Wrestling Primer: NCAA Championships

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Five members of the Rutgers wrestling team are off to St. Louis this week for the NCAA Tournament, seeking All-American honors. Before the Scarlet Knights departed, ScarletReport.com stopped by the College Avenue Gym to preview the action with thoughts from the five wrestlers and assistant coach John Leonardis.

NEW BRUNSWICK. N.J. — Rutgers had multiple wrestlers come within one win of All-American status last year in Philadelphia. Heading to St. Louis this week for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the Scarlet Knights have five men hungry to bring the honor back to the College Avenue Gym.

"That's the goal for the program," said assistant coach John Leonardis. "We want national champs and All-Americans. That's our No. 1 goal for sure. ... It would be meaningful for these guys individually. I think it would be great for our program to kind of establish us. Ultimately, that's what people are looking for."

Wrestler: Billy Ashnault

Weight Class: 141

Eligibility: Fifth-year senior

Hometown: South Plainfield, N.J.

Need to Know: Ashnault enters the NCAAs coming off the biggest win of his career in the EIWA Championships. Finishing four, Ashnault took down reigning Penn All-American Zack Kemmerer. Ashnault went 24-14 this season and leads Rutgers active wrestlers with 83 career wins.

Ashnault's Take: " Coach's Take: "I think Ashnault's wrestling his best of his career right now coming off the EIWA Tournament. ... He defeated Zack Kemmerer. In the Midlands Championships, he lost to an All-American. That was a big win for him. I think he proved he can make adjustments and has gotten better as the season [progressed]."

Wrestler: Mario Mason

Weight Class: 149

Eligibility: Junior

Hometown: Moorestown, N.J.

Need to Know: Mason finished one win away from All-American status in Philadelphia last season. A first-round win likely matches Mason up with No 2 Jamal Parks of Oklahoma State. Mason and Parks were set to square off earlier this season before the meet was cancelled after the tragic plane crash. Mason went 19-3 this season and finished in first place at the Brockport/Oklahoma Invitational. Mason has an ankle injury, but hopes to be 100 percent before the tournament.

Mason's Take: "I'm feeling good enough to wrestler. I'm a little banged up. ... It's going to happen to everybody, so you just have to go out and fight through it and have a good tournament."

Coach's Take: "Mario Mason is super talented. There is no real hiding that. He's a technician. He's had a great season."

Wrestler: Scott Winston

Weight Class: 165

Eligibility Junior

Hometown: Jackson, N.J.

Need to Know: Winston also finished one win away from All-American status last season and has a 7-6 overall record in his first two NCAA Championships. After going 19-6 this season, it is the first year Winston enters the NCAAs as an unseeded competitor.

Winston's Take: "It would be great if I could finally get that All-American status, not only for myself but for the state of New Jersey. I honestly feel like this team is New Jersey's team. Every year it becomes a little more imbedded into New Jersey wrestling fans."

Coach's Take: "He's been banged up this year a bit. He's got a tough situation, but it's a national tournament. There's no real easy spot in the bracket. He'll wrestler a kid he wrestled earlier in the year and lost to and follow it up by a five seed right after that. ... I think Scott's made some adjustments in his approach, the tactics of his match and I think that's going to help him."

Wrestler: Greg Zannetti

Weight Class: 174

Eligibility: Junior

Hometown: Edison, N.J.

Need to Know: Zannetti was the glue guy for Rutgers wrestling this season and the most consistent performer on the roster. He finished 30-4 this season with a first place mark in the Brockport/Oklahoma Invitational. Zannetti is the only wrestler of the five going to the NCAAs for the first time.

Zannetti's Take: "I'm excited to compete in my first national tournament. I'm just going to have some fun out there, just doing what I've been doing. Wrestler hard and just [go for] All-American."

Coach's Take: "This will be his first time at the tournament. ... He's got a chance to beat anybody. He just has to believe in himself and go out there and really let it hang out."

Wrestler: Dan Rinaldi

Weight Class: 197

Eligibility: Junior

Hometown: Lodi, N.J.

Need to Know: Rinaldi is headed to the NCAAs at 197 pounds for the first time after wrestling twice in lower weight classes. The fourth-year junior went 25-6 this season and has a 7-4 record against 2012 NCAA qualifiers at 197 pounds.

Rinadli's Take: "This is the whole season right here. I'm not trying to put too much pressure on it, but it would mean a lot to me to be on the podium for personal reasons. ... I think it's time to take a step up right now."

Coach's Take: "He's one of the most talented guys we have in the program and I think that he needs to believe in himself and just let it ride to the best of his ability."

Scarlet Report Top Stories