Intrasquad match draws big crowd before season opener
In front of a near-capacity crowd at the College Avenue Gymnasium, the Rutgers wrestling team kicked off its 2010-11 season with its annual Wrestle-Offs.
The intrasquad match to determine the starting lineup for Sunday's season-opening dual against Sacred Heart garnered more attention than usual, given the potential of this year's squad.
"It was a great atmosphere. The only bad part is that you can't cheer for anyone," said head coach Scott Goodale. "It's really hard to get into it. Man, I would love to have that crowd in a dual meet setting and I think we will."
The team wearing the black singlets took the scrimmage, highlighted by sophomore Scott Winston's return from a redshirt season to the tune of a 25-7 technical fall over sophomore Evan Brewer.
The crowded atmosphere gave the Scarlet Knights a chance to get into the right mindset although they faced wrestlers they see every day in practice.
"What was good was that we got to wrestle where we wrestle most of our home matches," said junior transfer Dan Hopkins. "Coming in here and seeing everybody up in the stands gets us used to it."
In his final year wearing a Rutgers singlet, senior DJ Russo took down classmate Sean DeDeyn by a 7-0 score. The Netcong, N.J., native battled an illness early on in the preseason, but will be good to go at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Sunday against Sacred Heart and East Stroudsburg.
"Physically, I'm probably not back to 100 percent," Russo said. "I just got to be able to fight through it."
In what was perhaps the biggest upset of the night, sophomore Matt Fusco defeated the incumbent starter at 125-pounds — sophomore Joe Langel — 5-2.
Fusco, a Queen of Peace High School product, has impressed the coaching staff thus far and his win last night comes as no surprise to Goodale.
"He's very focused and has just trained very, very hard," said Goodale of Fusco. "It doesn't surprise us. I've always said that we have three very good 125-pounders that can beat anyone on any given night."
The bout that brought the most out of the impartial crowd came in the 197-pound matchup between Hopkins and true freshman Michael Wagner. Wagner took the decision, 7-5, in the only weight class where the Knights lost their starter from last season in Lamar Brown, who graduated.
"He performed in front of a pretty big stage in his first time in a Rutgers singlet and he beat two good kids," Goodale said of Wagner. "He's done a good job preparing and we think Hopkins can be very good too."
Senior Alex Caruso got his Rutgers campaign off on the right foot, besting fellow senior Mike Cucinotta by a 12-5 score. The Greenbrook, N.J., native comes to the Banks after spending four years at Lehigh.
The night ended with a 149-pound match between sophomores Mario Mason and Joe Mcauley. Mason, a nationally ranked transfer from Minnesota, took the match, 7-4, and capped off a successful program at the Barn.
"First time with a Rutgers singlet on it felt good," Caruso said. "I feel really good right now and come Sunday it will just be like repetition."