Revenge on minds as Midshipmen loom
By Chris Melchiorre
The Rutgers wrestling team's dual meet with Navy today is a match the Scarlet Knights have been waiting for since being trounced last February 29-6 by the Midshipmen.
"They've kind of had our number," Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale said. "They really put it on us last year. So this is definitely one of those matches we circle on our calendars at the beginning of the year."
While revenge will indeed be a source of motivation for RU this weekend, they cannot help but be slightly distracted by the other, much larger circle that's rapidly approaching on their calendar.
That, of course, is the circle encasing the entire month of March.
With conference and national tournaments only weeks away, the importance of the clash between the two universities is slightly overshadowed by the implications of many of the individual match-ups taking place Friday night in Annapolis.
"That's the great thing about wrestling," Goodale said. "You always get one or two individual matchups that mean a whole heck of a lot, and this is one of those match-ups for seniors Matt Pletcher and Mike Whalen. If they want to go to the national tournament, these are the bouts that they have to win."
With both Whalen and Pletcher teetering in the nation's top-30 and only one more dual meet remaining in the season, wins this weekend would go a long way in ensuring that they keep those national rankings when it matters most.
Whalen, who lost a tough bout to No. 2 Mike Cannon last week against American, faces another tough and even more crucial match-up this weekend.
He will be pitted against the No. 20 wrestler in the country in Navy's 174 lbs. Luke Rebertus.
"He's got a great opportunity," Goodale said. "I don't want to say it's a must-win but it's certainly very important and it will help his chances quite a bit."
The Knights 141 lbs. Trevor Melde will also be wrestling to protect a national ranking for the first time in his college career. The freshman debuted Tuesday at No. 27 in his 141 lbs. weight class.
"It does mean a little bit," Melde said. "But rankings don't really mean that much to me. You still have to work just as hard, and there's still a bunch of kids still ranked over me so there's still work to be done."
While all four of RU's nationally ranked wrestlers have tough match-ups, a win is not far-fetched for any of them. The same cannot be said for some of the other bouts in Friday's meet.
The Midshipmen are stacked with highly ranked wrestlers at nearly every weight class that the Knights are not.
Despite those tough odds, which include trying to overtake Navy's Joe Baker who is ranked 10th at 133 lbs., the Knights still believe that their year of waiting will not be in vein.
"On paper, matchup-wise, it's probably not our best match-up," Goodale said. "But we'll find out Friday night."