Transfers earn starting spots at Wrestle-Offs
The Rutgers Wrestling team kicked off its 2009-10 season Monday night with the team's annual inter-squad Wrestle-Offs to determine the starters for the regular season opener Nov. 8 at Sacred Heart.
Half the team wore black and the other half wore red as the wrestlers squared off in front of a substantial crowd at the College Avenue Gym.
For junior transfers Bill Ashnault and Daryl Cocozzo, this marked their debut with the Scarlet Knights — and both came away with convincing victories.
"They showed us that everything that has been written about them is true," said head coach Scott Goodale. "They wrestle hard. Cocozzo scores big points and Ashnault's a pinner, and that's exactly what they did. They have been here before, they know what to expect and it showed."
Ashnault, a junior from South Plainfield, N.J., transferred to Rutgers after a successful stint at Lock Haven, Goodale's alma mater, where he earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament last year.
"I had to adjust to a bigger work load here at Rutgers but I love being so close to home," Ashnault said. "It was tough to adjust but everyone here works hard and the coaches are behind us 100 percent in whatever we do."
Ashnault defeated redshirt freshman Joseph Langel with a pin 2:58 into their match.
Langel, who wrestles at the 125-pound weight class, filled in for freshman Cullen Isenberg, who sat out as a precautionary measure because he was nursing a knee injury, Goodale said.
Cocozzo returned home to New Jersey after wrestling two years and redshirting one at Edinboro in Pennsylvania.
Cocozzo, like Ashnault, comes to Rutgers with NCAA Tournament experience; the River Edge, N.J., product wasted little time in displaying his abilities in a 14-4 major decision over freshman Braden Turner.
"I was a little nervous wrestling for the first time at Rutgers," he said. "I got over that as soon as the whistle blew. I like wrestling here. A majority of us are from New Jersey so we are familiar with each other, and the coaches are young so I can relate to them."
Both the pin by Ashnault and the major decision by Cocozzo would have scored the highest out of all the wrestlers, had this of been a regular dual meet.
Senior Lamar Brown returned to the mat after redshirting last year and reaching the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago. He defeated freshman Sam Kuntz by a 10-3 decision to claim the starting job for the 197-pound weight class.
Also reclaiming starting roles were last year's dual meet point leader, redshirt junior David Greenwald, as well as sophomore Trevor Melde, who finished last season with a 22-7 record.
After missing last year with a leg injury, redshirt freshman Jesse Boyden starts at the 184-pound weight class.
Sophomore Greg Zannetti from the 165-pound weight class fills the void left by All-American Scott Winston, who is scheduled to redshirt. True freshman Vincent Dellefave earned a 5-3 decision over junior Michael DeMarco in the 125-pound weight class. Heavyweight redshirt junior Dominick Russo, No. 14 in the nation, anchors the starting roster.
Goodale was happy that the Wrestle-Offs gave the athletes the meet atmosphere that they needed to prepare for the upcoming schedule.
"We got out of it exactly what we wanted to," he said. "It was a great crowd, and our guys got the opportunity to prepare for a real match and deal with the nerves. The weigh-in, the preparation and the crowd are situations that we got to put our guys in so they are comfortable and able to perform."