On the Mat with Rocco Caponi
Cavalier wrestler Rocco Caponi is a three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time ACC champion. Two weeks ago, he picked up his 100th career win and moved into third place on the all-time Virginia wins list. Despite battling injuries this year, Caponi feels he finally is coming around after a subpar (by his own admission) start to the year. In this edition of On the Mat, Caponi discusses his turnaround last weekend. Always full of unique personality, Caponi also delves into one of the off-the-wall things he enjoys doing outside from wrestling.
You won ACC Wrestler of the Week honors for the fourth time in your career recently.
Caponi: It’s always an honor and it’s nice to be noticed here and there. Coming off the previous week, it definitely is nice.
You had a good weekend after one that was pretty rough with three losses.
Caponi: The weekend before was very poor wrestling on my part. The coaches and I came back and got a workout in the very same day that we finished wrestling there. We decided to refocus and they basically beat me up until I won. They’re going to keep working me hard until I win more and start pinning more.
Do you think you have everything straightened out?
Caponi: There are still a few bugs just because I’ve been injured and haven’t been able to wrestle the whole time. The mental thing was the huge factor between the two weeks. That’s getting back to normal.
Because of your injuries, you have not wrestled nearly as much at this point in the year as you have in years’ past. Do you think that could actually benefit you come ACC and NCAA tournament time?
Caponi: I’m looking at it as a positive because right now there’s not enough time for me to get burnt out mentally. I have just enough time to peak and to get in great shape. I think it is a positive.
You have an interesting hobby on the side salsa dancing. Tell us about that obviously it is very unique.
Caponi: It became a nice escape away from wrestling for me every Monday at the Salsa Club go there, dance around, have some fun. It’s always important for wrestlers to have a little bit of an escape here and there because wrestling takes so much hard work and dedication that if you were just thinking about it every waking second, you would go crazy. To me, it became a great form of mental relaxation.
What is it that you like about salsa?
Caponi: The music is fun and it’s a very inclusive culture. If you don’t have that fear of being the wallflower and sitting back, you can just go up and ask anybody to dance, and they normally do.
How does one get involved in salsa dancing?
Caponi: The main reason I started was because my girlfriend at the time was really into it. She had talked me into doing a salsa show last year, which sadly enough is on YouTube. Check it out
What exactly went into your salsa show?
Caponi: We did the Cha-Cha to I Need to Know’ by Marc Anthony. It was a bunch of different dances and she choreographed it. It got a few cheers at least, but the guys on the team made fun of me for it.
Who knew that there was actually a Salsa Club at UVa?
Caponi: What’s interesting is the guy who started the club at UVa was a Greco All-American in high school. So the club down here was actually started by a wrestler. He didn’t wrestle for the team here, but he used to be a wrestler.
It’s been over a year since you started doing this, and you have a different girlfriend. Do you still do much salsa dancing?
Caponi: I don’t do it as much now. I don’t go to the club at the university anymore. There’s a Sunday night salsa event every now and then. I’m not as good as the best people there, but I can hold my own. It’s a lot of fun. My new girlfriend has come with me a few times.
Overall, what has the reaction been among your teammates?
Caponi: I get a few jeers from the guys here and there and they have made fun of me some. But Pete (Ferrara) has tried it a few times. (Chris) Henrich has gone to one of the Sunday things. It’s just good fun, a good mental escape.
Do you have a favorite dance?
Caponi: Just basic salsa. Being a wrestler, I tend to have a very strong lead. I tend to make the girl spin a lot and I don’t do so much.
Does it do any good for you in wrestling?
Caponi: It’s just relaxing. There might be some correlation to maybe working underhooks or upper body stuff, but not really anything that is going to help you wrestle at the college level.