Hopkins’ heavyweight win highlights night at Barn
Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale gave the fans credit Friday after the Scarlet Knights’ annual wrestle-offs at the College Avenue Gym. In an event that pits Rutgers wrestler against Rutgers wrestler, it is impossible to cheer.
He should give just as much credit to his grapplers.
“We do it for the fans, but nobody really likes it,” said junior 174-pounder Gregory Zannetti. “Everyone’s friends on the team. Everyone’s wrestling their friend.”
For Zannetti, that meant a matchup with fellow 174-pounder Brendan Ard in one of the two most contested weight classes.
Zannetti won his matchup with the sophomore Wisconsin transfer, 5-2, and senior Daniel Hopkins took the four-man heavyweight bracket.
Hopkins spent last season wrestling at 197 pounds, and Goodale would like to bounce Hopkins between 197 and heavyweight this season. Hopkins’ 7-0 decision against junior Jesse Boyden and 5-3 decision against freshman Billy Smith might force Goodale to commit to Hopkins at the weight class.
“Winning put my name at the top of the list at heavyweight, but like I always say to the coaches, wherever they need me for the team, that’s where I’ll go,” Hopkins said. “It doesn’t matter if they need me at heavyweight one match and want me at 184 the next match, I’ll do what I have to do.”
The Jackson Memorial High School product wrestled at 210 pounds Friday, but said his natural body weight is about 220 pounds.
He could easily gain that weight and then some if he stuck to heavyweight, fitting the mold of former heavyweight D.J. Russo, who was not as big-bodied as most in the weight class, but faster and equally strong.
“As long as you can keep up with them strength-wise and not get stuck underneath [Lehigh’s National Champion] Zach Rey or anyone like that who is really heavy for the weight class, I feel like I’ll do fine,” Hopkins said. “I feel like I can easily stay with anybody in the country strength-wise and I’m definitely faster.”
Hopkins showed that against Smith, who won a state championship last season at High Point High School.
Goodale would like to redshirt Smith, but a 3-2 decision against sophomore Carl Buchholz in the first round and his finish against Hopkins complicates issues.
“Billy Smith’s trying to score late in his first match ever in this facility with a lot of people here, and I was excited about that,” Goodale said. “We’ll probably start him out at a couple of open tournaments, but those two guys that wrestled, they want to be in the lineup. We’re going to have to make a decision pretty quick, but I don’t know what we’re going to do right now.”
Those in the contested weight classes will have another opportunity to clear up the pictures Saturday at the Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Classic.
Fifth-ranked 149-pounder Mario Mason, who won his wrestle-off bracket, and sixth-ranked 165-pounder Scott Winston, who did not wrestle Friday, are among the favorites entering the tournament in New York.
Sophomore Jordan Beverly, typically a 157-pounder, challenged Mason in the 149-pound final — not necessarily a good thing for Goodale — but the head coach also saw good things.
Sophomore Vincent Dellefave, junior Daniel White and senior Billy Ashnault won at 125 pounds, 133 pounds and 141 pounds, respectively, after each missed last year.
Dellefave redshirted after an injury, White dealt with academic and personal issues and Ashnault redshirted and moved up a weight class.
“You look for guys to get after it and wrestle hard, but you know the reality is they wrestle each other all the time, so there’s anxiety and they’re friends,” Goodale said. “All in all, it was good. There were some upsets, there were guys who wrestled really good guys close. I thought it was good.”
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