Redshirt freshman shoots for strong finish to season for Rutgers
Anthony Giraldo faced the first true test of his collegiate career at the Northeast Duals back on Nov. 15.
The Rutgers wrestling team’s redshirt freshman, who had just three dual matches under his belt at the time, was scheduled to square off against the then-No. 1 wrestler at the 133-pound weight class in Cody Brewer of Oklahoma.
Just under two minutes into the match, Giraldo used three takedowns to build a 6-2 lead over Brewer.
But with 50 seconds remaining in the first period, Brewer was able to get Giraldo onto his back.
After fighting off a pin fall for over 30 seconds, Brewer finally got Giraldo’s shoulders onto the mat for an official fall.
Even though he had ultimately dropped the match, his potential was on full display in building an early lead against the top wrestler in his class.
But that wasn’t enough for Giraldo, who already believed that he could compete with the top grapplers in his class.
“Yeah, I guess I can say that,” Giraldo said on whether his match against Brewer proved to him that he could compete with top competition. “But before that match, I was telling myself that as well. I believed it before the match too and that was just an opportunity to prove it to everyone else and to actually to do it.”
Even before he competed in his first dual meet at the collegiate level, Anthony Giraldo was named by FloWrestling and The Open Mat as a top-20 grappler in his 133-pound weight class.
He was a blue-chip prospect coming out of North Bergen High School, where he won back-to-back New Jersey State Championships.
Without a spot for him in the lineup, Giraldo wrestled unattached last year in his first year on the Banks, compiling a 20-5 record and finishing in the top-3 in three of the five tournaments he competed in.
Entering this season, Giraldo was the lone name listed at 133-pounds for the Scarlet Knights when they decided to redshirt junior Scott DelVecchio. In his first year in the lineup, Giraldo has worked himself to a 13-7 record overall and a 9-5 record in dual meets.
But since his match against Brewer, he has continued to struggle against ranked opponents in dual meets. Since that match, he has fallen to the No. 3, 4 and 9 grapplers in his weight class.
Even though he hasn’t had much success against ranked opponents, Giraldo’s teammates believe his best wrestling is still ahead of him.
“I think Anthony’s done a great job,” said senior heavyweight Billy Smith. “He’s very consistent, which is good. I think he’s not where he wants to be yet and definitely not wrestling his best yet, which is good because you wanna be wrestling your best towards the end. Just like a lot of us, there’s so much more left to give at the end. Hopefully we can get that out of us in the last month or two.”
At the Midland Championships on Dec. 29-30, the Guttenberg, New Jersey, native was finally able to break through.
While finishing in fourth among 133-pounders, Giraldo defeated No. 5 Earl Hall of Iowa State in a 5-4 decision for his first win over a ranked opponent.
He’s won both of his dual matches since the Midland Championships as well, while coming in at No. 18 in his weight class.
With seven dual meets remaining on the schedule, there is more than enough time for Giraldo to build up momentum heading into the Big Ten and National Championships.
“I feel like I’ve made some improvements, getting my hand raised a little bit more,” Giraldo said. “I got a ranked win under my belt, so that’s pretty satisfying. But I’m still really hungry. The best wrestling has to come at the end of the year, Big Tens, Nationals.”
At the team’s media day on Oct. 27, head coach Scott Goodale noted the high expectations that he had for the former two-time New Jersey high school state champion. Goodale said he was looking for Giraldo to have similar success as sophomore Anthony Ashnault had last year.
In his first year in the lineup last season, Ashnault finished eighth at the NCAA Championships and left the tournament as an All-American at 141-pounds.
So even though Giraldo has experienced up and downs in his first year in the lineup, the high expectations on him from the beginning of the season for championship tournaments remain.
“We’re not just looking for him just to qualify, we’re looking for him that make noise at that tournament,” Goodale said. "Obviously the kid can wrestle, but there’s so much more that goes into it. If he can handle the minute-to-minute balance of a wrestler's lifestyle, he’ll be fine. And what I mean by that is being able to control his weight ... It’s something that is his weakness, it’s where he struggles. If he’s doing his weight right, he wrestles really, really good.”
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