Rutgers honors lone senior, defends rivalry with Princeton at 'The Barn'
Senior 165-pounder Nick Visicaro said he feels like an old man these days.
The lone senior on the Rutgers wrestling team, who turned 23 last month, will be honored come Saturday when the No. 21 Scarlet Knights (12-7, 2-7) host Princeton (8-5, 2-1). According to volunteer assistant coach Joe Pollard, Visicaro signaled a change. The shift from a small program to one competitive enough to wrestle in the Big Ten started with landing recruiting classes like Visicaro’s.
When Visicaro takes the mat, it will be the last time the Long Branch, New Jersey, native wrestles in front of the Rutgers fan base in a home dual-meet.
“He came in with a group of guys — and the guys right before him — and they’ve been extremely important to building this program,” Pollard said. “They took a chance on this program back when [head coach Scott Goodale] took over. He’s been very good for us.”
While Senior Night adds significance to the match against the Tigers, Pollard said the Knights do not need any added motivation. Dual-competition against an in-state rival and a member from Rutgers’ old conference, the EIWA, should be enough incentive.
Arriving on a three-match winning streak, Princeton boasts four grapplers who have collected 20 wins to this point in the season. Pollard said that the Tigers, with some ranked athletes, rose through the rankings this season.
“It’s an in-state rival and that’s the longest running dual-meet series in program history,” Pollard said. “They’re coming on. They have some nationally-ranked guys and they are definitely building.”
While Pollard speaks highly of the rival New Jersey program, sophomore 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio doesn’t buy into any different preparation for Princeton.
Even though it is not a Big Ten program, that does not change the South Plainfield, New Jersey, native’s approach to the dual.
“It’s still just a match and just another one that you have to get through. The preparation is the same as it always is," DelVecchio said. "You just have to get better in the room and prepare as much as you can.”
When Rutgers wrestles Princeton, it will confirm how far the Knights have advanced and shed light on where the program started under Goodale.
For redshirt-freshman Anthony Ashnault, the dual against Princeton presents the perfect opportunity to show the improvement of the program.
“We’ve gone and wrestled all the best teams in the Big Ten, and now we get to wrestle someone from our old conference,” Ashnault said. “We’re really looking forward to showing how much better we have gotten and where we are at right now. We are trying to go out there and win all 10 matches.”
The match still comes down to an “old man” wrestling his last match of his career at “The Barn." The fact that Visicaro has made it through his five years at Rutgers is a testament to the 2013 NCAA Qualifier, Pollard said.
“As his career has gone on, he’s had some injuries and we’ve brought in some other guys who are really good,” Pollard said. “But he’s always kind of been really steady — you know what you are getting with Viz every day. He has his consistent moments and every day he is there to train. He fights through some injuries, but he knows the right thing to do is be there for your program and for your team."
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