Even record no cause for concern for Knights
The Rutgers wrestling team entered the 2009-10 season in the shadows of an impressive 20-6 finish last year and on the cusp of breaking into the national rankings.
With several wrestlers cited in preseason rankings, the Scarlet Knights headed into a tougher schedule with confidence.
After dropping two matches during the Thanksgiving break to conference opponent Bucknell and national powerhouse Iowa, the Knights sit at an even 3-3 record through six matches.
But the story behind the numbers of this moderate start shows that RU is in no trouble and is poised to string together victories in the upcoming months.
"I was disappointed how we finished on Friday, but overall, I'm happy with where we are at right now," said head coach Scott Goodale. "We have Pitt at the end of this semester which is big, and then after that our second semester schedule is lighter."
The Dec. 12 meeting in Pittsburgh is one of three dual meets left for RU this semester, the other two coming Saturday against Princeton and the Virginia Military Institute in Princeton.
One surprise this season thus far is the success that junior transfer Bill Ashnault has had in his first year with the Knights.
Ashnault came to RU with NCAA Tournament experience from his years at Lock Haven and knows what it takes to succeed.
"We were upset after this weekend, but I hope we realize now what we are going to have to do to win," he said.
Ashnault is 8-2 this season including a convincing victory over No. 13 David Marble from Bucknell.
Where RU has had trouble this season is in the middle of matches, allowing opposing teams to seize momentum in large stretches.
One solution comes in the form of junior Daryl Cocozzo, who transferred in the offseason from Edinboro.
Cocozzo is a 157-pound weight class wrestler with NCAA Tournament experience, but was forced to sit this semester out due to transfer regulations.
"Having Daryl back in our lineup after the break definitely helps us out," Goodale said. "Our guys in there right now have done a nice job. They have faced some tough opponents so there is no need to jump ship just yet."
Redshirt senior Lamar Brown got off to a quick start in his final year, reaching the finals of the 197-pound bracket in the Oklahoma Gold Tournament, but dropped both of his matches against Iowa and Bucknell.
His record stands at 6-3.
"Right now he is having some trouble scoring points, which is what he needs to do," Goodale said. "It's something he will have to take the time to fix."
Finishing out matches is something RU has no problem doing, boasting one of the premier closeout heavyweights in the country, No. 10 Dominick Russo.
The redshirt junior still has yet to drop a match with six of his nine victories coming via pinfall.
There is no need to push the panic button on this season, Russo said.
"If you break it down, two of our matches could have went our way on any other day," he said. "We lost to Penn State by one point, and we could have beaten Bucknell if just one match went the other way. Last year we weren't facing nearly as tough competition. We are a much better team this year and it will show down the stretch."