Rutgers seeks improvement despite early dominance
It was hard to find any flaws in the No. 18 Rutgers wrestling team’s season debut.
At the Rutgers Duals last Sunday, the Scarlet Knights (3-0) swept their competition in Centenary, Franklin & Marshall and Binghamton at the quad meet by a total score of 131-0. In the 30 matches Rutgers competed in throughout the day, the team didn’t finish on the short side of a single match.
But for a program that wants to continue to climb up the national rankings, the Knights are always looking for ways to improve.
While Rutgers' dominating performance was flawless on the final scoreboard, the same couldn’t be said for their individual performances. The Knights found themselves in a few tight matches that could’ve gone either way throughout the day.
Facing lesser opponents, Rutgers expected more domination up-and-down the lineup.
“Some of us aren’t finishing matches,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “If you could be critical of something, maybe it’s (that) we got to do a good job of finishing matches. Up 3-0, make it 5-0. Up 5-4, make it 7-4. Things like that.”
Out of the 30 matches at the Duals, five of them were decided by three points or less, with an additional four matches decided by four points. Closer matches keep the opposition from tiring out mentally and provide them with a chance to steal a late victory.
A single wrestling match takes a physical toll on the body, let alone having to compete in multiple matches in the same day. But Rutgers is aware that it has to continue wrestling hard even if it has a lead at the end of matches.
It may seem like Goodale was nitpicking at an impressive performance overall, but the Knights’ grapplers echoed their coach’s criticisms.
“Just finishing out matches,” said sophomore 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault. “Instead of winning 3-2, winning 5-2. Just building on leads and making it more dominant of a statement.”
Rutgers has an opportunity to improve on closing out its matches this weekend as it hits the road for the first time this season to compete in the Binghamton Open. The tournament-style event will feature almost 500 wrestlers from all over the Northeast, coming from highly regarded programs such as No. 7 Cornell, No. 8 Lehigh, Princeton and Penn.
Before the season started, Goodale raved about the depth the Knights possessed. That depth will be on display in Binghamton.
Most of Rutgers’ starters, such as Ashnault, won't be making the trip to upstate New York. Instead, a number of redshirts and backup wrestlers, such as sophomore Josh Patrick, will be given an opportunity to showcase their abilities.
Junior Scott DelVecchio and senior Ken Theobold are two redshirts of note that will be making their season debuts this Sunday. Both the 133-pound DelVecchio and the 149-pound Theobold were left out of the starting lineup to open the season despite being former NCAA qualifiers.
DelVecchio’s spot in the lineup was taken over by 133-pound redshirt-freshman Anthony Giraldo, who is one Rutgers starter that will be wrestling this weekend. Giraldo put on an impressive display in his debut as a Scarlet Knight by recording 2 of 3 victories in technical fall fashion.
The Guttenberg, New Jersey, native agreed that everyone, including himself, has to perform better in the latter stages of matches.
“A lot of things we need to improve on,” Giraldo said. “Specifically pushing ourselves to our limits every match. I think me personally, I got tired and it was more of a mental thing than a physical thing.”
The Binghamton Open will be the Knights final tune-up before they begin a challenging stretch of out-of-conference matches. In Rutgers' following match, it will compete in the Journeymen Northeast Duals, which will feature No. 14 North Carolina, No. 20 Oklahoma and No. 23 Northern Iowa.
The Knights are fully aware that they have to be at their best heading into that stretch of their schedule. With that said, following a strong start, Rutgers hopes to fine-tune its performances and continue to build its momentum come Sunday.
“Really focus on the little things, you know,” said senior 165-pounder Anthony Perrotti. “Including myself, everyone didn’t wrestle perfect (at the Rutgers Duals) … Before that stretch, we’re looking for some big wins.”
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