Sophomore’s decision seals RU’s tight win
Three straight losses — all against ranked opponents — put the Rutgers wrestling team in a difficult position in its first home dual meet in more than a month.
With 1,300 fans in attendance at the College Ave. Gym, including Athletic Director Julie Hermann and NFL alumni Devin and Jason McCourty, the Scarlet Knights expected to win handily Saturday against Lock Haven.
With the Bald Eagles up 16-15 heading into the final bout, the victor at 157 pounds would decide who won the dual competition. The Knights sent out sophomore Anthony Perrotti to gain a decision.
The Roseland, N.J., native did just that.
Perrotti dominated in the third period, gaining a takedown and collecting a two-point near fall.
After gaining the bonus point for 2:05 of riding time, Perrotti won convincingly 8-1 over Lock Haven’s Elias Biddle.
The decision pushed Rutgers (10-5, 6-2) to the 18-16 victory over the Bald Eagles (3-10, 1-4).
No Knight was more confident that Perrotti would seal the dual than Perrotti himself.
“[My plan was] to score points. I knew he couldn’t beat me if I kept up my attacks and scored points,” Perrotti said. “I worked on [my attacks] all week, so it paid off.”
While the victory over Lock Haven was its first win in over a month, Rutgers wishes it performed better.
Head coach Scott Goodale does not want to take anything away from Perrotti’s decision but believes the match should not have been so close.
“Good for Perrotti. I felt very good about [the match] with him in there. It shouldn’t have come down to that, though,” Goodale said. “We have a chance at 33 and 49 pounds to do some good things and we don’t do it. That’s disappointing. This late in the year, you can’t give away matches.”
Goodale stressed the importance of bonus points to the Knights all year.
Bonus points were vital for Rutgers on Saturday to give them a nine-point advantage after six matches.
Picking up major decisions for the Knights were sophomore heavyweight Billy Smith, who gained a 10-0 win, and redshirt freshman 174-pounder Phil Bakuckus, who gained the 13-2 major decision.
Redshirt freshman Sean McCabe also picked up an 11-1 major decision at 125 pounds to extend the lead to 15-6.
After losing four matches in a row leading up to this dual meet, McCabe was happy to reverse his misfortunes this season.
“It’s a great win for me. I was facing a lot of tough kids before this match, so I knew it would be big for me. I really just attacked it and gave it my all,” the Connetquot, N.Y., native said.
Preventing the Bald Eagles from gaining bonus points served equally important to keeping the dual meet close.
Sophomore Ethan Orr, who recently transferred to Rutgers, wrestled at 184 pounds.
Although he lost his match by a 10-7 decision, Goodale was happy with the performance of the 165-pounder.
“[Orr] is wrestling up two weight classes there. We needed a spark that I thought he could give us,” Goodale said. “He had a big takedown at the end, but has to wrestle harder in the first two periods. He will find himself in the lineup for sure.”
While they narrowly defeated Lock Haven, the Knights are not satisfied with the victory.
Rutgers will have things to build on leading up to its final match of the season Friday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Perrotti stalled when he reflected on the team’s performance before answering how he thought they did.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Perrotti said. “We lost a couple close matches and we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board to fix our mistakes. When we do that, I think we’ll be ready next week against Drexel.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.