As Rutgers heavyweight Billy Smith put it Friday night at the RAC, “it starts with [Sean] McCabe and ends with me.”
The closer for the eighth-ranked Rutgers wrestling team, Smith scored the final victory in a 34-0 shutout over Michigan State. Smith’s 11-1 major decision victory represents his second clutch finish in consecutive home victories.
“I felt pretty good,” Smith said after Rutgers advanced to11-2 on the season. “Obviously we’re coming off a good tournament but there was really no stress coming into this. It was laid back. The coaches were laid back. I think it’s really adding and helping our team gain confidence going forward and kind of snowball effect”
A top-15 heavyweight, Smith landed the final shot in a dominant and historic win for Rutgers wrestling.
A shutout over Michigan State, however, was not a pre-match goal for the Scarlet Knights.
“It’s something for our program,” Smith said. “I don’t think we’ve tried shutting out people. It’s not our goal. Doing our personal best is. [Associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff] told us before the match we need to go out there and we need to take advantage of whatever situation we’re in, whether it be up or down.”
Rutgers adjusted to an underdog role in its first Big Ten season and now experiences life as favorites with a friendlier 2016 conference schedule.
“It was hard for some of us to score when some of the wrestlers were trying to protect the lead or trying to not get taken down,” Smith said on the Michigan State clash. “It’s kind of hard to wrestle those guys but I think we did a good job going out there. You find out that once you get that first-period takedown, a lot of those guys start softening up and they just give up. I think we’re doing a much better job on that.”