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Grappler flourishes after weight change

Most Improved Player of The Year

<p>Junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave finished the season with a 16-4 dual record after ending 13-13 the year before.</p>

Junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave finished the season with a 16-4 dual record after ending 13-13 the year before.

Vincent Dellefave’s performance in his final victory of the year best encompasses the junior 133-pounder’s season.

Tied 1-1 with Penn State’s Jordan Conaway in the first round of the NCAA Championships, Dellefave took the 12th-seeded grappler into the sudden victory period. There, Dellefave avoided a shot from Conaway and delivered a takedown with 28 seconds left to advance into the second round.

For The Daily Targum’s Most Improved Player of the Year, victories like that against Conaway are representative of the strides he has taken from last season to now.

“Beating Conaway, that sums it up,“ Dellefave said. “I lost to him two weeks before and to make those adjustments and close the gap to win the match ... I thought that showed how much you can improve.”

The improvement is evident in the Toms River, N.J., native’s dual numbers, as he went from a 7-10 dual record last year to a 16-4 mark this season.

Dellefave also possessed a 27-10 overall record this season, a vast change from the 13-13 record compiled last season.

Head coach Scott Goodale knew Dellefave possessed the abilities to succeed.

“The kid has always had a tremendous amount of talent and athletic ability, more so than many of the guys on our team,” Goodale said. “I just think he got confident from winning. He started to believe in himself and all of that ability took over. He was huge for us.”

Dellefave can also credit a change in weight class for his success, as he competed at 133 pounds this season after wrestling at 125 pounds the year before.

He said the added weight allowed him to focus more on wrestling rather than making and cutting weight, which added more responsibilities on the mat.

The transition paid dividends for Dellefave, who owned the Knights’ longest individual winning streak of the season at 10 victories.

That streak ended with Conaway, when Penn State traveled to Piscataway for the first time in program history, which resulted in a 34-0 Nittany Lions victory.

In that match, Conaway earned a 6-1 decision against Dellefave, controlling him for the entirety of the match.

The turnaround represents his progression during the past year, and Goodale’s decision to move Dellefave up a weight class translated positively onto the mat.

“Last year I was focusing more so on making the weight and losing the weight and going to practice thinking, ‘how can I get five pounds off of me right now?‘ instead of, ‘how I can get better at the sport of wrestling?’ This year I really didn’t cut weight.”

Dellefave also was the highest finisher for the Knights at this year’s EIWA Championships, held at Rutgers for the first time in school history.

In that tournament, Dellefave placed third after he dropped his second match to Columbia’s Matt Bystol. He captured four straight victories after that loss to earn the bronze.

The performance netted him his first trip to the NCAA Championships, an appearance he obviously wants to improve on from his showing in this year’s edition.

He will do so as one of the Knights’ most experienced returnees next season, as Rutgers will have to replace five seniors from this year’s team.

So that means becoming a leader on the mat for Rutgers, something he believes he is ready for.

“I felt like I was a little bit of a leader this year. Maybe not the vocal leader, but with my actions,“ Dellefave said. “Going into next year, I know the guys on this team will be coming to me.”

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