LAWRENCEVILLE -- There is Army Strong. Then there is 'Rider Strong-Bronc Tough.'
'Rider Strong-Bronc Tough' is the battle cry for the Rider wrestling team. "That's our team slogan, our motto,' said junior Ramon Santiago (Sayreville, N.J./Sayreville). "That's what we preach in the wrestling room."
On Wednesday night the Broncs battled the United States Military Academy to another close match, winning six of the 10 bouts for the victory. "This is three years in a row that it has gone down to the final bout with Army," said Rider head coach Gary Taylor. "From a fan's perspective you get to see it all. Two tough teams fighting."
"We knew Army was going to be tough," Santiago said, "so we had to be tougher. Wrestle the whole seven minutes. We want these close matches, tough opponents, although when you are in them you don't like it when it is so close."
"'Rider Strong-Bronc Tough' is something where we are trying to get the kids to compete hard for seven minutes," Taylor said. "That is something we've been known for for years and I think we might have gotten away from it for a while. We're getting the kids to buy into it again, to fight harder."
Rider senior Zac Cibula (Luxemburg, Wis./Luxemburg Casco) won for the final score. With the win Cibula improved to 7-1 in duals, 19-6 overall, with nine wins in his last 11 matches.
For Rider (8-5) Ramon Santiago, junior James Brundage (Ossining, N.Y./Ossining), freshman Ryan Wolfe (New Castle, Del./Caravel), freshman Greg Velasco (Union Beach, NJ/Keyport) and sophomore Vinny Fava (Elmwood Park, N.J./Elmwood Park) also won.
Santiago, ranked 16th in the nation, used a reversal, takedown and back points with two seconds left for a come-from-behind win over Paul Hancock (21-7 record) in the first bout of the evening. "I looked at the score and I was still losing with just a few seconds left," Santiago remembered. "I knew this is a big match and it was probably going to be close. I'm one of the leaders on the team so I'm thinking if I put him through a scramble I can win. I just started rolling and came out on top."
"If Ramon doesn't come back for that win we don't win tonight," Taylor said. "That was huge. You don't want to fall behind early."
The win was the 23rd of the season for Santiago, who has won 11 of his last 12 bouts. "I'm doing pretty well right now," Santiago said. "I don't think I've reached my full potential yet."
Santiago placed at the prestigious Midlands Tournament this year, the first Bronc to do so since 2008. "That gave me a lot of confidence and I've been doing well since then," Santiago said.
Fava was trailing 1-0 in the third period before a come-from-behind win at 141, giving Rider a 15-9 lead.
Wolfe improved to 18-9 as a collegiate wrestler. "He beat the top seed in the CAA last week so yes, I'd say he's doing pretty well," Taylor said of his star rookie. "He beat another good wrestler tonight. It's nice to have someone step in like that. He's very talented."
Wolfe was the 2012 Delaware State Champion and was a two-time State Finalist at Caravel Academy, where he was the Beast of the East Champion and ranked 12th in the nation last year. The Delaware Wrestler of the Year last year, Wolfe compiled 173 wins, the second most all-time in Delaware Scholastic wrestling.
"Last year was my best year," said Wolfe, talking about his 48-1 senior year, "winning the Beast and the States. I tried to bring those winning ways with me this year."
Wolfe was wrestling unattached at tournaments, planning on red-shirting this season, until the starting 184, sophomore Clint Morrison (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cedar Cliff), was lost for the season. "The original plan was to red-shirt," Wolfe said, "and go to as many tournaments on my own that I could and get ready for next year. When Clint got hurt the coaches told me to step in and that's what I've tried to do."
For Army (4-5), Jordan Thome won for the 83rd time in his career to cut the Rider lead to 12-9.
The Broncs won 16-15 at West Point last year. The last time Army came to Lawrenceville the Black Knights won 19-16. Rider and Army have now met 26 times since the series began in 1976-77, with Rider winning 13 and there was one tie.
Rider travels to Old Dominion for a CAA dual meet, where the Broncs will try to be all that they can be Sunday afternoon. "They are a tough team," Taylor said of the Monarchs. "There is no margin for error in that one."
165: Ramon Santiago-R dec. Paul Hancock-A 7-4 3-0
174: James Brundage-R dec. Coleman Gracey-A 9-7 6-0
184: Ryan Wolfe-R dec. Travis Mallo-A 11-5 9-0
197: Bryce Barnes-A dec. Don McNeil-R 12-8 9-3
285: Greg Velasco-R dec. Stephen Snyder-A 4-1 12-3
125: Hunter Wood-A dec. Patrick Skinner-R 12-6 12-6
133: Jordan Thome-A dec. Jimmy Morris-R 5-1 12-9
141: Vinny Fava-R dec. Tyler Rauenzahn-A 6-1 15-9
149: John Belanger-A dec. Curt Delia-R 6-5 15-12
157: Zac Cibula-R dec. Patrick Marchetti-A 4-1 18-12