While Rutgers and Penn State have only wrestled at neutral sites for 40 years, the Lions will see a familiar face on the Scarlet Knights’ side of the mat in New Brunswick, N.J. on Sunday.
Frank Molinaro, who wrestled at Penn State from 2008-2012, was named a Rutgers assistant coach on Apr. 17, 2012.
After his senior season, Molinaro decided to move back to New Jersey to take the coaching job under Scarlet Knights head coach Scott Goodale. Goodale led Molinaro to a second-place national finish when the wrestler was in high school.
While this will be the first meeting since Molinaro took the job, he was at Rec Hall for the Nittany Lion Open in December.
“He’s really embraced the coaching job,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “He was a great leader, he’s very passionate, he’s a competitor who likes to win.”
Senior Quentin Wright roomed with Molinaro at last year’s nationals, and he said that won’t need to get used to seeing Molinaro in the opposing corner.
“Nah, it’s hilarious,” Wright said. “It’s awesome seeing him there and seeing him start to move on and do different things. We still have a good relationship with Frank and are excited to have him coach against us.”
Molinaro, who could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday, went 121-29 during his career at Penn State and was a four-time All-American. He capped off his career with a national championship at 149 pounds in 2012.
His hiring at Rutgers has helped lead the Scarlet Knights to a 15-3 record in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. With the team set to move to the Big Ten, Rutgers senior Scott Winston said in a press release in April that the hiring of Molinaro will shape the culture of the program.
“He’s a four-time All-American and national champion,” Winston said. “This will be an automatic boost of energy in our room. We can all get better from watching how Frank does things. It’s a huge addition for Rutgers in every aspect of a wrestling program.”
Wright said the outspoken wrestler was always a leader in the room and had the ability to motivate his teammates. When the Lions wrestled Iowa in January, they looked to Molinaro’s past teachings for motivation.
“He has the right attitude, that’s really what it comes down to,” Wright said. “Frank has had the right attitude ever since our freshman year together. You just got to want it, as Frank always says.”
With Wright’s senior season closing at the Rutgers dual meet before the postseason starts, the senior said he would be interested in following Molinaro’s career path.
“If the opportunity opens up down the road,” Wright said. “It’s all about what opens up.”
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