July 20, 2019 | 78° F

Assistant utilizes Olympic aspirations to influence Rutgers

The goal at the beginning of the season for the Rutgers wrestling team was simple: have as many grapplers as possible reach the podium at the NCAA Tournament.

The three returning qualifiers from a season ago were not satisfied with how their season ended after a total of seven Scarlet Knights made the tournament last year but failed to reach All-American status.

Rutgers currently has no All-Americans on its roster, and the last Knight to reach the podium was Tom Tanis, who came in fourth place at 184 pounds in 2002.

But Rutgers has the All-American experience in an assistant coach.

Frank Molinaro joined the coaching staff after four-straight All-American seasons at Penn State, where he won the 2012 National Championship at 149 pounds.

The decision to become a Knight was easy for Molinaro because of the chance head coach Scott Goodale gave the Barnegat, N.J., native.

“Right when I got done [with college], Coach Goodale was grateful enough to give me an opportunity to come coach here,” Molinari said. “He gave me an opportunity to come back home to New Jersey to be a coach. He gave me a good position right out of the gates and I took advantage of it.”

For a team with such high postseason aspirations, it is necessary to have the experience in the wrestling room.

The experience has already proven vital for grapplers en route to the EIWA Championships that begin Saturday.

Molinaro often works with sophomores 149-pounder Ken Theobold and 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti.

Perrotti was ranked 32nd in his weight class in the last RPI of the season and Molinaro has helped the Roseland, N.J., native improve upon last season.

“He’s a big help. He knows what it feels like to be on top,” Perrotti said. “He brought in a lot. The mindset, just attacking and he shows a lot of good positioning [to us]. Going through the whole grind of a Big Ten season, being a National Champ and four-time All-American speaks for itself. He gets my mind right and it’s great to have him in the room.”

The larger impact that Molinaro has in practice is that he also is training in his own way.

That unique relationship proves valuable for Goodale.

“He has a huge impact. He’s training and is ranked sixth in the world, so the way he prepares for tournaments and the way he lives his everyday life should be something that our guys look up to in the same capacity,” Goodale said. “Our guys are trying to win national titles, now he’s trying to win world titles. How he goes about it should be a positive influence on our guys.”

The tournaments he wrestles in and his training may seem strange for a grappler who has finished collegiate competition. Although he is done with collegiate wrestling, Molinaro is not retired.

He has very precise goals.

“I have some pretty specific goals as far as being No. 1 in the United States,” Molinaro said in a statement. “The most important goal is the 2016 Olympics.”

Molinaro has competed in freestyle tournaments while Rutgers has gone through its regular season. Molinaro still finds time to train with the team, wrestle in competition and coach at dual meets for the Knights.

At the Dave Schultz Memorial International on Jan. 31, Molinaro went 4-0 on his way to the crown at 65 kilograms.

Although he has a hectic schedule, it has not hurt his ability to coach Rutgers.

“It’s all a great experience. The coaching helps my wrestling and my wrestling helps my coaching,” Molinaro said. “It’s been super busy, but it’s been a lot of fun. From both sides, I have gained a lot of experience.”

With the Olympics two years away, Molinaro has a sense of urgency as he continues to train with Rutgers.

“I think this year was a big jump for me as far as improving as a wrestler technically, mentally and getting some experience freestyle-wise. I think I’m headed in the right direction,” Molinaro said. “I think time is definitely of the essence. I have to stay after it and make gains every time I can.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Tyler Karalewich

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