Shedding Melde's redshirt a no-brainer
Freshman Trevor Melde of the Rutgers wrestling team came to the University this year with high expectations. A 138-10 high school record gave the former state champion every reason to foresee great things in college.
But when the Hewitt, N.J. native decided to redshirt in his first year at Rutgers, the last thing he expected to be doing this March was wrestling in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, after several dominating performances in open tournaments and a 7-2 record since lifting his redshirt, Melde is not prepared to settle for anything less.
"That's definitely what I'm shooting for," he said. "I mean, at this point, anything less and this season would be a lost cause."
Melde began his year with plans just like any freshman wrestler who decides to redshirt in his first year in college. He would wrestle unattached in any open tournament he could and prepare himself for a full season of college wrestling the next year.
But after wrestling in three open tournaments and finishing second in two of them and first in another, things got a little more complicated.
Melde was not just winning matches, he was not just winning tournaments; he was beating some of the best 141 lbs. wrestlers in the country.
"I knew he was going to be very, very good because he was a very, very good high school wrestler," Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale said. "But the thing that surprised me was that he was beating a lot of good kids pretty badly. I knew he was going to win matches but he was just really wrestling at a high level."
For Melde, his open tournament performances were not much of a surprise at all.
"I was just going out there and wrestling," Melde said. "I know I can compete with the best; it was just a matter of going out there and wrestling."
By the time Melde placed second in his final open tournament at the Penn State Open Dec. 7, he turned what is usually a tough decision into a no brainer. The Penn State Open would be Melde's last as a redshirt.
"We kind of went back and forth on whether we should have redshirted him or not to begin with," Goodale said. "But it made it easier to pull him out of redshirt when we saw how much success he was having.
"And you could see it through his practices, how well he was in the practice room and how well he competed in there just from a wrestling standpoint, so we knew he was ready."
Melde proved his coach right by winning his first bout Jan. 9. against Brown's Stephen DeLorenzo. Since then he has lost only twice and has continued beating some of the highest quality wrestlers in the country — most notably Virginia Tech's Chris Diaz on Jan. 18, who was ranked No. 17 when Melde beat him.
In only half a season of wrestling without a redshirt, Melde is now on the brink of a national ranking and is very likely on the verge of a bid to the National Tournament.
"He's been a pretty important part of this team," Goodale said. "He gives us a chance to win every time out. So he's had a huge impact ... He can flat out wrestle."