Zannetti’s redshirt strides show in opener
A day removed from winning the Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Classic 174-pound title, Gregory Zannetti had no idea his 5-2 decision was technically an upset.
Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock ranked only two spots ahead of Zannetti, but Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale certainly knew as much. Zannetti had no clue.
The junior pays little attention to rankings because like most college recruiters, rankings long ignored Zannetti.
“You don’t need to have the best credentials. He’s the perfect example,” Goodale said. “He never won a state title. Those are the guys that if they want to do it, those are the guys you want. He’s gotten a lot better, but he’s gotten better because he’s taken advantage of everything we have to offer.”
Zannetti’s best season at J.P. Stevens High School ended with a second-place finish in the state finals at 152 pounds. Rider was his only other possible college destination.
He went 11-8 as a freshman at Rutgers, then 22-12 as a sophomore.
He redshirted last season and won four open tournament titles, and then returned to the lineup this season and won the first tournament of the year.
“It’s a really long process,” Zannetti said. “The first year is tough just to get used to how long the [college] season is. Then you get over that and it’s things you’re doing wrong. It’s just a whole process every year. It depends what you’re doing, really. If you’re doing things right, you’re going to get better.”
For Goodale, Zannetti is the poster child of doing things right.
He likely would have wrestled last season if Alex Caruso did not transfer from Lehigh to take his lineup spot and afford Zannetti the opportunity to redshirt.
“He needed it, but he took advantage of it,” Goodale said. “If they take advantage of it, it’s a good thing. If they don’t, shame on them. You need to get better, but you waste a year. You can’t waste a year in this sport.”
So Goodale gives every redshirt the same speech:
It’s not a year off, it’s a year to get better. If you don’t get better, you hurt the program. If you’re not better prepared after redshirting, you did not do your job.
He went 20-1 in his year out of the lineup and won bracket titles at the East Stroudsburg Open, Wilkes Open, Millerville Open and National Collegiate Open.
His lone loss came against Cornell’s Mack Lewnes, who was the national runner-up.
“You can’t have a better redshirt year,” Goodale said.
Now he is back in the lineup and targeting a spot on the podium.
“If he’s not thinking that, what else are you doing this for?” Goodale said. “The way he trains, if he’s not thinking top of the podium, get out.”
Zannetti is not going anywhere.
He shares the same goal as his coach to win a national title in March and used his redshirt season to gain a different perspective.
“What did I do wrong last year and how do I fix it this year?” he described it.
A less demanding schedule allowed Zannetti to focus more on himself, but when he returned this season with competition at 174 pounds from sophomore Brendan Ard, a two-time state champion, that focus did not change.
“He’s thinking he’s the guy and he’s going to win the [national] tournament,” Goodale said.
He now ranks 15th nationally in his weight class — up three spots from where he ranked before beating No. 16 Sheptock. He wrestles in the only class where Oklahoma State, which Rutgers faces Friday, does not have a ranked wrestler.
But if he plans to place in the top eight at the NCAA Tournament to earn All-American honors, it will take more upsets.
Zannetti likely will not know any better.
“Hopefully I’m at the top,” he said. “That’s the only thing I’m training for.”