Rutgers pounces on Princeton in dominant Senior Day win
Anthony Perrotti sensed the blood was in the water.
Four-straight decisions, including two majors to start the dual, and the sharks were circling — so Perrotti went for the kill.
Perrotti needed just one more takedown for a tech fall, but secured the 14-2 major and the Rutgers wrestling team went up, 18-0, against Princeton. The 157-pounder saw a window to open up the scoring and he took full advantage of it.
“It’s kind of sad to say it, but you go up against all these Big Ten teams and then you face a team whose inferior, you smell the blood,” Perrotti said. “That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to get on them early and impose our will on them, because that’s what a lot of teams have been doing to us. When we get that chance, we like to impose our will on them and get bonus points.”
The win was the fifth consecutive victory for Perrotti.
It wasn’t a defining win for the Scarlet Knights, but it was a win in the longest running dual-meet rivalry and quality preparation for the conference and NCAA meets.
It did not come against a Big Ten school like Penn State or Iowa, but it did signal the change for the Knights in the end of their home dual-meet season.
While Rutgers often came from behind in its matches last season while competing in the EIWA conference, a commanding 24-11 win against former EIWA rival Princeton Saturday solidified the change in conference and how far the Knights program has come.
As a passionate fan of the sport, head coach Scott Goodale was excited to see the Knights jump out to a huge lead. With the pressure off, he could take the dual in from a different perspective.
“It was good to just sit back and watch our guys wrestle. We beat some good guys,” Goodale said. “They’re doing a really good job and they have some really talented kids, but I thought we wrestled well on top and really controlled the mat. We had a bunch of guys get riding time and that’s what we are stressing. I felt really comfortable.”
The win does more than give Rutgers another notch in the win column. For grapplers who have struggled this season, it builds confidence.
For wrestlers like sophomore 125-pounder Sean McCabe and sophomore 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas, who have struggled at times through the gauntlet of the Big Ten season, the match against the Tigers provided a boost.
McCabe collected a 10-2 major decision to begin the scoring onslaught, while Bakuckas had to open up the scoring in the third period to earn the 8-3 decision.
“It feels great to get back into the win column,” Bakuckas said. “It’s been a long road and all through January, and even February, I was struggling to get to my shots. It is not the prettiest win, but I will take it. It is a huge confidence booster. We went through the whole Big Ten grind of wrestling the top teams in the nation and it is nice coming in here and getting our chance to put a beating on someone.”
It is hard to believe after a 24-11 win that the Knights would be disappointed, but coming off the mat after each win and decision, not all the Rutgers grapplers were excited about their result. Some of them wanted more.
Bakuckas was disappointed he did not wrestle his match perfectly. Redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault and junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold wanted bonus points. Perrotti was three points away from a tech fall but even that wasn’t what he was looking for.
“I wasn’t worried about the tech fall, I was looking for the pin,” Perrotti said. “We got this dual-meet challenge going on down in the wrestling room and I was one behind Kenny, in second place. I was just trying to go for the fall, but a win is a win and now it’s on to Thursday against Drexel.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.