By Mike Rudin - SPORTS EDITOR Hofstra’s wrestling squad opened up the season at the Mack Sports Complex against the Lock Haven Bald Eagles. After taking a large 3-13 deficit in the in the first five matches of the meet, the Pride dug deep and fought their way back to win the dual meet 17-16 and start out the season 1-0.
“Lock Haven let me go. I walked on Lock Haven a long time ago. It was the best team that let me walk on,” said first-year Hofstra wrestling head coach Dennis Papadatos.
“I went to Lock Haven, and then I transferred because I felt like I wasn’t going to get a fair shake at the starting job and then I started at Lock Haven. I started at Hofstra all four years. I had the career I had, I never lost to [a] Lock Haven guy when I wrestled for Hofstra,” he said. “It’s nice when one person didn’t want you, seventeen years later I had a good [college] career, and I have a good coaching career and I came back and I found to get another one over on them.”
Papadatos compiled 95 career victories and appeared twice in the NCAA Division I wrestling championships at 157 pounds. He was also a member of the Division I Academic All-American wrestling team from 1999-2001. Papadatos is a Hofstra graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology in 2000 and a master’s degree in health education in 2002.
Hofstra wrestler Cody Ruggirello nearly was pinned to his back at one point by Lock Haven’s Daniel Neff in the tenth and final match, but Ruggirello kept his ground and stepped up in dramatic fashion. He won the necessary three points needed to clinch Hofstra with the win.
Papadatos commented on Hofstra’s overall performance after the meet, saying, “Overall, we got out conditioned and out tough and that bothers me. It bothers me in a big way. I’ll take the victory, guys stepped up big, Travis did. I felt maverick could’ve done more but he also didn’t get some benefits of some calls. I thought we were the home team and we didn’t get the benefits of a lot of calls. But then we got a few that helped us as well so by no means did the ref almost lose it or win it for us.”
Hofstra took the first match and a 3-0 lead, courtesy of Pride wrestler Jahlani Callender taking down Elias Biddle 4-2. The decision provided the only lead for the Pride in the entire meet before taking the victory.
Lock Haven strung together four straight match victories in the 165, 174, 184 and the 197 weight divisions to take 13 consecutive points. The Bald Eagles’ Aaron McKinney took down Hofstra’s Nick Terdick 4-1 and Tyler Wood outmatched Frank Affronti 4-2 for back-to-back decision wins resulting with the first six points on the day for Lock Haven.
The Bald Eagles continue to put Hofstra in a bind with Lock Haven wrestler Fred Garcia overpowering Jermaine John 9-0 for the only major decision victory of the day, adding four points to Lock haven’s 6-3 lead.
Phil Sprenkle sprinkled three extra points on Lock Haven’s lead after taking down Hofstra’s Mike Oxley in a 5-0 decision victory.
Mike Hughes and Travis Passano started the 14-3 run for the Pride, providing the first back-to-back wins in the meet and cut the 10 point lead to four points.
Mavrick Passano competed hard against Lock Haven wrestler Cody Wheeler, losing by one point. The decision put the Bald Eagles up by seven points but the small hiccup didn’t kill the Pride’s momentum.
Jamel Hudson earned the technical fall against Robert Rehm, set the stage and Hudson earned his team five points in the ninth match. The points brought Hofstra within a two-point deficit against Lock Haven and setting up the stage for the Pride in the final match with Cody Ruggirello.
“I keep saying Jamel Hudson could be on the podium, maybe even on top of the podium. He has an ability that it’s you may want to stop him but if he doesn’t want to stop, he doesn’t stop. I really needed him and so proud he the [victory in the match],” said Coach Papadatos.
As a unit, Hofstra was on the offensive with 11 takedowns compared the Bald Eagles’ eight. The Pride put up two reversal techniques while Lock Haven didn’t use any throughout the meet. The Bald Eagles competed defensively, escaping 12 times in the dual meet while the Pride only escaped seven times.
Hofstra and Lock Haven split the decisions down the middle, each with four on the day valuing at 12 points for each side. The main difference was the other two matches, Lock Haven earning four points because of Fred Garcia’s major decision but Jamel Hudson earning the technical fall and five points for the Pride.
Hofstra Athletics Director Jeff Hathaway announced the hiring of Papadatos back on Aug. 4, and he was enthused he was leading lead the program.
“This is an exciting time for the Hofstra Wrestling program… from my initial meeting with Dennis I could see the tremendous passion he has for Hofstra University and our wrestling program,” Hathaway said.
The passion shined clearly on Papadatos’ face as he screamed with joy once Hofstra secured the win during the season opener. Hathaway’s first impressions on Papadatos accurately described his persona with the team, and the new head coach led the Pride to come from behind in an exciting season opener.
The Pride will travel to Pennsylvania to fight the Leigh University Mountain Hawks on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.