Riley gears up for New England Championships
by Scott Gibbons, Sports Information Director

In little over a year, Rhode Island College wrestler Mike Riley has already made an indelible mark on the wrestling program. Since enrolling at RIC last January, Riley has been to the Division III National Championships, named All-New England and has compiled a record of 40-9 at 133 pounds.

This season, with a full year of preparation and training behind him, the Lowell, Massachusetts native has taken the New England College Conference Wrestling Association (NECCWA) by storm and is currently ranked number one in New England in his weight class.

Riley is 29-4 and has won his last 18 matches. He leads the team in wins, winning percentage, points and takedowns. After placing third and fourth, respectively, at the Roger Williams and Doug Parker Invitationals in November, Riley switched into high gear. He’s since placed second at the highly competitive Scranton Invitational and placed first at the Citrus Invitational during the squad’s trip to Florida after Christmas.

RIC Head Coach Jay Jones is ecstatic to have Riley on the team. "Because of Mike’s tremendous attitude and work ethic, he’s truly one wrestler, as a coach, you can feel tremendous joy during his successes because he really deserves them."

Despite all of the accolades, Riley continues to remain humble. "I try to lead by example. I don’t talk that much. I’m quiet and always try to stay positive."

Even though he’s only been with the program just over a year, the coaching staff thought highly enough to name him a captain prior to the 2001-02 season. "I was a little uneasy about being named a captain. I didn’t want to step on any of the other guys’ toes that had been here longer than I have. I talked with the coaches and they wanted me to do it." Coach Jones’ says, "Even though wrestling can be viewed as an individual sport, Mike has always been dedicated to the team aspect."

The Anchormen are 5-9 overall and 3-3 in the NECCWA. RIC is coming off a big day at the New England Duals, finishing the day with a 3-1 record. "We have a young team," Riley says. "We’ve faced some adversity and had our share of tough breaks. It took us 35 hours and three airports to get to Florida over the holidays and the team still got along great. No one was complaining. I think that says a lot about this team. The young guys are learning to compete at the collegiate level and it will payoff down the road."

As an individual, Riley has been nothing short of dominant this season and is focused on the upcoming 2002 NECCWA Championships, which will be hosted by Springfield College on Feb. 16 and 17. He lists his goals as winning the 133-pound weight class, which carries with it an automatic bid to the National Championships. "I lost to the guys who placed third and fourth in the country last season at the NCAAs. I think with a full season under my belt, and if I can work hard and focus, I’ll be okay."

Despite being in excellent condition, Riley still sees room for improvement. "I want to get into better shape and improve my diet. What you eat makes a difference in your performance."

That’s scary news for the rest of New England, considering Riley hasn’t lost a match since December 1. RIC Assistant Coach Bob Smith says, "He’s relentless. I almost feel bad for his opponents….almost!"

 

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