EIWAs allow Winston to salvage season
Scott Winston admits it has been an up and down year for him individually.
Dropping down from 165 pounds last season to 157 in his final year, Winston compiled a 21-8 overall record.
But he went just 11-7 in dual action with losses in his last two matches — a 9-2 dropped decision to Navy’s Bobby Burg and a 10-3 loss to Penn State’s Dylan Alton.
Part of his struggles can be attributed to injuries he has dealt with throughout the season, which included a leg injury that caused him to miss matches against Bloomsburg and Drexel.
While he is aware of his performance issues this season, he is also aware of what a good performance in the EIWA tournament can do for him.
“Anytime you can win anything, you feel on top of the world,” Winston said. “It helps your confidence level.”
The Rutgers wrestling team will host the EIWA tournament for the first time in program history at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, with 10 conference wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their weight classes in the country.
It is nothing different for 174-pounder Greg Zannetti.
“[The pressure] is not anymore than usual,” Zannetti said. “It’s nice to have the home crowd and we don’t have to travel, but I don’t think there is any more pressure.”
But if everything goes to plan, it could be one of Rutgers’ most successful meets.
Head coach Scott Goodale believes all 10 of his starters have at least a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships throughout the weekend.
The EIWA will have 45 spots for the NCAA Championships, only second to the Big Ten’s 74.
That bodes well for the Scarlet Knights, who feature wrestlers in the top six of their respective weight classes.
Junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave is No. 1 in his weight class, while Zannetti and redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith are No. 2 in their classes.
As far as his team’s chances at a whole, Goodale’s expectations are higher.
“We want to be in the thick of the tournament,” Goodale said. “We want to give ourselves a chance to be right in it. It’s the first time in a long time it’s a wide-open team race.
Cornell is the highest-ranked team in the tournament, coming in at No. 9 in the latest Associated Press poll.
After that, the field is wide open, and Rutgers has one loss — a 19-15 defeat at the hands of Navy — on its résumé.
But the biggest storyline of the tournament for the Knights will come when Winston walks on the mat.
After winning the 165-pound title at the EIWA tournament his sophomore season, Winston made it to the championship last year, losing in overtime to former Lehigh All-American Brandon Hatchett.
At 157, his road to his third straight championship appearance will take more work.
He will be the fifth-ranked wrestler beginning today, which does not spell out his easiest path to the podium.
But rankings and his recent struggles, nor anything else that has happened this season, matter to him.
What matters are these next two days — two days that can salvage his season.
And with that in mind, his confidence is through the roof.
“I want to win another EIWA title,” Winston said. “...[My year] lately has been kind of down, so I just want to finish on a high note and come out swinging. I’m just coming out to wrestle and I kind of have a relaxed mentality and I haven’t had that in a long time.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.