After weeks of sitting back and watching as their neighbors stock-piled blue-chipper upon blue-chipper, New Jersey struck back hard on Tuesday night, landing one of the top unsigned talents in the Empire State when 2009 NYS DI runner-up, Steven Rodrigues of Fox Lane High School in Section I, announced on his facebook that he had given a verbal commitment to Rutgers University. The landing of Rodrigues, the #8 prospect in New York’s senior class, marks the second consecutive year that Scarlet Knight Head Coach, Scott Goodale, has enticed a top-10 student-athlete from the N-Y to take his respective talent to the New Brunswick based campus. Last season, Goodale, now in his fourth year at the helm of the rising EIWA contender, won the sweepstakes for eventual 2010 NYS DI State Champion, Anthony Volpe…Now including the #4 national recruit, 3x NJ State Champion Andrew Campolattano, who for the time being is considered the exclusive property of the Scarlet Knight football program, Rodrigues becomes the second member of the class of 2011 to select Rutgers from among his many suitors. He joins 2010 New Jersey State placewinner (6th) Anthony Perrotti of West Essex Regional High School, who announced his college intentions in mid-October.
SRod, fresh off of a 4th place finish at the Super-32 tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina has made a career out of rising to the occasion and doing his best wrestling on the national stage. Now a three-time All-American following last weekend’s performance, Rodrigues has demonstrated time and time again that he can never be taken lightly; regardless of opponent, he seems to always be there at the end. This is a testament to the amount of heart possessed by the future RU wrestler. In fact, so impressed with his level of motivation and determination were his peers, that when I was seeking feedback prior to writing the “InterMat Wrestling-49” piece several months ago, almost all of his co-members of the state top-10 were in agreement that it is the strength of his work ethic, coupled with a bag full of natural talent that has made him an early favorite to win the elusive NYS crown that has evaded him thus far during his scholastic career.
First commanding attention in 2008 when he came one victory short of placing in a brutal 103-pound weight class that featured two future NYS DI Champions (both currently on NCAA DI rosters), Rodrigues never seemed to lose faith in his abilities, rebounding from the heartbreak by having a tremendous sophomore campaign that witnessed him making it all the way to the 112-pound NYS DI finals before dropping a hard fought decision to Northwestern committee Grant Greene….While the end result might not have been what Rodrigues was shooting for, it is impossible to ignore all that lead up to that point. With wins in back-to-back rounds over both of the previous season’s state finalists, if a most outstanding award could be given to a silver medalist, the then Fox Lane sophomore would have had my vote….To conclude his 2009 season, Rodrigues would earn the first of his aforementioned three All-American honors, placing 6th at the NHSCA Sophomore National tournament.
In 2010, Rodrigues would again enjoy a banner year, going 45-4 (all four losses coming at the hands of 3x NYS DI runner-up/current freshman at the US Naval Academy, Justis Flamio) to place third in Albany at 125-pounds. This was quite the solid credential when you consider that the only two guys (Flamio and American University freshman Nick Arujau) to finish higher than him accounted for three state titles and seven finals’ appearances. In other words, despite having to settle for a bronze, Rodrigues more than proved himself to be a big fish in a huge pond….However, never one to rest on his collective body of work, Rodrigues would again accept the challenge to test himself against the best in the U.S., electing to compete in the first ever FloNational tournament. This was a decision that would prove profitable as he was able to further raise his already sky-high stock by placing second behind only recent University of Wisconsin committee, Matt Kelliher, the #37 recruit in the nation.
Having previously indicated that he was considering the likes of the University of Iowa, The Ohio State University, Indiana University, The University of Oklahoma, and the University of Maryland-College Park, it is a true symbol of Goodale’s recruiting ability that he was able to steal such a heralded recruit from the powers that be in the world of collegiate wrestling.
Projected as a 141-pounder on the next level, Rodrigues will not have to look far to find a sufficient workout partner. Led by assistant coach, former 3x NCAA All-American Cory Cooperman (who competed for conference rival, Lehigh University up until 2006), the Scarlet Knights comprise one of the deepest groups of young talent in the nation. Whether it be Danny White, Cullen Isenberg, Trevor Melde, Jordan Beverly, Mario Mason, etc, there will always be someone for Rodrigues to roll around with in order to hone his skills. Using the USA Wrestling phrase about steel sharpening steel, with this assortment of talent surrounding him, it should not be long before Mr. Rodrigues is a Ginsu knife.
As someone who really appreciated the brief, but sincere exchanges with this young man during article prep for the Wrestling-49 piece, I take immense pleasure in congratulating him, his family, and his coaches on this exciting and well-deserved achievement. I wish SRod and his Fox Lane teammates the very best of fortune as they approach the new season !!!
2010 FloNationals Semifinals: Rodrigues (NY) vs. Nelson (MN)