Knights host No. 1 team at RAC
Forget the win against Lehigh or the upset Feb. 8 against No. 14 Bloomsburg.
A win Sunday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center against Penn State would be the biggest victory of the season for the Rutgers wrestling team.
Head coach Scott Goodale knows the ramifications if the Scarlet Knights pull off another upset.
He also knows the possibilities if they come out flat.
“We better elevate our game, or it will be a long Sunday,” Goodale said. “We have to match the extensity and wrestle with more passion than we have ever have, a little bit more guts than we ever have, so we just have to go to a different level.”
It’s the final home match — besides the EIWA tournament Rutgers hosts March 8 — for Goodale’s senior group, the first recruiting class he brought into the program.
Two of those members, 174-pounder Greg Zannetti and 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi, are the only two ranked grapplers in the match, at No. 14 and No. 10, respectively.
Favorites in most of their matches this season, they will be underdogs Sunday afternoon.
Zannetti matches up with No. 7 Matt Brown, while Rinaldi gets remaining National Champion and current No. 1 184-pounder Ed Ruth.
Rinaldi knows what has to be done for a successful night, and if accomplished, will come in front of Rutgers’ biggest crowd of the season at the RAC.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun atmosphere,” Rinaldi said. “We have to take the most out of it and roll with it during our individual bouts and try to knock some people off. There are some good dudes there.”
The Knights have former Nittany Lion Frank Molinaro on their side for this match as an assistant coach, and his experience with the reining back-to-back National Champions can only benefit the team.
Molinaro stresses the importance of bonus points, and while Rutgers would be safe to inherit this mindset, it would be happy with just a win.
The combination of a former teammate and the goal to score as many points as possible is something evident to Goodale.
“There is a competition amongst themselves to see who gets more bonus points and see who gets more techs and more majors and they’re going to be going after it,” Goodale said. “Not just because Frank’s in the corner, they will probably go after it more with him in the corner. That’s just the way they go about their business.”
Rutgers will at least be at full strength against Penn State, with the return of senior 157-pounder Scott Winston.
Winston sat out the Knights’ last two matches — their upset of Bloomsburg and their Feb. 15 win against Drexel — but said before practice Tuesday he felt fine.
“He’s back, he’s ready to go and hopefully he has a good showing,” Goodale said.
With wins in six out of its last seven dual matches and Winston now back in the fold, there is no better time for Rutgers to stage an upset.
But it is a tall order to accomplish.
“I think we are wrestling our best now and are hitting our stride,” Goodale said. “We are certainly going to hit a whole right now with this team, but we just have to find a way to do it. But I think right now, we are the most prepared we have ever been all year long.”
For more updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.