter break with a 2-0 record in dual meets and now stands at 10-0.
Hofstra is off to the best start in program history. For a little perspective, the last time the Pride were unbeaten through ten dual meets was in the 2006-2007 season when it started 8-0-2.
After a ninth place finish at the Southern Scuffle, an annual national wrestling tournament on New Year's weekend, the Pride ran off eight consecutive dual meet victories. Three of the victories came against opponents ranked outside the top 25: Rutgers, American, and Penn this past Sunday with four wins coming against CAA opponents Drexel, George Mason, Old Dominion, and Boston University.
"When we wrestle well, we're a very good team," said first-year head coach Rob Anspach, "I'd like to say we're the favorites. But we're more focused on where we are nationally. Winning our conference matches is great but that's what I expect out of our guys."
Hofstra is now 10-0, but how did the team get to that mark? Looking at the roster tells you the whole story:
The redshirt junior has been on an absolute tear. After a sixth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle, Bonanno has won eight consecutive matches, with three victories coming by technical fall (a victory by thirteen points or more). Bonanno is now the fourteenth-ranked wrestler in the country at 125 pounds.
"Steve's done an outstanding job this year getting the first takedown and continuing to wrestle hard," says Anspach about his 125-pound leader.
The redshirt sophomore has competed strongly this season. After advancing to the fourth round of the Southern Scuffle, Franco won five straight dual matches before losing in the Boston University meet. Franco also fell in a 4-2 decision to Penn's Bryan Ortenzio, the number-14 ranked wrestler in the country.
Vaith is another wrestler that has put together a stellar season of play. Vaith is 15-7, and picked up a huge 2-1 victory in the Penn meet against no. 10 Zach Kemmerer.
"At the beginning of the year, we knew we had a good 141-pounder. I think we were the only ones who knew that," said Anspach. "To have his biggest career victory, it shows that he's getting solid results."
Accordino was named CAA wrestler of the week for his performances in the CAA Duals. He finished just outside of the top-10 at the Southern Scuffle, and has won his last eight dual meets, including a pinfall victory over Shane Robertson of Penn on Sunday.
"It's the first time in two years that he's been healthy," says Anspach. "He feels confident in his knee and in his conditioning. And now we're starting to see that this is the guy we recruited five years ago."
Banks did not compete at the Southern Scuffle and has had an up and down season. Banks dropped a 5-1 decision to American University's Ganbayar Sanjaa, the no. 4 ranked wrestler in the country. Banks has rallied back to take his last four dual matches, including a 4-0 win over Troy Hernandez of Penn on Sunday.
Throughout the season, head coach Rob Anspach has called Gillespie "a consistent three points." The senior from Long Beach has been ranked as high as third in the country, but is now no. 19 in the NCAA. A fourth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle, coupled with two major decision wins and a 2-0 victory over Rutgers' Scott Winston, the no. 9 ranked wrestler in the country, have Gillespie back on the right track.
John has taken some lumps in his freshman season. He was knocked out of the Southern Scuffle in the early rounds, and has lost four of his last five dual meet matches. However, John has shown signs of improvement, including a major-decision victory in the American dual meet.
Arguably the hottest wrestler on Hofstra right now, Clymer had a fourth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle. Since that tournament, Clymer has won eight straight matches, three by major decision and two by technical fall. Clymer has shot up to no. 11 in the national rankings.
"The thing that I like about Ben," Anspach says, "is that he's opening up his offense and taking more risks, and it's paid off tremendously for him.
Murphy has had a rough go this season, stepping in for Matt Loew towards the beginning of the season. But Murphy has had some solid matches, including a 13-0 major decision win at the Boston University dual meet.
"We need Tim to wrestle better and keep improving," said Anspach. "He's wrestling hard, we just need him to make less mistakes."
Snyder made it to the third round of the Southern Scuffle, but split his next three matches, including a pinfall loss to Ryan Flores of American University, the top-ranked wrestler in the country. After four consecutive wins, two by pinfall, Snyder fell to Steve Graziano of Penn. In the beginning of the match, Snyder was flipped in the air and landed hard on the mat.
"Paul just got the wind knocked out of him," Anspach said after the match. "It's not a serious injury and he should be fine to practice."