Perrotti battles injury, declares return for Rutgers
When junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti aggravated a lower body injury in early January during a dual-meet against then-No. 13 Illinois, it was a first for the Roseland, New Jersey, native.
After all, the plan for the Rutgers wrestling team’s first All-American since 2002 was to improve upon his 2014 season, build for March and have him at the top of the podium at the NCAA Championships.
When Perrotti suffered what he described as the first injury in his life, his overall plan for the season was derailed as he missed three of the Scarlet Knights’ dual meets in January.
This included matches against two top-six opponents and Rutgers’ first Big Ten dual-meet victory against Maryland.
Perrotti then began to question himself and his approach to the sport. It started to mess with his mind and the mental aspect of wrestling almost seemed too much.
“I was letting my injury really affect me. It was really messing with my head,” Perrotti said. “I’ve never been hurt in my life and not being 100 percent, it stinks, and it really stinks. I talked about it — I talked to my parents, coaches and I just put it behind me in the back of my head.”
And maybe that did the trick for Perrotti. After missing that much time from the mat against an opponent and being relegated to the wrestling room, one would expect it to take some time to return from the injury and get back into shape.
However, it’s taken Perrotti less time than expected to get back into the mix. After missing three bouts, Perrotti returned to form after an 11-1 major decision against Navy’s Drew Daniels.
Perrotti followed it up the next day on Super Bowl Sunday with an 8-5 decision against top-10 ranked Josh Demas of Ohio State. The upset victory caused the College Ave Gym to go into a rock concert and Perrotti to declare his revival.
With his one hand pumping up the crowd and his other hand already raised, Perrotti exclaimed, “I’m back. I’m back baby!”
But is he actually back?
Head coach Scott Goodale thinks he is, but won’t know for sure unless Perrotti continues to do things the right way.
“Perrotti is back if he continues to train well and continues to win big matches, then he’ll be back,” Goodale said of Perrotti. “You’re not back after one win and he knows that, he was just excited, but that’s Perrotti. He gets people fired up. I hope he is back and if he is, his training will indicate that.”
After a top-10 win and a major decision against a tough Midshipmen opponent, perhaps he is back.
Perrotti thinks he got his attack execution back at the very least and attributes it to doing things the right way, when in the past he admits he has not done it the Rutgers way.
“It took a while to get my timing back,” Perrotti said after his 11-1 major decision against Navy. “I just feel good right now, my counter-offense was working. I felt great — I cut my weight right and trained right. When you do everything right, everything comes together, honestly.”
Last season, Perrotti was 13-11 going into the conference championships, needing to finish in third place in order to qualify for the NCAAs.
It was a tall order for someone who didn’t quite do enough to qualify on his own.
But after losing in the last dual of the season to Drexel’s Austin Sommer — who was considered an inferior grappler by teammates — Perrotti knew he needed to change his approach.
He decided to make a phone call at 2 a.m. to Goodale after thatmatch and they came up with a game plan to be successful the rest of the season in order to come in third at the EIWAs, qualify for NCAAs and become an All-American.
Now, Perrotti has made a change early enough in the season so he won’t need to scratch for a wild-card allocation for the NCAAs. If he continues on his path, he could peak early enough in the season before the postseason grind of March begins.
Making the adjustment at this point in the season is fine for Perrotti, so long as he finds himself where he thinks he belongs at the end of the season, which is on top of the podium in St. Louis.
“It’s still a little late. It’s halfway through the season and things are finally starting to click,” Perrotti said. “But, yeah it definitely is starting to come along. I made a couple of switches in my lifestyle and what I am doing with my weight, and it works. When everything goes right, it’s easier to win.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.