BETHLEHEM, Pa. (Feb. 4, 2010) – The No. 23 Rutgers wrestling team will put its school record 12-match unbeaten streak on the line this Saturday when it travels west to face No. 7 Lehigh at the Stabler Arena for a 1 p.m. match.
Interview with Scott Goodale
Tickets are $12 middle level (chair back) or $5 upper level (bench). A free live video feed will be available at www.lehighsports.com/info/broadcast.
The Scarlet Knights (16-4-1) are coming off back-to-back exciting victories with a 25-12 victory over then-No.23 Virginia last Friday and a 23-10 win against Navy on Saturday. Rutgers owns an 11-0-1 record in 2010 and hasn’t lost a dual match since being edged at then-No. 24 Pittsburgh, 21-18, on Dec. 12, 2009.
The Mountain Hawks (11-3-1) hosts No. 19 Virginia Tech Friday night inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Lehigh was off last weekend after rallying from a 15-6 deficit with three bouts remaining to tie Cornell 15-15 in Ithaca, N.Y. back on January 22.
“This will be an unbelievable challenge for us as Lehigh is one of the best dual teams in the country,” said Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale. “We are almost going to have to go to a different level to beat them. We don’t feel any extra pressure because of our ranking. No. 23 is a nice recognition but we want to get higher than that. This match Saturday is a good chance for us to do that.”
A combined 13 wrestlers from the two EIWA squads are featured in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Coaches Panel Rankings. Rutgers is represented by 125-pound Joseph Langel (No. 26), 133-pound Billy Ashnault (No. 16), 141-pound Trevor Melde (No. 22), 174-pound Daniel Rinaldi (No. 28), 197-pound Lamar Brown (No. 26) and heavyweight Dominick Russo (No. 9).
For Lehigh, 133 pound Matt Fisk (No. 17), 141-pound Seth Ciasulli (No. 17), 157-pound Sean Bilodeau (No. 24), 174-pound Robert Hamlin (No. 18), 184-pound David Craig (No. 15), 197-pound Joe Kennedy (No. 27) and 285-pound Zach Rey (No. 7) are acknowledged in the rankings.
Russo and Rey squared off in the quarterfinals of the Midlands last December when Rey captured a 7-2 victory. At the same event, Melde knocked off Ciasulli in the Round of 16.
Along with the team’s streak, several Scarlet Knights have been on a roll as of late.
Langel is on a team-best 14-match win streak and hasn’t faltered since falling to Pittsburgh’s Anthony Zanetta on Dec. 12, 2009.
Russo is currently on a 11-match win streak and leads the EIWA in pins with 15.
Redshirt junior Daryl Cocozzo (River Edge, N.J.) has been on fire since joining the dual lineup in his first year at Rutgers. He has won seven straight matches and eight of his nine dual battles this season. Cocozzo’s only loss came against No. 1 J.P. O’Connor of Harvard.
Brown has won five straight bouts, including a match-clinching victory over 17th-ranked Brent Jones of No. 23 Virginia last Friday night.
Assistant coaches John Leonardis and Cory Cooperman will be in familiar territory on Saturday as they both attended and wrestled at Lehigh.
Leonardis was a three-year varsity letterwinner at Lehigh before graduating in 1997. He was an EIWA Champion in 1996 in the 190-pound weight class.
Cooperman was a standout wrestler at Lehigh, earning All-America honors in 2004, 2005 and 2006 while taking home the 141-pound weight class title at the EIWA Championships in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Following the Lehigh bout, Rutgers will next be on the mat next weekend when it travels to Liberty on Friday, Feb. 12 and heads to American Saturday, Feb. 13.