Pair of weekend losses highlight team’s mounting injuries
Billy Ashnault has never been through it. The fifth-year senior 141-pounder saw his fair share of injuries, but never to the extreme the Rutgers wrestling team currently endures.
He wrestled yesterday, but five normal starters watched, as the Scarlet Knights fell, 21-18, to visiting West Virginia.
“It sucks losing. We hate losing, but now this time of year, a lot of things are happening,” Ashnault said. “Everyone is hurt, but as team we’re just trying to get through it and wrestle hard.”
Ashnault did his part, scoring a fall against the Mountaineers’ Michael Morales. Morales, a Brick Memorial product, shook head coach Scott Goodale’s hand following the bout.
The pair has ties to New Jersey shore wrestling going back to when Goodale coached Jackson Memorial, a half-hour drive from Brick. The handshake was Goodale’s last until the dual meet’s conclusion.
The loss dropped the Knights (12-5) to 1-3 in their last four dual meets, including a 26-10 defeat Friday against No. 24 Hofstra.
“We wrestled harder, but again it’s the competition, too,” Goodale said. “Hofstra is a very good team. We didn’t really step up to that competition. This was a lot better.”
Goodale looked for two Rutgers wins in the meet’s first five bouts. He only got a win from Ashnault.
Freshman 149-pounder Anthony Perrotti came close, needing less than 10 seconds of riding time to seal a victory. But West Virginia’s (6-3) Brutus Scheffel escaped and scored two points in overtime.
Goodale called Perrotti’s extra-minute effort a “young, crucial mistake.” He would not expect it from junior Mario Mason.
But Mason, like Goodale and four other regular contributors, could only watch.
“I don’t like to lose in anything, but we’re going to get healthy,” Goodale said. “We’re going to get better. If we do what we’re supposed to do in March and at the end of the year, nobody’s really going to worry about what happened here.”
Goodale said he understands the importance of beating West Virginia. But as sophomore heavyweight Carl Buchholz dropped a major decision in the final bout, Goodale only thought about health.
The Knights’ depth is not where it needs to be, Goodale said, because of redshirted wrestlers. He still has starters that continue to wrestle banged up, he said. But one grappler, junior 197-pounder Dan Rinaldi, earned a day off because of a West Virginia forfeit.
Combined with junior 174-pounder Greg Zannetti’s overtime victory, Rutgers still had life.
“I just rode him out and got out,” said Zannetti, who earned an overtime reversal. “It’s not the style I like to wrestle, so I wasn’t too happy with that match.”
Goodale shared the sentiment, but Zannetti found a way to win. Perrotti did not, but time is on his side.
The true freshman showed flair in a back-and-forth match full of warnings. The loss is part of the process, Goodale said. That part, along with injuries, takes time.
“It’s definitely part of the sport,” Ashnault said. “We’re trying to deal with it the best we can.”
The Knights still face a pair of teams to close their dual-meet season before preparing for the EIWA Tournament and NCAA Championships. But with Goodale’s troop of walking wounded, he can ill-afford to look too far in advance.
“It’s a constant battle,” he said. “It’s been a struggle for us. Our depth is a problem right now, and it’s going to continue to be a problem this year. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
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