The Rutgers wrestling team sent its seniors off in the right fashion from the moment it hit the mat.
The Scarlet Knights dominated Drexel 35-6 last night at the College Ave Gym in their last home match on Senior Night. The win extended their team-record unbeaten streak to 15 matches.
"For us it was the perfect night," said head coach Scott Goodale. "From a coaching standpoint I was proud of our [starting] guys, because they wanted to take care of their matchups so the seniors could go out there and compete."
Senior captain Lamar Brown ended his home-match career on a high note, and — like he often does — in dramatic style. Tied at one point apiece and with time in the third period winding down, Brown lunged at opponent Shawn Fausey and connected, taking Fausey down with five seconds left and earning the 3-1 decision.
"I knew that I was running short on time, and I could hear him breathing heavy," Brown said. "I was just looking for the perfect shot. I don't know if it looked perfect from the outside, but I just went for it and it felt good to me."
Redshirt freshman Dan Rinaldi got the party started right off the bat to the tune of a 12-3 major decision in the night's first match. The Lodi, N.J., native is ranked No. 28 in the coaches' poll and owns a 25-7 record.
"That win was big for us, [Rinaldi's] a guy that can score in bunches," Goodale said. "I don't know how much better he is going to get from now until the [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament], but what he needs to do is continue to believe that he is the best."
The Knights (19-4-1) continued to roll, taking the next four matches to build a commanding 21-0 lead, a lead they never came close to relinquishing.
RU continued to earn bonus points match after match courtesy of a technical fall from redshirt freshman Joe Langel and a pin from sophomore Trevor Melde.
Langel's victory extends his win streak to 17-matches — the last time he lost was Dec. 12 against Pittsburgh.
"I wanted to win this one for the seniors," Langel said. "My partner on match days my practice partner is Kellen Bradley and I wanted to go out there and win it to show my appreciation for him."
The Dragons fell to 11-14 with the loss.
With a win all but sealed, two of the RU seniors who are not normally in the lineup got the green light and they did not fail to disappoint. Bradley, subbed in for David Greenwald at 149-pounds, stepped in and won a tightly contested 4-2 victory.
"It was a good way to go out and share it with these guys," Bradley said. "A lot of guys didn't stick it out over the years, but us four stuck with it. We have grown close together over the past five years. It was great."
Matt Rigoglioso stepped onto the mat for the last match of the evening but could not claim a victory, falling 11-9 in overtime.
Edinboro transfer Daryl Cocozzo added to his argument to be in the national rankings after a convincing 18-2 technical fall over Charlie Aungst.
After a tough weekend in which he dropped both of his matches, redshirt freshman Jesse Boyden got back on the winning path, earning a 3-1 decision in overtime.
The win improved the former state-champ's record to 10-12.
"You need a win like that late in the year," Goodale said. "It's a mental thing, it's a confidence thing. The more you lose, the more you start doubting yourself so he needed that win to get back on track and hopefully he carries it through the weekend and into the EIWAs."
For the Knights, it's a quick turnaround with only one day of rest until their next match. RU travels to No. 7 Lehigh this weekend for a Saturday afternoon conference showdown to close out the regular season. A win for the Knights would put the exclamation point on an incredible second half to the season.
"This is a great opportunity for us against one of the best teams in the country," Goodale said. "People were saying it would take us five years, well we have an opportunity to jump into the top-10 with a win."