Much-anticipated season sure to not disappoint
The Rutgers wrestling season is not over, but the wandering eye can't help but gaze into the future to see what the next season holds. With nine of the 10 starters returning, here is a starting lineup of 10 reasons why the Scarlet Knights will be even better come November.
125 — Let's start by stating the obvious: Scott Winston is back. The Jackson Memorial product moves up one weight class and for what he might lack in height, he makes up with sheer power and a mean streak. Hide your children.
133 — Last season the Knights finished 19-5-1 and rode a 15-match unbeaten streak to start off the New Year. RU was only four points away from upsetting two more top-25 teams and it takes the lessons learned from those matches into a brand new year.
141 — Citing the difficulty of classes as the hardest adjustment to life on the Banks, junior transfers Billy Ashnault and Daryl Cocozzo had a full year to get used to their new academic setting. Hopefully their stomachs adjusted to Brower Commons as well.
149 — If there were any positives to take from 20 away matches this season, it is the bevy of home games that befall the Knights in the upcoming year. RU did not lose a single match on home soil in 2010, so some home-cookin' could be just the thing to frog splash the team into the top-10.
157 — I'm willing to bet all of my RU Express money that when Lehigh comes to town the match takes place at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. RU hasn't beaten the Mountain Hawks since President Harry S. Truman was in office, and 2011 is as good a time as ever to dethrone the conference foe. Spoiler alert, my RU Express balance is only five cents after the manager at the Easton Avenue Subway convinced me to get the combo with chips and a soda.
165 — The upcoming year marks the fourth under head coach Scott Goodale. Excluding heavyweight D.J. Russo, all of the starters in the upcoming year are products of the coach's recruiting efforts. No disrespect to former-coach John Sacchi, but the quality of wrestlers that Goodale brought in during his tenure vaulted the program into the national spotlight.
174 — With Vincent Dellefave expected to either redshirt or move up a weight class, the 125-pound starting spot belongs to Joe Langel. The pride of Howell, N.J., reeled off a consecutive-win streak this year that pinnacled at 17 games and has three full years in front of him to show just how good he is.
184 — Having Ashnault in the starting lineup is a giant plus for RU, but isn't two better than one? Billy's younger brother, Anthony, is a freshman at South Plainfield High School and is already drawing comparisons to his older brother — who is an NCAA qualifier. My advice? Lock him up now. If Southern California head football coach Lane Kiffin can commit a 13-year-old quarterback to USC then what is stopping the Knights from snatching this kid off the market before anyone else — besides common sense.
197 — The vacant spot in the lineup that Lamar Brown leaves upon graduation is a tough one to fill. Jesse Boyden currently wrestles at 184-pounds and a jump up one weight class could be exactly what he needs to spark his college career. In high school, Boyden was a state champion at 215-pounds, but broke his leg in his first year on the Banks, causing him to drop the weight and move down to 184. The bump up to 197-pounds might just put him in the comfort zone to succeed.
Heavyweight — The last statement is reserved — as it is during a match — for Russo. The upcoming year marks the final season in an illustrious career for the Netcong, N.J., native and it is going to be a special one. Russo is ranked eighth in the nation by InterMatWrestle.com, with five of the seven grapplers ahead of him leaving after this season. While that is by no means a guarantee that he is the third best heavyweight in the country heading into next year, it doesn't hurt the confidence.
Goodale said that he planned their schedules, when he first arrived three years ago, for 2011 to be the year they make an impact in the national community. That impact came one year early though, reaching No. 22 in the coaches' poll this season, the highest in team history. But that is merely the beginning. The Knights return next season with even more experience and a great home schedule to really turn some heads.
Alex Jankowski is an associate sports editor for The Daily Targum. He welcomes comments and criticism at firstname.lastname@example.org