Senior nears wins No. 100 with decision
Despite the attempts of Mother Nature to slow it down, the Rutgers wrestling team shoveled its way out of New Jersey this weekend and trekked to Annapolis, Md., for a match against conference foe Navy.
The No. 9 Scarlet Knights returned to the Garden State with a 23-9 victory over the Midshipmen and their 15-match winning streak still intact.
"The weather really didn't play much of a factor into the match," said head coach Scott Goodale. "If we didn't wrestle well, then we would have dropped it. We showed up there ready to wrestle."
Despite dropping the first bout at 133 pounds, the Knights (19-1) claimed seven individual victories over Navy (4-3) and improved to a perfect 7-0 in EIWA competition.
The biggest win of the day came via the 157-pound matchup between two grapplers who have seen their fair share of close matches.
Senior Daryl Cocozzo earned his 96th career victory with a 3-2 decision over Navy's Bryce Saddoris.
Saddoris entered the matchup leading the EIWA in victories this season with 27 and stands second all-time on the Navy wins list with 137 victories.
But it was Cocozzo who earned the only takedown in the match late in the third period to claim the victory.
"Daryl wrestled a very smart, technical match," Goodale said. "One takedown was all that he needed. He did a good job of controlling the tie-ups and controlling the pace of the match."
Cocozzo closed to within four wins of 100 in his career that spans over his seasons with Edinboro and Rutgers. With only three matches left on the schedule, No. 100 will have to come at the EIWA Tournament.
"I think his preparation [makes him successful]," Goodale said. "He's always been a good wrestler. The thing that got in the way of Daryl was Daryl. As far as flat-out wrestling goes, there aren't many better in our room."
The match against Navy was not all pleasant for the Rutgers' coaching staff, as the bout between sophomore Dan Rinaldi and No. 11 Luke Rebertus at 184 pounds ended in some controversy.
The two battled it out to a 2-2 tie after regulation and headed into sudden death overtime. With neither grappler able to score a takedown, the match went into a ride-out scenario in which each wrestler had 30 seconds to escape the grasp of his opponent.
Rinaldi was unable to escape Rebertus in the fourth overtime and was on his way to returning the favor to Rebertus, when a stalemate call from the referee provided an opportunity for the Midshipman to escape and earn the win.
"Rinaldi was riding him out and they called a stalemate to give the kid a fresh start when he is on his belly," Goodale said. "It was the most offense that was happening the whole match and they stopped the match. I don't understand why they stopped the match at that point."
Rebertus came away with the 3-2 decision, but it was not without protest from the Knights' sideline.
"I don't think boring is the right word, but both guys were very tentative," Goodale said of the regulation periods. "For our guys to achieve their goals, they have to get after it."
The controversial win did little to dent the Rutgers' lead or the team's spirits as true freshman Mike Wagner stepped right in at 197 pounds and earned a 6-1 decision.
"We've given [Wagner] a couple of days off since he isn't used to wrestling for this long of a season. But we feel like he is back to normal now," Goodale said. "He's getting better with every match and that was the goal. And he loves it. He loves to wrestle."