Zannetti rides steady work ethic to productive year
Most improved player of the year
The Post-it notes stick hardly remains by the time Greg Zannetti is done with an item on his to-improve list.
The yellow squares where he writes his areas for improvement often start plastered to his desk, but by the time he leaves his house, they are stuck to the notebook he carries to class. By the time he is in the Rutgers wrestling room, they are firmly committed to memory.
“Like right now, that’s all I can think of is my list,” said Zannetti, The Daily Targum’s Most Improved Athlete of the Year. “Neutral, top, bottom and defense. Even my mindset, too.”
It is a practice the junior 174-pounder began around the eighth grade and continued every season and offseason since.
His first big leap came between his junior and senior years at J.P. Stevens High School, where he went from a recruit with no colleges interested to a recruit with interest from two — Rutgers and Rider.
He did not even qualify for the New Jersey high school tournament as a junior, but after he took second as a senior, the Scarlet Knights nabbed Zannetti as a walk-on.
He went 11-8 as a freshman and 22-12 as a sophomore.
He lost seven matches in the two years since — one as a redshirt and six out of his 37 bouts this season.
“They all work hard, but he separates himself because he doesn’t stop,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “Sometimes you have to really beg him and say, ‘Listen, do not go in the room. We need you to stay out of the room.’”
But Zannetti rarely does.
He made his greatest strides as a redshirt at 174 pounds in 2010-2011, when he won four bracket titles at open tournaments en route to a 20-1 record.
The most important post-it that year read “Mindset.”
“Your first year is like, ‘Well, I should take my lumps,’ but that wasn’t the right mindset,” said Zannetti, whose brother is a sports psychologist. “It’s in the back of your head, but everyone is a regular person, just run through them — that’s my mindset now.”
Zannetti ran through most of his opponents this season, especially in the dual-meet campaign.
He lost only one of his 21 dual-meet bouts, winning half of them with bonus points from two pin falls, two technical falls and six major decisions. He added four more major decisions and another pin during tournament action.
Zannetti wrestles a relentless style, constantly attacking the opponent.
It hurt him at the NCAA Championships, where he went 1-2 and the competition countered his out-of-position shots. So one of his Post-its now reminds him he has to pick his spots better and be more patient.
“That’s tough for me to do because I want to go, go, go,” Zannetti said.
It is the same problem Goodale encounters when he wants to keep Zannetti out of the wrestling room for a day off.
“The best thing about Zannetti is he uses every resource we have,” Goodale said. “Any chance he gets to work out with somebody different, he does. That’s probably why he’s improved so much.”
It allowed Zannetti to turn from an unrecruited kid out of Edison to a top-25 wrestler nationally in his weight class.
But his mindset is to simply shrug it off.
“I don’t think I did anything special,” Zannetti said. “I just think I kept working on what I need to work on — the Post-it notes or whatever. And that’s what I’m doing right now, so there are no changes, really. I’ve been doing that since I was in eighth grade at least.”