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Grappler enters starting lineup for Rutgers

Entering the season, the Rutgers wrestling team had lost just one grappler from the previous year’s starting lineup. But even though graduating senior Anthony Visicaro was the Scarlet Knights’ only non-returning starter, there was a fair amount of change to the starting lineup.

For instance, Anthony Perrotti, in his final season of eligibility, moved up one weight class to fill the void left by Visicaro at 165 pounds. Junior college transfer Richie Lewis then took over Perrotti’s former spot at 157 pounds. 

Also, blue-chip prospect Anthony Giraldo took control of the 133-pound spot in the lineup after redshirting his first season at Rutgers.

Of all the in-house shuffling that took place in the Knights’ starting lineup, no move may have been more surprising than the change that was made at the 149-pound weight class. Senior Ken Theobold, who was coming off a 24-9 season and a second consecutive qualification at the NCAA Championships, was left out of the lineup and subsequently redshirted. 

Replacing Theobold in the starting lineup would be redshirt sophomore Tyson Dippery.

Dippery wrestled at 141 pounds in his first season at Rutgers and compiled a 24-14 record on his way to a sixth-place finish at the EIWA Championships. 

Although Dippery had put together a strong overall performance in his freshman season, his status at that spot in the lineup for the future was unclear with four-time New Jersey State Champion Anthony Ashnault coming off redshirt. Ashnault claimed the starting spot in the lineup at 141 pounds, while Dippery was redshirted.

Going through a redshirt season isn’t always the easiest thing for a wrestler. Ideally, they prefer to be competing in the team’s matches. But taking a redshirt season does provide the opportunity to improve without forfeiting a year of eligibility. 

For Dippery, the redshirt year worked out two-fold. Not only did he have the chance to improve his skills, but it also allowed him to attempt to wrestle up at a more comfortable and stronger 149 pounds halfway through the season.

Wrestling unattached in seven tournament-style events, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native went 26-6 overall and had four top-three finishes throughout the entire season. Wrestling out the final two events of the season at 149 pounds, Dippery showed that moving up in weight was the right decision by going 10-3 and finishing in the top six in both events.

After just half of a redshirt season wrestling at 149 pounds, Dippery was able to crack the starting lineup for the No. 18 team in the country coming into 2015-16. Looking back, he now credits his redshirt season as a big reason for where he is now.

“It was real important,” Dippery said. “Just to improve on the areas that I needed to work on and just get as much mat time as I could.”

Giraldo, one of Dippery’s fellow redshirts from last season, saw firsthand the midseason change in weight that Dippery made. While it certainly isn’t the easiest thing to do, Giraldo was impressed with how he handled the transition.

“He made a good transition,” Giraldo said. “It’s tough going up in weight, but I think he did it really well … I think he’s been making a lot of improvements just like I have and we’re both on the road to success.”

Even though he’s in the starting lineup, Dippery is aware that there are still improvements to be made. 

He has had an up-and-down start to the season, currently standing with a 4-2 record. This past weekend at the Northeast Duals, Dippery lost his first two matches of the day, but finished out with a pin fall victory just 30 seconds into his match against Northern Iowa. 

Consistency is something that Dippery is trying to work on in the beginning stages of the season.

“I don’t feel like I wrestled my best this weekend,” Dippery said. “I lost a 1-0 match that I felt like I really should’ve won. I ended the day with a pin so it was good to end on top. Just got to get back to work and keep working hard.”

Head coach Scott Goodale can see the light at the end of the tunnel for Dippery, but currently sees a grappler that is still adjusting to a new weight.

“Right now, he’s figuring out a new weight,” Goodale said. “He’s certainly capable. We just gotta get stronger, we gotta wreslter harder, we gotta wrestler at a higher pace. The pace isn’t good, we’re hanging on and we gotta get better. His strength is on top and he’s not turning people, so it’s closer matches. That’s something we need to go back to the drawing board … to be critical, let’s get better on top and if we’re gonna rifle, we gotta turn him.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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