Goodale remains confident despite recent letdowns
They lost their final two dual meets of the season. They are battling injuries to some of the best wrestlers on their team. But heading into the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Tournament next week, the Rutgers wrestling team is confident.
After the record-breaking success they've had this season, they see no reason not to be.
"I do believe that we're in a good state right now," head coach Scott Goodale said. "I mean, we have some guys who are nicked up, but we're going to get through that. Our training staff is doing a great job getting these guys ready and back in the room.
"No one's at 100 percent physically, but I like where we are mentally and we're going to be ready for the tournament."
The most glaring injuries for the Scarlet Knights right now are 197 lbs. junior Karim Mahmoud and 157 lbs. Scott Winston. Both are battling knee injuries that kept them out of the season's final two dual meets.
Winston, ranked No. 11 in the country in his weight class, has a partially sprained MCL and PCL that should limit him until the first day of the EIWA Tournament.
Though it may be hard to believe, Winston is still a freshman. Goodale sees benefits in the fact that Winston was able to get a break in the season's final weeks.
"Nobody at this EIWA Tournament, nobody at this national tournament is going to be 100 percent healthy after such a long season," Goodale said. "And if you're a freshmen, you're doubly worn out. So, actually this is a little bit of a blessing in disguise for him. You don't want him to be injured but at the same time, he's going to be fresh. He's hungry again."
With his 34-6 record this season, Winston was one of the many reasons the Knights were able to have levels of success that surprised even their coach.
RU ended its season with four ranked wrestlers in Winston, 141 lbs. freshman Trevor Melde, 165 lbs. senior Matt Pletcher and 174 lbs. senior Mike Whalen.
With several other wrestlers poised to make a run at the national tournament through strong showings at the EIWA's, Goodale sees no reason why his team should not expect even greater success in the weeks to come.
"I think we're at the point in our program where we need to be getting some All-Americans," Goodale said. "I don't think this season would be a disappointment if we didn't but we need to take the next step. To get on the national scene, we need to take the next step and it's all about what happens in the month of March."
With one week remaining until the decisive month in college wrestling, the Knights are doing everything they can to make sure the success they've had this season continues when it matters most.
"We're training hard right now," Goodale said. "We're trying to simulate things like getting up in the morning and competing in the morning, which is what these guys have to do in the first couple rounds ... But it's all about just going out there and wrestling, keeping ourselves in the game and keep advancing."