Grappler cracks national rankings for first time at Rutgers

<p>Junior 125-pounder Sean McCabe beat the first ranked foe at Sunday’s “Grapple at the Garden” dual meet in New York City.</p>

Junior 125-pounder Sean McCabe beat the first ranked foe at Sunday’s “Grapple at the Garden” dual meet in New York City.

With the dual meet portion of their schedule behind them, the Rutgers wrestling team currently stands at 9-1 as it prepares to begin Big Ten Conference competition. The Scarlet Knights used four victories against top-25 opponents to climb eight spots above their preseason position in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches rankings, going from No. 18 to No. 10 in the country.

At the forefront of the Knights’ early season success are four grapplers who entered the season ranked in the top 20 within their respective weight class and have backed up those preseason accolades thus far.

In his first season of eligibility, redshirt freshman 133-pounder Anthony Giraldo has flashed his potential and used a 7-3 record to place at No. 17 in his weight class. 

At 141 pounds, No. 3 sophomore Anthony Ashnault remains as one of two Rutgers grapplers who are undefeated on the season, along with junior 157-pounder Richie Lewis.

Further down the lineup, 165-pounder Anthony Perrotti has appeared to make a smooth transition to his new weight during his final season on the Banks, taking down three ranked opponents to edge out the top 10 in his class. 

Finally, in the heavyweight class, No. 7 senior Billy Smith’s only two losses have been to opponents ranked higher than him.

While these four grapplers have been integral to Rutgers being able to reel off nine wins in their first 10 matches, key contributions from the rest of the lineup have been just as important. 

In the Knights four victories over ranked opponents, seven different wrestlers have combined to go 14-10 in the other six spots in the lineup. Two of those wins came in upset fashion while half of the losses came against ranked grapplers and only resulted in a total of 2 bonus points. 

Non-ranked wrestlers winning toss-up bouts and standing firm against fierce competition has been of vast importance for Rutgers and one grappler in particular has caught the attention of the national wrestling media for the first time in his career.

This past weekend at the “Grapple at the Garden,” junior Sean McCabe took down the first ranked opponent of his career. Pitted against No. 18 Dalton Macri of Cornell, McCabe earned a 6-5 decision victory against a ranked opponent for the first time in 13 tries.

“Sean McCabe deserves a little respect now,” said head coach Scott Goodale after the match.

Goodale wasn’t alone in feeling that McCabe had earned some recognition for his performance. 

Just days after knocking off a ranked opponent for the first time, the 125-pounder cracked the national rankings in his respective weight class for the first time in his three seasons of eligibility. The Ronkonkoma, New York, native was ranked in all four major wrestling rankings, with his highest spot coming at No. 16 in Intermat Wrestling's poll.

“It’s awesome,” McCabe said on being ranked for the first time. “I’ve been training so hard for it, so it’s finally nice to be recognized by the country.”

At the top of the lineup, McCabe has had to deal with one of the tougher schedules on the team, but he has worked his way to an impressive 6-3 record. His three losses have come at the hands of opponents ranked in the top 12 in his weight class, with two of those losses coming by just 3 points.

In addition to his most recent victory over Macri, McCabe has also defeated a grappler who is currently ranked. He took down Ryan Millhof of Oklahoma, who wasn’t ranked at the time, but is now No. 17 among 125-pounders.

“Just the offseason, training hard,” McCabe said on his improvements from last season. “Coming in here, I know I could wrestle with the best guys from going in the Big Ten last year … This year’s a whole new year and I feel good.”

McCabe becomes the fifth Knight to land in the top 20 in their respective weight class, the fourth most among Division I programs. With eight ranked opponents remaining on Rutgers schedule, the opportunity for more big wins and more grapplers landing in the national rankings is still on the table.

“Any of the other five,” Ashnault said on who could be the next candidate to land in the rankings. “Any of them could beat a ranked guy. With our schedule and being in the Big Ten, there’s about four other Big Ten schools ranked ahead of us so we get a lot of opportunities to wrestle ranked guys and there’s always an opportunity to jump into the rankings for them.”

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

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