Amped up schedule to test 2009-10 team
When the Rutgers wrestling team hits the mat for the 2009-10 year, it faces much tougher opponents than those it faced last season, a campaign that resulted in 20 wins.
A harder schedule might translate to fewer wins, but according to third-year head coach Scott Goodale, the experience of wrestling some of the best squads in the nation is far more valuable than any record.
"[Our schedule] is what this program needed," Goodale said. "Kids are wanting to come to Rutgers to wrestle because of our great schedule. The wins and losses will come, but you have to put yourself in a position to wrestle the best."
And RU indeed wrestles against the best this season.
Six of the opponents the Scarlet Knights square off against this year are ranked in the top-25 NCAA Division I preseason rankings set by InterMat, a prestigious NCAA wrestling Web site.
None of them will be as much of a test than Nov. 27, when RU faces both Bucknell and two-time defending NCAA Champion Iowa in Lewisburg, Pa. The Hawkeyes are the top team in the nation to start the season.
Two Knights found themselves ranked in the top-20 of their respective weight classes by InterMat.
The first is redshirt junior Dominick Russo, who ranks at No. 14 at heavyweight. The Lenape Valley High School product was last year's recipient of the Ted Petty Award, which honors RU's most valuable wrestler. He also competed in last year's NCAA Championships where he finished with a 2-2 record.
"There is nothing better than a good heavyweight," Goodale said. "He has put himself in a position to win a national title and he is coming into the season with confidence. He has done a lot of the training by himself but we have brought in [freshman] Carl Buchholz, who will redshirt, to give him some competition."
Joining Russo in the rankings is redshirt senior Lamar Brown — No. 19 in the 197-pound weight class. The Red Bank, N.J. native is one year removed from his 2007-08 NCAA Tournament appearance when he was a junior.
Two years ago, Russo redshirted so that he could use the extra time to prepare and make his senior year as memorable as possible, Goodale said.
"He has gotten better everyday," Goodale said. "He will give us senior leadership. He is not the most vocal, but he leads on the mat."
Redshirt junior David Greenwald RU's returning leader in dual meet points also returns for this season. Greenwald finished last year with a mark of 23-8 wrestling in the 141-pound weight class. He will compete in the 149-pound weight class this season.
Greenwald said he would continue to do what he does best, and that's pinning.
"My style will be the same," he said. "I'm going to just keep training harder to get stronger and better with the arsenal of great coaches that we have."
Sophomore Scott Winston, who entered RU last year as the nations top recruit and was a first-team freshman All-American with a 34-6 record, will redshirt this season.
Despite the redshirt, Winston is a great leader for the Knights, Goodale said.
Solidifying the roster are two transfers, both with NCAA Tournament experience.
First is redshirt junior Daryl Cocozzo, who wrestled at Edinboro and joins RU in the 157-pound weight class.
Joining him in his first year with the Knights is junior Bill Ashnault. The former Lock Haven standout also brings tournament experience.
"It's all about motivation no matter what weight class," Greenwald said. "It's a team effort and we want to bring everyone as far as the NCAA Tournament."
The team holds its annual inter-squad Wrestle-Offs at the College Avenue Gym Nov. 2, and that is the only time the Knights wrestle at home in 2009.
After the Wrestle-Offs the team hits the road for five matches and two tournaments, including a two-day tournament at the end of December in Chicago called Midlands.
"We like being on the road," Goodale said. "The guys have fun hanging out with one another and we won't use [traveling] as an excuse. You need to travel to face the best. Our goal remains unchanged, and that is to win a national championship."