Rutgers hopes to end All-American slump
With the NCAA Championships set to begin a week from today, the Rutgers wrestling team will send four wrestlers to have a chance at becoming All-Americans.
Prior to their performance at the EIWA Championships, arguably only sophomore heavyweight Billy Smith was thought to be a lock to qualify.
Head coach Scott Goodale knew that good performances would be needed all around to make the season a success at the NCAAs.
“We didn’t do enough during the course of the year to put ourselves in a position individually to get an allocation at each weight class for some of us,” Goodale said prior to the EIWAs. “So we need to wrestle our tails off to get to the national tournament. Other than Billy [Smith], for the most part, we are fighting for our lives.”
After three top-three finishes, the Scarlet Knights were able to manage more than what was expected.
A successful first day at the EIWAs, advancing three wrestlers to the semifinals and keeping three Knights alive in the consolation bracket gave Goodale reason for optimism.
“We’re scoring a lot of bonus points — probably the most falls you’ve seen all year,” Goodale said. “There’s not much more we could’ve asked for on day one. Just got to back it up and advance guys to the national tournament.”
The second day may not have gone as expected with freshman Tyson Dippery, senior Vinnie Dellefave and junior Nick Visicaro failing to punch their tickets with automatic qualifications at 141 pounds, 133 pounds and 165 pounds, respectively.
The three had to rely on at-large selections in order to continue their seasons, with only Dellefave earning his way to the NCAAs.
Goodale was satisfied with the weekend as a whole.
“We really battled all the way through. We wrestled really well this weekend,” Goodale said. “But I’m really proud of our guys and staff doing a good job preparing more importantly.”
Although the weekend was successful, Rutgers is not done yet.
Sophomores heavyweight Billy Smith, 149-pounder Ken Theobold, 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti and Dellefave all earned spots.
While some spots were easier to earn for others, it speaks to Rutgers’ ability to outperform its critics, who may have predicted less of the group.
“It’s awesome that this many guys qualified. I think everyone only thought Billy would qualify, but we stepped up,” Perrotti said. “Me and Kenny stepped up and Dellefave grabbed the wildcard. It’s awesome, man, it’s a great ending to a year with a lot of ups and downs.”
The expectations remain the same as the goal that the team had at the beginning of the season.
Goodale stressed the importance of having the qualified Knights make the podium as All-Americans and what he anticipates is simple.
“Now that we know who is going the expectations are to go there and place,” Goodale said. “We have to go there and win matches and become All-Americans.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.