Wrestling duo picks up slack for Goodale
The victory by forfeit that started the Rutgers wrestling team’s dual meet at Virginia on Saturday likely did little to make the next five matches any more comfortable.
While the Scarlet Knights took an early lead in Charlottesville, Va., the next five matches — all losses — quickly erased it. The points Greg Zannetti and Dan Rinaldi provided by decisions did not mean much in the 24-12 dual meet loss.
Head coach Scott Goodale knew entering the match the rankings favored the Cavaliers throughout the lineup. And he knew fifth-ranked, 149-pounder Mario Mason was only in his first bout back from missing time because of injury.
But that could not make the losses suffered by Mason and 13th-ranked, 165-pounder Scott Winston — two of the wrestlers Goodale is counting on most to deliver Rutgers’ first All-American since 2002 — any easier.
Goodale wants his wrestlers to peak in March, but that means winning some matches as it approaches.
Mason fell to an unranked Gus Sako, 5-3, in his first bout in three weeks.
Winston fell to No. 17 Nick Sulzer, 5-2, for his second loss in as many weeks. Each came against opponents ranked below him, as the junior attempts to hit his stride in order to defend his EIWA title at 165 pounds.
He avoided Lehigh’s Brandon Hatchett at the EIWA Tournament last season, but that might not be the case this year, and a loss to Sulzer is not encouraging.
Both Hatchett and Sulzer feature the lengthy frame that Winston struggles with — evidenced by a pair of losses to Hatchett last season, one of which sent Hatchett to the podium and Winston home from the NCAA Championships in Philadelphia.
Sophomore Vincent Dellefave is attempting to build his postseason résumé at 125 pounds, but a forfeit victory does not allow him to pick up the signature win he lacks.
Senior 141-pounder Billy Ashnault is likely bound for the national tournament already, but he will have to knock off ranked opponents to make a run. He could not do that in Virginia, where he lost, 6-3, to eighth-ranked Nick Nelson.
The only two victories at Memorial Gym came from 17th-ranked Zannetti and Rinaldi, who continue to win dual-meet matches while the rest of the squad struggles.
The dual-meet season is all but over at this point, and the loss to the Cavaliers drops Rutgers to 12-6 — the most losses it suffered since Goodale’s first two seasons.
The struggle with results is largely by design.
Goodale revamped the Knights’ offseason and in-season training regiment, and as much as it pains him, it comes at the sacrifice of dual-meet victories.
But he likely wants wins from more than just Zannetti and Rinaldi.
The duo is the model of consistency this season. While other wrestlers spent time out of the lineup, Zannetti and Rinaldi are the only Knights to appear at 174 and 197 pounds this season, respectively. Rinaldi sat three matches with a concussion.
And when they are in the lineup, they win.
Zannetti delivered the first decision for Rutgers against Virginia, beating Vinny Waldhauser, 9-8. Rinaldi beat Ryan Malo, 7-3, two bouts later.
The decision improved Zannetti’s record to 23-3 on the season and 17-1 in dual meets, while Rinaldi is now 19-5 with a 14-1 dual-meet record.
While this season is about individual results, it likely did little to make it any easier on Goodale as the rest of his lineup fell.
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