Junior excels at 174-pounds in redshirt year
A redshirt year in wrestling is unlike one in any other sport. Often times, it is used in college sports solely for medical purposes or to help a freshman take a backseat and learn the ropes before being relied on to contribute to the team.
But for the Rutgers wrestling team, a redshirt year can come at the beginning, middle or end of a college career. Regardless of when it comes, the redshirt is expected to make some strides.
Junior Greg Zannetti is not making strides in his redshirt year. He is making leaps.
"This is what a redshirt year should be like," said head coach Scott Goodale. "He never misses a day of practice even though he's a redshirt. He didn't take Christmas break off. We want all of our guys to have that type of mindset."
When redshirting, wresters are not allowed to travel with the team but can instead compete unattached in other tournaments. Zannetti owns an 18-2 record this year and most recently took home first place on Feb. 19 at the National Collegiate Open in the 174-pound bracket.
"I'm really just trying to win every time I'm out there. But more than wins and losses, I'm trying to focus more on technique," Zannetti said. "I'm working on staying focused, some technical things and getting into a pre-match routine so I'm ready to go for next year."
Zannetti's last loss came all the way back on Nov. 14 when he fell, 4-2, to Cornell's Mack Lewnes. In Zannetti's defense, Lewnes ranks No. 3 in the nation and was ranked No. 1 when the two faced off.
While it tallies in the loss column, the close bout made it possible for Zannetti to realize just how near he is to the top.
"I learned that I'm closer than I thought," he said. "I'm right there with them. I can compete with those guys."
While it may have taken until his junior year for Zannetti to realize far along he is, his potential is something the Scarlet Knights' coaching staff picked up on the moment he arrived at Rutgers from his hometown just up Route 27 in Edison, N.J.
"I think that part of the reason he's having such a successful season is the consistency he's shown since he's been on campus," said assistant coach John Leonardis. "He's developed some technique, but to be honest with you, he's just a kid that's bought into what we've preached since Day 1."
And as his redshirt year comes to a close, Zannetti is miles away from where he sat in last year's starting lineup at 165 pounds. But that is not to say he is finished improving.
"I'm going to go back to the tapes over the summer to break down what I still have left to work on," he said.
Zannetti compiled a 22-12 record last season in the starting lineup and will likely reenter that lineup next year with the graduation of Alex Caruso at 174 pounds. Returning to a starting spot is the next step toward attaining his goal of becoming a national champion. It is a goal that does not sound too far-fetched given the improvements shown.
"What he's done in this redshirt year is he's painted a picture for the younger guys of what should happen during a redshirt year," Leonardis said. "He's certainly going to look to be a starter in our lineup next year and not just starting, but making noise on the national level."
It is hard to imagine an All-American coming from little-known J.P. Stevens High School, but from what Zannetti showed this season it is more than possible.
And that is due in large part to a dedicated work ethic and a proper redshirt year.
"You can make somebody good if they are willing to do it," Goodale said. "[Zannetti] is willing to put in the time, and that's what we saw from him [in high school]. Those guys are always going to end up being the best Division I wrestlers."