Rutgers duplicates dominance over Drexel in final dual
PHILADELPHIA – It wasn’t exactly what junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti said he had in mind when he was previewing the dual-meet against Drexel. Perrotti believed the No. 23 Rutgers wrestling team would win every bout against the Dragons.
The dual did not start the way that the Scarlet Knights expected, with 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio dropping his bout, 4-2. Head coach Scott Goodale said it could be a long night for Rutgers if it struggled in the light weights.
Aside from dropping the decision at 133-pounds, the lighter weights shined and the Knights were supported by decisions at 174 and 197 pounds with an 11-2 major decision from heavyweight Billy Smith.
With the last dual of the season under their belt in a convincing 28-9 victory, Goodale reflects on the final dual of the year and what could have been a trap match for the Knights.
“It was a good match,” Goodale said. “And it was good to get out of the dual-meet season on a high note. You kind of worry about these matches with the intensity level, guys looking forward to the Big Ten's and last year we had a really important guy drop a match against this team. We don’t want any of that negativity. I like the way we wrestled and we are winning matches on top –– we really believe in that top game.”
Coming up big in the impressive win for Rutgers were Perrotti and redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault.
Ashnault came in with a chip on his shoulder, he said, and a mentality that he described as a combination of excitement for the postseason and an emotion he couldn’t quite put his finger on –– although it looked like anger.
The South Plainfield, New Jersey, product attacked all period, opening up the scoring to 10-1 with a minute remaining. And then with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first period, Ashnault went to work.
While he was on top, he worked his tilt, bending the torso of Drexel’s Andrew Mauriello and kept trying. Finally, his persistence was rewarded and both Mauriello’s shoulders lay flat on the mat –– only two seconds remained on the clock.
Ashnault was fired up before his match and exceeded that excitement after the win by fall.
“It was the last dual-meet before Big Ten's, so I wanted to come out here with some fire, some pop and put up a lot of points,” Ashnault said. “Right away, I got to a single leg and that kind of opened up my whole arsenal. I got on top, and I tried to pin him the whole time and finally at the end of the first I got it.”
Perrotti, not to be undone by Ashnault who wrestled two bouts earlier, attacked in his own right. He used a single-wrist turn technique that was stressed all week in practice, along with flurries of forceful offense.
A two-leg takedown started it for Perrotti early in the first period, and he followed it up with three-back points on a near fall using that same wrist technique and his momentum while he was riding out Drexel’s Noel Blanco.
Perrotti started on top in the second period, used his new-found favorite technique and got a combined seven back points on three separate near falls. An escape and a takedown in the third period sealed it and the match was over with just over a minute remaining, Perrotti holding his hand up after a dominant 15-0 tech fall.
In all phases and positions of wrestling, Perrotti feels he has honed his craft perfectly. His focus now shifts to the Big Ten Tournament and making his strengths even stronger.
“I feel like I am clicking on all cylinders right now,” Perrotti said. “I’m getting out on bottom, I’m turning on top and I’m taking people down when we are neutral. Honestly, my wrestling can’t be better right now. We will take some time off, but we are going to refocus and everyone will get better.”
With the regular season now over, the focus shifts to the postseason for Rutgers.
The Big Tens are two weeks away and the NCAA Tournament is two weeks later. The Knights need to peak in March, and they have already lifted their game in February, with capability to get better.
But attention won’t be paid to the postseason quite yet as Goodale said the team will likely take the weekend off and have some time to rest since the grueling, inaugural Big Ten season is now over.
That leaves Goodale a chance to reflect on what could be his first top-25 team finish in since the 2012-2013 Knights team snuck in to make the cut at No. 25.
“I think we are wrestling well, and for the most part, we are really healthy,” Goodale said. “I’m feeling really good –– about as good as I have ever felt at the end of a season. This is a pretty good team we have, and I think we are getting better. It’s pretty cool to finish in the top-25 teams in the country.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.