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Junior 165-pounder Nick Visicaro is one of just three NCAA qualifiers returning this season for the Rutgers wrestling team. In his first full season in head coach Scott Goodale’s lineup, the Long Branch, N.J., native posted a 15-11 dual record en route to making the NCAA Championships. The taste of qualifying is not enough for him. “Last season didn’t really go as planned on a personal standpoint,” Visicaro said.
“Murderer’s row” was not supposed to continue in college. “Honestly, I have no idea [how this happened],” said freshman 133-pounder Corey Stasenko. “This was not supposed to happen at all.” The nickname, given to the lineup of Stasenko, Anthony Ashnault, Scott DelVecchio, Dylan Painton and Troy Heilmann at South Plainfield (N.J.) High School, symbolized the five’s career dominance for the Tigers.
One by one, eight wrestlers from each weight class navigated up the podium March 23 in the darkness of the Wells Fargo Arena. In all, the PA system announced 80 names at the 2013 NCAA National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, as 17,000 screaming voices echoed off the walls. Then-junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellafave was not even in the building to hear the noise that night.
Vincent Dellefave barely raised his voice last season when the Rutgers wrestling team featured eight seniors. Those guys — which included four NCAA qualifiers — are all gone now, leaving the Toms River, N.J., atop the Scarlet Knights’ roster in terms of seniority. “I don’t really talk to much,” said Dellefave, who is one of just two seniors for Rutgers. “So when the guys started asking me stuff and I have to start being vocal, it’s a little out of my game.”
Redshirt freshman 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckus will be one of potentially four new starters when Rutgers takes the mat Sunday at Hofstra. Head coach Scott Goodale said Bakuckus has improved from last year.
Sophomore heavyweight Billy Smith is one of three returning NCAA qualifiers for Rutgers. Smith posted a 17-3 dual record last season.
Wrestle-offs serve as a way of seeing how wrestlers measure up to each other for the season. For the Rutgers wrestling team, wrestle-offs showcased its new freshman class. Nine true freshmen competed for the first time in a Scarlet Knights uniform Saturday morning at the College Ave. Gym. Rookie 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault, the nation’s seventh-best grappler out of high school, headlined the 13th-best recruiting class in the nation, according to InterMat.
Freshman 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault, bottom, attempts a move on sophomore Ken Theobold on Saturday.
In the media room of the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Feb. 24 — after the Rutgers wrestling team’s 34-0 loss to Penn State — senior 157-pounder Scott Winston was asked where he felt the program would be in five years. “I think we’ll be national champions. I really believe that,” Winston said. Before the Scarlet Knights can worry about having their first national championship in program history, head coach Scott Goodale is just focused on producing the Knights’ first All-American since 2002.
DES MOINES, Iowa – In the tunnels of the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night was the podium where the top-eight wrestlers in each weight class stood upon the following night when crowned All-Americans. Head coach Scott Goodale stood close by — a metaphor that represents the Rutgers wrestling team’s distance from just competing at the National Championships to having one of their own stand among the top.
Senior 141-pounder Trevor Melde sits with his head in his hands after his 4-2 loss to Virginia Tech’s Zach Neibert in the consolation bracket.
Oregon State’s Roger Pena rides senior Scott Winston during his 8-1 loss. Each?Knight failed to reach the podium.
Des Moines, Iowa is a long way from New Jersey, but Rutgers head wrestling Scott Goodale can not get out of his home state soon enough. “When you’re in a backyard fight, no one asks you what you’re surroundings are,” Goodale said. “We didn’t do a great job last week, and I’m just happy to get on the road and get the heck out of here.” Goodale did not like the Scarlet Knight’s performance this weekend in the EIWA Tournament, as they qualified five of their wrestlers.
Junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave was one of two grapplers to receive at-large selections, meaning seven will compete at nationals.
Despite higher aspirations, senior 157-pounder Scott Winston secured his fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships with a fifth-place finish Saturday in the EIWA Tournament at the RAC.
Scott Winston admits it has been an up and down year for him individually. Dropping down from 165 pounds last season to 157 in his final year, Winston compiled a 21-8 overall record. But he went just 11-7 in dual action with losses in his last two matches — a 9-2 dropped decision to Navy’s Bobby Burg and a 10-3 loss to Penn State’s Dylan Alton. Part of his struggles can be attributed to injuries he has dealt with throughout the season, which included a leg injury that caused him to miss matches against Bloomsburg and Drexel.
Senior 157-pounder Scott Winston will try to end his season with an EIWA title.
As the Rutgers wrestling team puts its final touches on preparation for the EIWA Tournament, it does so with almost two weeks since the Scarlet Knights last took to the mat. Though the Knights’ last action was a 34-0 loss to Penn State on Feb. 24, head coach Scott Goodale believes the break from competion only helped. “It’s good. We tinkered some things and our training didn’t stop,” Goodale said. “We just continued training to get better and treated it like another week in the season.
For the Rutgers wrestling team, it will be one of the more comfortable EIWA Tournaments in recent memory. The Scarlet Knights can chalk that up to a program first. Rutgers will host the tournament on campus for the first time since it became a member of the conference. But the reason the tournament has not come to campus has nothing to do with the school itself. It is because Rutgers has simply never inquired about hosting the event.
As 174-pounder Greg Zannetti was one of the seven seniors honored before Sunday’s match against Penn State, it signaled a glaring question that will have to be addressed for the Rutgers wrestling team. How will the program respond to the group’s departure? “Hopefully the other guys pick up where we left off and carry the momentum, like a snowball,” Zannetti said. “Just keep going hard.” The Scarlet Knights will graduate five senior starters from this year’s team, exactly half of the starting lineup.