Seniors to be honored at last home meet
For the last time this season, the Rutgers wrestling team competes within the confines of the College Avenue Gym. And for seniors Lamar Brown, Jack Barrett, Kellen Bradley and Matt Rigoglioso, when the final horn echoes throughout the Barn, their home meet careers will come to a close.
"Right now I'm trying to look a little past it," Brown said. "I've got my mind set on EIWA's [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association] and Nationals and placing on the podium. It's still going to be a big night though, our last night in the Barn."
Brown, a fifth-year senior and team captain, headlines this year's senior class. In his career, Brown holds a 76-46 record highlighted by a NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008 and a 20-6 mark this year.
Living the life of a college wrestler day after day is what he expects to miss the most, he said.
"As much as it can seem like a hassle at times, I'm going to miss coming into practice everyday," Brown said. "It's a part of what we do and it's a part of our life. I always say ‘Hey, we are wrestlers, this is what we do.'"
Barrett, Bradley and Rigoglioso are three wrestlers who may not influence the stat sheet, but at the end of the day their contributions in practice and off the mat do not go unnoticed.
"To have a successful program you certainly need guys like those three," said head coach Scott Goodale of the other three outgoing grapplers. "They understand what our vision is and for that I will always be grateful to them. They are genuinely good people and we are going to miss them. They will always have a place in our hearts and definitely in mine."
A Wayne native, Rigoglioso wishes he appreciated the opportunities that befell him earlier in his collegiate career.
"I wish I became more of a student of the sport when I was a freshman and a sophomore," he said. "This new coaching staff really gave me a new appreciation for the sport by introducing me to a whole new wrestling community and environment. The coaches have been great."
No matter what the future holds for these Scarlet Knights, they always plan to stay close to the program in the upcoming years.
"These guys are my best friends. I've spent so much time with them over the years it's hard to try and replace that," Rigoglioso said.
The No. 22 Knights (18-4-1) play host to Drexel (9-11) tonight at 6 p.m. in the final home match of the season. RU is undefeated at home this year, boasting wins over then-No. 23 Virginia at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and a convincing win the following day at the Barn against Navy.
But tonight is about recognizing those who have dedicated their college careers to the program through all the triumphs and tribulations of the past half-decade.
"The program definitely is much better now than it was when I first got here in all aspects," Brown said. "We have made some huge steps to becoming a better team and my greatest memories have come recently from matches like beating Virginia at the RAC. They are times when our team came together and performed as one. Those are the memories that you won't forget."
RU rounds out its regular season schedule this Saturday in Bethlehem, Pa., when they square off against No. 7 Lehigh. After that match-up the Knights travel back to Bethlehem two weeks later for the start of the EIWA conference bracket.
The Lehigh matchup was postponed on Feb. 6 due to inclement weather and the home contest versus Bloomsburg that was originally slated for this Saturday had to be canceled as a result, leaving RU with only four home matches this season. The number of home matches next season exponentially grows as a result of being on the road so much this year.
"The schedule was put together with next year in mind," Goodale said. "But at the same time, being on the road so much this year has bonded this team. It's become an unbelievably tight-knit group and it has taken us three years to get to that point."
Goodale and the Knights hope their experiences on the road against premiere opponents translates to postseason success.
"We are preparing this week with Lehigh in mind and gearing up for the EIWA's," Goodale said. "After that, we have an opportunity to bring a lot of guys to Nationals and now we are looking to get into the thick of things there, our guys are getting excited."