Rutgers assistant Pritzlaff returns to alma mater Wisconsin in new role
It’s been 14 years since Rutgers wrestling associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff ended his own wrestling career at the University of Wisconsin — on top of the podium at the National Championships.
One of the more decorated wrestlers in collegiate and amateur wrestling history, Pritzlaff went back to Wisconsin to serve as an assistant coach and later as associate head coach from 2007-2011.
Now serving as one of the top guys alongside head coach Scott Goodale, Pritzlaff and the Rutgers wrestling team are going back to the Field House of Wisconsin.
Just the thought of it leaves the former four-time All-American thrilled.
“I’m excited. I went to school there and I have a lot of great memories from competing there in the field house,” Pritzlaff said. “I’m excited to get back there and I’ll be even more excited to get these guys in another hostile environment to see how they respond.”
The weekend for the Scarlet Knights is one that offers plenty of challenges, starting with the No. 18 Badgers on Friday and then followed up with facing No. 25 Northwestern on Sunday.
Both teams boast several ranked wrestlers, including the Wildcats’ returning National Champion, Jason Tsirtsis. Each team offers as many as four ranked wrestlers on each squad, according to various wrestling rankings.
For junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti, that’s the perfect opportunity. He welcomes the chance to go against some of the top competition in the nation, while also getting the chance to bounce ahead in the Big Ten rankings.
“It would be great if we could steal these two matches on the road,” Perrotti said before correcting himself. “Well, not steal these two because I think we are better than these two teams. Going into Big Ten’s with two wins like that, we will finish somewhere in the middle of the conference — that’s not bad for your first year in a grind like the Big Ten.”
The grind is still present as ever and it doesn’t get easier when facing two top-25 programs in the span of three days.
Wrestling a packed weekend like that draws similarities to the NCAAs and the Big Ten Conference tournaments that lurk a month away for the Knights. Perrotti said he remembers grappling four or five bouts in one day last year in Oklahoma City.
It won’t be that much of a toll on his body, but Rutgers has to spend a day of traveling on Thursday, wrestling on Friday, traveling again on Saturday before wrestling again on Sunday prior to catching its flight home.
However, last weekend Rutgers took on Navy and Ohio State less than 24 hours apart.
That span alone leaves Pritzlaff believing the team is prepared for the challenge that awaits.
“Last week kind of set us up for where we are right now,” Pritzlaff said. “Last week, we kind of trained them really hard and pushed them really hard. I think on Saturday we were a little flat and Sunday we picked it up. These guys are prepared to go two days in a row — so a match and an off day in between the second match — I think they will respond even better.”
With No. 21 Rutgers set to take on teams that also appear in the bottom end of the top-25 poll, junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold can’t help but find similarities between the two programs.
After all, Wisconsin ranks in the top-five in win percentage among the Big Ten. Rutgers and Northwestern, meanwhile, are tied for No. 10 in the conference with one win each in the Big Ten.
“I think we match up very well with Wisconsin and Northwestern,” Theobold said. “We have a few toss-up matches, my match included. They return the 149-pound national champ, so I’m just going to go out there, wrestle hard and have a good weekend.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.