Five Knights qualify for NCAAs
Fifth-place showing disappoints Goodale in first EIWA Tournament held on campus in conference history
With his gym bag in hand after the Rutgers wrestling team’s fifth-place showing at the EIWA Tournament, Scott Winston was able to accurately describe the Scarlet Knights’ performance.
“For everyone, this whole weekend has been like an emotional roller coaster,” said Winston, who secured his fourth appearance in the NCAA Championships with his last-second takedown against Cornell’s Jesse Shanaman. “There were times where we all rallied together as a team in rounds and times where we just had horrible rounds.”
Including Winston, the Knights placed five wrestlers in the NCAA Championships. Senior 141-pounder Trevor Melde, sophomore 165-pounder Nick Visicaro, senior 174-pounder Greg Zannetti and senior 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi will all join Winston in Des Moines, Ia., in two weeks to compete in nationals.
Cornell captured the team title with a score of 142, as it had three grapplers in final bouts.
That included 165-pounder Kyle Dake, who cruised to a 20-5 victory against Columbia’s Josh Houldsworth. Dake will attempt to become just the third wrestler in NCAA history to win four straight NCAA titles.
Navy came in second with 117 points while Pennsylvania placed third with a score of 110.5.
Head coach Scott Goodale wanted a better showing at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the first time the EIWA Tournament has ever been held at Rutgers.
His displeasure intensified at the end of Day 2 with Zannetti, Rinaldi and Smith losing their final bouts consecutively.
Zannetti made up for his first-round loss as the No. 3 seed to make it all the way to the third-place match.
Only Penn’s Ian Korb stood between Zannetti and a third-place finish, but the uneventful match resulted in a 2-1 decision for Korb and a subsequent sprint from Zannetti into the locker room.
Goodale said last week that he felt strongly all 10 of his starting grapplers could qualify for the NCAAs.
Although that was at best a modest proposal, five was not what Goodale had in mind.
“It wasn’t a great tournament,“ Goodale said. “We left a lot of points out there and I don’t think we wrestled great. We lost those last three, which kind of leaves a sour taste. We’ll see how the at-large bids [go].“
The two grapplers who have the best chance to receive at-large selections are junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave and redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith.
Both were the No. 1 seeds in their respective weight classes during the tournament, but failed to make their championship bouts.
Dellefave lost in the second round of Day 1, while Smith suffered a last-second takedown against Navy’s Daniel Miller in the semifinals. Smith then dropped two more matches to finish in sixth-place — two spots out from the last qualifying finish for his weight class.
Only two grapplers managed wins in their final bouts, both fifth-place victories.
With only five spots allotted at 157 pounds, Winston needed an overtime period to secure his fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAAs.
Winston got a hold of Cornell’s Shanaman in the opening minute of the overtime period, driving him down towards the scorer’s table.
Winston was forced to the fifth-place match after suffering a technical fall to Navy’s Bobby Barnhisel.
Visicaro took control early against Bucknell’s Corey Lear, driving him to the RAC floor and resulting in a pin 2:55 into the match.
The finish is a substantial distance from the first-place goal Winston set for himself before the tournament.
He sees the positive and negatives from it.
“It’s definitely a disappointment. I won this tournament two years ago,” said Winston, who captured the 165-pound title at the EIWA Tournament back in 2011. “This is my worst finish, but at the same time, I found a lot of things. I’m actually excited and I was having a lot of fun wrestling in those two matches.”
Goodale certainly was not having fun watching his team on the floor.
But the shift focus to Des Moines, Ia.
“We have two weeks to prepare for nationals,” Goodale said. “Your game needs to increase or else you will be out of the tournament pretty quick.”
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