Rutgers plans to slay Drexel Dragons in finale
The No. 23 Rutgers wrestling team is on a hot streak.
And every grappler on the roster knows it.
After winning four of their last seven dual meets –– with a 19-18 loss against then-No. 18 Wisconsin decided on bonus point criteria and winning five matches in a 23-17 loss to then-No. 4 Ohio State –– the Scarlet Knights are optimistic on how their season will end.
Although the season has yet to finish, they do know it will come to a close on the road Thursday against Drexel in what should be an easy win.
When the Dragons came to the Louis Brown Athletic Center last season, the scoring onslaught ensued for Rutgers. With two falls and a forfeit, the Knights closed out the season with a 33-6 win –– their largest margin of victory last season.
When Rutgers faces off with Drexel this time around, a similar result is expected.
Junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti said he hopes the Knights take every bout in Philadelphia and it would be disappointing if they didn’t come close to duplicating their performance from a season ago.
Head coach Scott Goodale echoed his sentiments, but also said he was hungry to face another EIWA conference opponent.
“We are looking at another opportunity to face a team outside of the conference,” Goodale said. “We are licking our chops to get down there and wrestle –– that’s our mindset. They match up well with us, so we better come ready to wrestle otherwise it could be a long night. But we feel good and we had a really good week of practice, so we are pumped for the dual.”
Sophomore 125-pounder Sean McCabe does not care who the opponent is. He and the rest of the Rutgers program know nothing can be worse than the grind of the Big Ten and the elite teams presented all throughout the top-25.
While no team is to be taken lightly, McCabe knows an out-of-conference Drexel team with a below-.500 winning percentage is not as big of a threat as the monster Big Ten schedule the Knights have already seen.
“I think since we’ve been wrestling in the Big Ten Conference, we’re ready for anyone now,” McCabe said. “We’ve faced the five best teams in the country, so we are definitely prepared for them. It should be a good way to get a win before the Big Ten Tournament –– we all want to get a win and feel good going into that so we can surprise some people.”
Coming off of one of their largest wins of the season against Princeton this past Saturday, 24-11, the Knights not only want to replicate that result, they want to do better.
Despite the impressive outing, the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll that was released Wednesday surprised Goodale. Rutgers was not where it was the week before –– falling two spots –– so Goodale emphasized the need to stay in the poll.
“It seems like we need to have a better dual than against Princeton,” Goodale said. “We were [No.] 21 in the country, won as big as we have won all season and then we dropped two spots to [No.] 23 in the nation. Rankings matter, so if that’s the case, we want to stay in the top-25 going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Goodale and the rest of the program bought into the mantra “Peak in March” a long time ago. The idea being that what happens throughout the dual season does not matter if you perform poorly at the Big Ten Championships –– which typically take place the first week of March –– and the NCAA Tournament, which falls during the end of March.
With the last dual meet of the season two weeks away from Big Ten’s, it presents the perfect opportunity to end the season positively so that the Knights perform well in the postseason. With such a rollercoaster of a season, Perrotti already knows how important it is to finish on top.
“You definitely want to end the season with a win and end on a high note,” Perrotti said. “It’s been an up and down season –– we had all the ups and plenty of downs. I think right now we are wrestling at our best, so it will be good to cap the season off with a nice, dominating victory.”
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