Rutgers grapplers use offseason to improve
Going into the third week of classes, many Rutgers students finished up familiarizing themselves with their class schedule and routine for the fall semester. The average student might take their first exam this week or even skip a class they know they can afford to miss.
For the Rutgers wrestling team, this time of the year marks the opening of its preseason leading up to the dual-meet season — beginning Nov. 1 at the Rutgers Duals.
But before the Scarlet Knights took the mat in an official practice capacity, they primed themselves more than ever before. Several Knights wrestled in big tournaments this summer.
A reigning All-American at 141 pounds, sophomore Anthony Ashnault wrestled at the 2015 USA UWW Junior Freestyle World Team Trials, placing third at 66 kilograms. Ashnault wrestled to a 4-1 record in his first tournament since the National Tournament last season.
Redshirt-freshman Anthony Giraldo also grappled at the Junior Worlds tournament. Although he went 1-2, Giraldo added more experience following his redshirt season he took last year.
Senior Anthony Perrotti finished eighth at the 2015 University Nationals, good enough for All-American status. Thirteen other Knights joined Perrotti in the same tournament.
With the experience gained from several tournaments coupled with summer workouts at Rutgers, head coach Scott Goodale sees improvement in his wrestlers. Most of that improvement started with a film session among coaches.
“Our staff recognized a bunch of weaknesses while watching film of the season and watching key matches in key spots,” Goodale said. “We really honed in on some of those areas in our skills like finishing takedowns and turning the guy while on top. We worked on all those areas (this summer) that we really felt, through our film analysis, that we had some deficiencies against the really good guys.”
Goodale said the Knights used the summer to improve weaknesses that cost them big matches a season ago.
But the opening weeks of September are for the basics, Ashnault said. It’s a time to get down to weight, work on fitness and work on the technical side of the sport.
“Right now, it’s just about getting in really good shape,” Ashnault said. “When we are wrestling in the room, we are focusing on getting better technically. I worked on my patience with my technique. I’ve matured a lot — I used to go and attack. Now, I see the sport better and I do things with a purpose.”
The Knights ended their first week of preseason wrestling last week. It started a little bit later than Perrotti remembers.
But while the workouts started later, he recognizes development in the whole team he hasn’t seen in his five years at Rutgers.
“We started our preseason a little late this year because of labor day,” Perrotti said. “But it’s gone pretty good. I see everyone from the true freshman to redshirt-seniors working hard. The team looks good, and I feel like we are already in really good shape. We have a hard workout (Friday mornings) — we’ll see how it goes finishing out our first week.”
With the season still more than a month away, the anticipation to wrestle in a match is there. The popular cliché dictates that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Ashnault has a different message to offer to quell his excitement for the new season.
“You just have to take it a day at a time,” Ashnault said. “You can’t conquer the world in one day. You have to work on the little things. Sooner or later, it will all come together.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.