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Zannetti aims for top honors in final year

<p>Senior 174-pounder Greg Zannetti locks up an opponent at the 2012 NCAA?Tournament in St. Louis.</p>

Senior 174-pounder Greg Zannetti locks up an opponent at the 2012 NCAA?Tournament in St. Louis.

After Greg Zannetti took the mat at the College Avenue Gym during the Rutgers wrestling team’s annual Scarlet vs. Black wrestle-offs Oct. 28, he admitted it was not one of his favorite events.

“Wrestle-offs are never really fun,” Zannetti said. “We wrestle all the time, so it is not really fun. But it is good to get in the match atmosphere.”

It also gave the senior 174-pounder a chance to begin his quest for redemption following a 1-2 showing in March’s NCAA Tournament when he went up against freshman 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas in the intrasquad scrimmage.

The Hammonton, N.J., native stood out, defeating Bakuckas, 4-0, which included a takedown with 16 seconds left in the first period.

Head coach Scott Goodale leans on Zannetti to be an anchor for the Scarlet Knights, who participated in the Hokie Open yesterday in the official start of the season.

“The expectations are as high as they are going to be at this level of competition,” Goodale said. “We think he can be there in March, and he is a top-eight kid for sure.”

Zannetti, meanwhile, sees that as his No. 1 goal and is clear about where he wants to end up in March. But a whole season is ahead of him to focus on before tournament talk begins.

“National champ, definitely,” Zannetti said. “And also the conference tournament is a goal, but right now I’m just worried about taking it day by day.”

Zannetti went 31-6 last season at 174 pounds and 20-1 in dual matches — best on the Knights —but found difficulty in the NCAA Tournament.

Goodale thinks it can be different this season.

“Can he win the tournament? He has to make some minor adjustments to do that, but we certainly think he is one of the best kids in the country,” Goodale said. “So the expectations — without putting too much pressure on him — [are] to be there right at the end of March on the podium.”

Zannetti is one of four Rutgers seniors that begin the season ranked, along with 149-pounder Mario Mason, 157-pounder Scott Winston and 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi — all seniors.

The potential Goodale sees in all four of them is evident with the work they put into the offseason to avoid last year’s disappointment, when the Knights went 13-8 in dual meets.

“Guys like Mason and Winston you can tell really took the summer seriously,” Goodale said. “They are fifth-year seniors, so I expect them to come here and wrestle well. But they look like they were three years back, not like last year. They look a lot better, and those guys stand out.”

Zannetti also believes the team has improved from last season, but he knows there is still a lot of work to do as the season continues.

“We have been working on a lot of technique and fine-tuning things,” Zannetti said. “There’s a good plan in place, so we’re just trying to follow that.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.

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