Back from a sprained MCL he sustained in the preseason, senior 125-pounder Joseph Langel went up against a familiar face Sunday in Clarion’s Tyler Fraley.
Langel and Fraley wrestled on the same recreational team and grew up a town away from each other — Langel in Howell, N.J., and Fraley in Freehold.
“It was mentally tough because we already knew each other,” Langel said. “We do have quite an age gap, but it is tough because he knows so much about me already.”
But the familiarity did not matter for Langel and the Rutgers wrestling team, as they defeated Clarion, 26-6, at the College Avenue Gym.
Langel was the last wrestler to go for the Scarlet Knights, defeating Fraley by decision, 5-3, to win his first match of the season.
“Overall, I thought I did well,” Langel said. “I had some weak points, and I have stuff I need to work on.”
Head coach Scott Goodale also saw aspects Rutgers needed to work on, but he is more than pleased with a 20-point victory against the Golden Eagles.
“I thought it was good, and I thought we did a good job from the top position,” Goodale said. “You want to keep building on leads, and that is something we are going to continue to work on the next month or two, but I thought it was [a] good [match].”
While Goodale would like to see the Knights put more points up individually, redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith had his opponent in control for most of the match.
Smith defeated Phil Catrucco by decision, 6-1, as Smith registered two takedowns on Catrucco.
“I had a lot of confidence coming in,” Smith said. “Especially with our team rolling like they did in front of me, everything builds up which gave me a lot of confidence.”
Seniors 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi and 174-pounder Greg Zannetti both handled their respective opponents, both winning in decision.
Rinaldi defeated Clarion’s Steven Cressley, 6-1, while Zannetti accumulated four takedowns against Ryan Darch in a 10-1 major decision win.
Most of the matches resulted in wins for Rutgers, but the most intense match came in a Knights loss.
Senior 157-pounder Scott Winston had the challenge of grappling with Clarions’ only individually-ranked wrestler in James Fleming, a three-time NCAA qualifier and 2012 All-American.
After a scoreless first period, Winston collected three straight points against Fleming, including a takedown with 28 seconds left in the second period.
Despite what appeared to be a nosebleed sustained in the second period, the Jackson, N.J., native registered another takedown on Fleming 1:35 in the third to go up, 5-1.
But after a Fleming takedown and escape to bring him within one, Winston needed another injury timeout, resulting in Fleming choosing to go on top once play resumed and closing with a three-point nearfall to win the match, 7-5.
“[Winston] did a great job for six minutes and stuck to an unbelievable game plan,” Goodale said. “[Fleming] picked top and is very good there, one of the best kids in the country. [Winston] relaxed for one second and got taken down. That’ll hurt for a while, but we have to get back on it. He won’t wrestle too many guys like that.”
Junior 197-pounder Dan Seidenberg was the only other Knight to lose, dropping a 3-1 decision to Justin Ortega, who last season wrestled at Penn State.
Sophomore 165-pounder Nick Visicaro won his match, 7-1, senior 149-pounder Mario Mason captured a 3-2 decision, junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave won, 8-3, and senior 141-pounder Trevor Melde collected a 11-0 major decision, the Knights’ second.
With only two individual losses in the dual match, Rutgers can view its win as a positive start for a team that returns six NCAA qualifiers.
But with such talent on the roster, Smith knows there are more matches the Knights need to perform in to get where they want to be.
“As a team, we are going to have to step up our game as we go,” Smith said. “Clarion is good. If we want to be the national champs, we’re going to have to beat the good teams, and they are just a step on the way.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.