Grappler steps up for final year at Rutgers
Change is not always the easiest thing for an athlete to endure.
Whether it is changing positions or the changing teams, it can be especially tough for a wrestler to adjust to his new surroundings.
But one particular member of the Rutgers wrestling team openly welcomes the change.
Just two years ago, in his second season of eligibility, Anthony Perrotti became the first All-American at Rutgers since 2002. Wrestling in the 157-pound weight class, Perrotti finished eighth overall in the NCAA Championships and became the ninth All-American in program history.
Last season, after posting an 18-6 record during the regular season, Perotti finished seventh in the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the National Championships for the second consecutive year. But Perrotti lost his first two matches and was bounced from the tournament a lot earlier than he expected.
Despite a disappointing finish to his season, Perrotti had put together another strong showing overall with his second consecutive 20-win season. Even with that said, change was awaiting Perrotti during the offseason.
After wrestling — and having success — in the 157-pound weight class during his three seasons of eligibility, Perrotti and the coaching staff agreed to bump him up to the 165-pound weight class for his final season.
“It was definitely a combined effort,” Perrotti said. “We talked about it together and just figured it would be better not cutting weight, feeling more comfortable at the weight, practicing closer to the weight which helps you compete better. Now we get another great guy in the lineup in Richie Lewis and the lineup looks more complete … So it was kind of like a group effort.”
At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season the Knights were only projected to lose one starter in Anthony Visicaro, who graduated.
The end of Visicaro’s career at Rutgers left a glaring hole at the 165-pound weight class.
Without any of the younger grapplers ready to step into the starting role, Perrotti was the perfect candidate.
After wrestling down to the 157-pound weight in his previous three seasons, Perrotti is feeling great physically and believes moving up in weight was the best decision he’s ever made.
“Making the weight is not that bad,” Perrotti said. “I spent a lot of time cutting weight last year and it just wasn’t fun. It wears on you by the end of the year. Now I feel comfortable, I’m not sucking weight and the end of the week I’m feeling fresh.”
Perrotti’s move-up in weight had a domino effect in strengthening the Rutgers overall lineup. Not only did the move give Rutgers an All-American at the 165-pound class, but it also allowed for junior college transfer Richie Lewis to crack the starting lineup at Perrotti’s former weight.
Lewis, a grappler that the Knights have high expectations for, is not only happy that Perrotti is performing great at his new weight, but also that he is now able to train with one of the top wrestlers in the country.
“He looks great he filled out the weight perfectly,” Lewis said. “It’s not only good for him to go up, but it’s good for me because now I have one of the best workout partners in the country to scrap with everyday.”
Entering the season, college wrestling experts appeared to think that Perrotti would make a seamless transition to the new weight class. He was ranked in the top-16 nationally by four different wrestling publications. Intermat Wrestling awarded him the highest preseason ranking by placing him at No. 9.
In the early stages of this season the experts’ preseason predictions have shown to be true. In his debut performance at the Rutgers Duals, the Roseland, New Jersey, native recorded two pin-fall victories against Franklin & Marshall and Binghamton.
In his final season at Rutgers, Perrotti has a chance to leave as an All-American at two different weight classes, which has only been done by one other grappler in program history.
But before he can punch his ticket to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, Perrotti will have to continue to show he can compete at a high level in his new weight. He will get his first major test this weekend at the Northeast Duals when he takes on three ranked opponents.
Taking that all into consideration, Perrotti knows he has a tough task ahead of him. But head coach Scott Goodale believes that the adjustment will be an organic one when the senior takes the mat.
“We’ll find out a lot this week,” Goodale said. “Perrotti, I think has No. 3, 5 and 12 in the country. So what an opportunity for him … We’ll find out a lot about Perrotti and how he handles the weight adjustment … They’re in new surroundings, they’ve been wrestling all their life. At the end of the day it’s a seven-minute wrestling match. Put your foot on the line, prepare to win and your mindset should be I’m getting after it, and they’ll be fine.”
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