My colleague Dan DeFrancesco, who runs our @LoHudCollege coverage (I’d suggest following him on Twitter), focused on Fox Lane grad Steven Rodrigues cracking the lineup at the University of Illinois. It’s quite clear that the drive that has made S-Rod so successful throughout his wrestling career hasn’t diminished:
When Steven Rodrigues won his first match wrestling in the Illinois lineup last month, a 14-4 major decision over Indiana’s Alex Gregory, it wasn’t cause for a celebration.
“It felt pretty good to get the first win under the belt, but it’s not something to highlight on the calendar,” the Fox Lane graduate said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
While most wrestlers would be more than happy with cracking the starting lineup of a perennial, nationally ranked program, the 2011 Division 1 state champion at 130 pounds views his first dual-meet win as part of plan that has taken much longer to unfold than he’d hoped.
“It’s something I’ve expected to happen,” Rodrigues said. “Things really haven’t gone the way I’ve liked.”
A three-time all-state wrestler, Rodrigues enrolled at Rutgers in the fall of 2011. Things didn’t pan out with the Scarlet Knights though, and by Sept. 30 of that year Rodrigues requested to be released from his scholarship so he could transfer.
Rodrigues ended up at Illinois for the spring semester of 2012, but the hardships were far from over. Rodrigues had little time on the mat over the last three months, as he was not allowed to practice at Rutgers once he announced his intentions to transfer.
“The caliber of wrestling was big,” said Rodrigues of joining the Fighting Illini squad that winter. “It was a little bit of a wake-up call.”
After redshirting the 2011-12 season, Rodrigues came into this season as B.J. Futrell’s backup at 141 pounds. Futrell, a senior and two-time All-American, currently lives with Rodrigues.
“Seeing what he does on a daily basis, how he lives his life is something I strive to do,” Rodrigues said. “I’ve learned a lot.”
When Futrell, 30-11 this season, went down with an injury, it was Rodrigues who filled in at duals.
“Everyone in the Big 10 is a competitor,” Rodrigues said. “They aren’t just going to roll over for me. Every match is a war and I’m going to battle.”
Futrell still hasn’t been cleared by doctors, which means Rodrigues could wrestle in the National Duals and the Big Ten Championships in the upcoming weeks.
While Rodrigues lacks Futrell’s experience, the goals are still the same.
“Being in a top program it doesn’t matter how you feel, you just have to step in,” Rodrigues said. “The expectation is to win.”