|Rutgers’ Rod Van Ness, a junior, finished in the runner-up position at the 1997 EIWA Championships’ 167-pound weight class on March 7-8, to secure a trip to the 1997 NCAA Wrestling Championships at the University of Northern Iowa. Seeded #3 going into the tournament, Van Ness was ranked third in the EIWA since the beginning of the season, and defeated #2 seed Greg Gingelskie of Navy before succumbing to #1 seed Brandon Slay of the University of Pennsylvania, 6-2, in the final round.
During the regular season, Van Ness recorded a 15-2 tournament record, which included first place finishes at the season-opening Central Jersey Open, hosted by the College of New Jersey, and the Millersville Belles Invitational. In addition, he finished in second place at the “Rose Bowl” of collegiate wrestling, the Wilkes Open, and captured third place at the East Stroudsburg Open.
In dual meets, he enjoyed a 16-2 mark. Both of his losses, which ironically occurred during the first and last dual meets of the season against Bloomsburg and Drexel, were by only two points. He recorded five victories by major decision, two pins, and one technical fall. outscoring his opponents by a 139-48 margin.
Van Ness arrived “On The Banks” to compete for Rutgers’ head coach John Sacchi in 1993, following a standout high school career at Somerville High School. In his first season, he enjoyed a 9-5 record, primarily in tournament action at 158 pounds, placing second at the James Madison Invitational. The next year, he stepped up to 167 pounds and recorded a team-high wins mark with his 33-13 record. Selected at the Rutgers University Most Valuable Wrestler that year, he was second on the team with seven pins, and finished fourth, as a sophomore, at the 1995 EIWA Championships at 167 pounds.
He did not compete with the Scarlet Knights in 1995-96, as he took a year off to concentrate on his academics and to recuperate from knee surgery. This year, he returned as the sole EIWA placewinner, and earned the 167 pound starting slot in pre-season. Although not officially a member of the Scarlet squad until he completed first semester University academic requirements, Van Ness successfully competed as an unattached grappler at the Central Jersey Open and East Stroudsburg Open. He began competing as a team member at the Wilkes Open.
In his three years with the Scarlet, Van Ness has ammassed a 76-23 record, including his best season ever in 1996-97 with his record of 34-5, second on the team in victories. At present, he is 11th overall on the Rutgers All-Time Top 20 winners list, just one win shy of breaking into the top 10.
The 1996-97 Rutgers Wrestling team, captained by senior John Ferro and junior Jim McLean, finished ninth overall at the 1997 EIWA Championships, one place higher than in 1996. Three other Scarlet Knights were also placewinners - freshman Greg Theony, sixth, at 118 pounds; junior Justin Hurst, fifth, at 142 pounds, and senior John Ferro, fifth, at 177 pounds. Overall, the team went 11-6-1 for the ‘97 season, finishing 5-1 against EIWA opponents. The 10-man starting lineup featured only four returning letterwinners, four freshmen, and two underclassmen with little collegiate experience.