Junior 197-pounder needs upset to earn recognition
Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale does not hesitate to speak up for his wrestlers. No, he quickly responds, junior 197-pounder Dan Rinaldi does not get the respect or attention he deserves nationally.
The two-time NCAA Championships qualifier is 18-4 on the season and 13-1 in dual meets, but unranked in each of the major national polls.
Head coach Scott Goodale thinks Rinaldi deserves better. Rinaldi could not care less.
“The good thing about it is a couple months from now, nobody is going to remember the rankings,” Rinaldi said. “If I’m on the podium, nobody is going to say I wasn’t ranked. It won’t really matter at that point.”
Rinaldi was in the preseason rankings at 184 pounds, but he jumped to the 197-pound weight class this season and dropped.
He wrestled Maryland’s Christian Boley in his third match of the season and held a 4-0 lead until a pair of stalling calls Goodale questioned let Boley back into the bout to force overtime. Rinaldi lost, and Boley ascended to No. 5 in the nation at 197 pounds with his 27-1 record start to the season.
“When he’s supposed to win, he wins. And when there’s a chance and it’s a tight match, he’s dropped a couple and he’s won a couple,” Goodale said. “That’s a good thing that he’s consistent … but we need him to pick off somebody. To be an All-American, he’ll need to pick off two or three guys. I don’t want him to wait until the EIWA Tournament.”
Rinaldi had an opportunity to place at the Midlands Championships, but he lost a pair of matches against Oklahoma’s Keldrick Hall and Iowa’s Grant Gambrall.
His other loss came against Lehigh’s Kadeem Samuels, who is 13-7 this season, but a backup to 10th-ranked Joe Kennedy.
“I should be on the podium at Midlands placing pretty high, but if I’m losing there, that’s the reason I’m not ranked,” Rinaldi said. “I really don’t think I should be losing much, if at all.”
While 184-pounders Dan Seidenberg and Evan Brewer face a nationally ranked opponent at nearly every dual meet and tournament, Rinaldi has had few opportunities to prove himself against ranked competition.
“He needs a big win,” Goodale said. “That’s the best way to describe it.”
Goodale still believes it is possible at 197 pounds for Rinaldi, who is 54-22 in his career at 184 pounds, and the toughest part of his schedule is about to begin.
It starts Saturday against Virginia’s Ryan Malo, who was a three-time Division III All-American before transferring to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Regardless of who Rutgers draws when it hosts a National Duals regional bracket Feb. 11, Rinaldi will be tested. Cal Poly’s 18th-ranked Ryan Smith, Michigan’s 15th-ranked Max Huntley, Minnesota’s sixth-ranked Sonny Yohn and Missouri’s 11th-ranked Brent Haynes will all be in Piscataway.
Then Rinaldi will travel to the EIWA Tournament, which features Cam Simaz, the No. 1 197-pounder in the nation out of Cornell, and three other ranked wrestlers.
The Lodi, N.J., native is used to that type of competition, though, as he wrestled his brother, two-time Cornell All-American Jerry Rinaldi, earlier this week.
Jerry, at 6-foot-2, is a more prototypical 197-pounder, but the 5-foot-10 Dan Rinaldi said what he lacks in size, he makes up for in technique.
“It has its pros and cons,” Rinaldi said. “I’m still in a good place right now. I see myself on the podium at the end of the year.”
So does Goodale, who moved Rinaldi to 197 pounds in the offseason with March in mind. He just never realized it might take until March for Rinaldi to prove himself.
“He’ll never get that respect,” Goodale said. “He’s beaten some nationally-ranked guys, but he needs to keep it going. I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves — he’s a two-time national qualifier, and he’s not nationally ranked, so it’s frustrating.”