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Rutgers rolls in opening-match shutout

DJ RUSSO and sean dedeyn
DJ RUSSO and sean dedeyn

Talk about a nice start.

The 2009-10 season for the Rutgers wrestling team got off on the right track with a 43-0 blanking of Sacred Heart yesterday afternoon at the William H. Pitt Center in Fairfield, Conn.

The Scarlet Knights won all 10 matches — four courtesy of pins — to begin the season at 1-0.

"I was very happy with how we wrestled," said head coach Scott Goodale. "All around we wrestled well and we got out of it exactly what we wanted. Four pins is not something you come across often in college wrestling."

In his first match in an RU singlet, junior transfer Bill Ashnault pinned Sacred Heart sophomore Justin Belanger 3:45 into the 133-pound bout.

"I felt very comfortable out there," the South Plainfield, N.J., native said. "I started off a little hesitant but once I got on top I took control."

Underclassmen played a vital role in the team's success, with four freshman and two sophomores hitting the mat and recording victories.

True freshman Vincent Dellefave put the Knights in the lead early with a 3-1 decision in the 125-pound weight class. Ashnault followed with his pin, and sophomore Trevor Melde, who was 22-7 in his freshman season, followed suit with a 6-3 decision over Sacred Heart senior Cory Dunn.

"Trevor beat a very solid opponent in Cory Dunn," Goodale said.

Fellow sophomore Greg Zannetti locked up a victory in the 165-pound weight class with a 6-4 decision.

The team's second pin of the day came in the 149-pound weight class, when senior Kellen Bradley closed out his match less than five minutes in.

Wrestling in his first match since winning New Jersey's high school state championship two years ago, freshman Jesse Boyden returned to the circle with an impressive first-period pin, just 2:01 into the 184-pound contest.

"After sitting out last year with a leg injury we were very happy to see him back out there," Goodale said. "It was a big win for him after what he has been through."

Two other freshmen won the first matches of their inaugural seasons.

In the 157-pound weight class, Braden Turner stood strong on his way to a 4-1 decision and Dan Rinaldi earned an 11-4 decision two matches later in the 174-pound weight class.

RU's dominance continued when senior Lamar Brown enjoyed a 12-1 major decision in the 197-pound weight class match to start his final year off on the right foot.

In the final match of the evening, heavyweight Dominick Russo pinned Sacred Heart's Paul Schweighardt, ensuring a shutout for the Scarlet Knights.

 "The coaches and I had a game plan going into the match that I had to stick to," Russo said. "I took it easy the first minute or so and then went in and started attacking."

The junior said that this win is a confidence boost for the team going forward.

"This was a great indicator of how the team is this early in the year," Russo said. "Practice and Wrestle-Offs aren't the same as an actual match and it feels good to get the cobwebs off."

Sacred Heart fell to 0-1 with the loss.

RU takes to the mats again Nov. 14, when it travel to Brockport, N.Y., to participate in the Brockport Gold Tournament.

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