On the Mat with Rocco Caponi
How has practice been going so far?
Caponi: Practice has been wonderful. Everybody has been working hard. We instituted the Warrior Award’ for the hardest worker of each week and everybody has been fighting for that. It was the best preseason that I have ever been associated with.
Talk about the freshman class.
Caponi: The freshmen are working very hard and I’m really proud of how hard they have been working. One of my drill partners, Chris Henrich, is a freshman and he has been wonderful. The other guys are always in there extra to do more workouts, so they have been doing wonderful so far.
What are your expectations for this team?
Caponi: My expectations for this team are really high. I expect us to place high when we go to all the tournaments, I expect to beat a Big Ten team when we go down to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, I expect to have ACC champions at the tournament this year and I expect to be challenging for the ACC title.
Tell us about the coaching staff.
Caponi: Coach Garland is so energetic and he makes you love wrestling. If I hated wrestling going in there, I would now love it. I love wrestling even more when I see Coach Garland’s passion for it. Coach Moore is a great coach too, has wonderful style and likes to toughen the guys up. Coach Pell is an amazing wrestler. His funk wrestling and his rolling are amazing. He has a million different moves from every position and is very good at motivating and being able to push you through when you are tired.
As an upperclassman this year, have you taken on more of a leadership role?
Caponi: Simply by being one of the older guys on the team, you have to. You’ve experienced more than the younger guys. You have more wisdom that you need to show them, like I did this. It was a mistake. Don’t do that.’
You have to take a little bit more control. When you’re younger, you have to lead by example more often because you don’t have the authority of an older guy, but when you are the older guy and you have the authority, it’s actually even more important to lead by example. When you tell somebody not to do something, you can’t five seconds later be doing the same thing you told them not to do.
How was your offseason, especially overcoming your knee injury (torn LCL)?
Caponi: It was an interesting offseason. I took some time to get back into the flow of things. The knee was pretty tight at the beginning. Luckily I haven’t had any problems with the LCL this season and I got through my rehab and it’s feeling very good. I don’t see any troubles with my knee this year.
What did the experience of last year and gutting through your knee problems teach you?
Caponi: Pain is all relative. I re-tore my knee ligament at nationals, but when they told me I couldn’t continue wrestling, that actually hurt more.
What are your goals for yourself this year?
Caponi: I want to be an All-American. That’s the only thing I am looking for. Being an ACC champion is something I need to do to get to that point.
You wear off-colored contacts during your competitions. Tell us the story behind that.
Caponi: The contacts are a way of me changing my mindset from my normal self to how I perceive myself to wrestle on the mat. This will be my sixth year for wearing the contacts while I wrestle, and it’s just become part of how I like to wrestle on the mat. A few people don’t like it, but I enjoy the reactions I get and it’s part of who I am when I wrestle.
Describe these contacts for us.
Caponi: They are zebra-striped, black and white contacts. I wear them in both eyes for folkstyle or collegiate wrestling, left eye for freestyle and right eye for Greco-Roman.