Ranked foes await Knights in Brockport Gold Tourney
After a successful beginning to the dual meet season — a 43-0 thrashing of Sacred Heart — the attention of the Rutgers wrestling team shifts to its first tournament of the season, the Brockport Gold Tournament Saturday at SUNY Brockport.
The Scarlet Knights (1-0) look to improve upon its results from last year's Gold Tournament when they placed seventh out of the nine teams.
Half of the teams RU will face are ranked in the top 20 in the nation: No. 3 Ohio State, No. 12 Edinboro, No. 17 Oklahoma, and the Golden Flashes from Kent State head into the weekend ranked at No. 20.
"We are going to be wrestling some of the best teams in the country," said head coach Scott Goodale. "This is going to be a good test to see where we are at as a team early on. I want us to finish in the top four this weekend."
The top two RU wrestlers in each weight class compete in the tournament, meaning that all non-redshirts on the roster participate, Goodale said.
As a Knight who earned a starting role through tournament wins early last season, sophomore Trevor Melde is excited to face some of the nation's top wrestlers in this tournament.
"There is a chance that I could be facing [No. 2 in the nation] Reece Humphrey from Ohio State," the Hewitt, N.J., native said. "I'm looking forward to the test and the chance to pick off some guys nice and early and maybe improve my rankings."
Melde said there are not many differences in preparing for a tournament, compared to a dual meet.
"I always treat every match the same no matter who the opponent is," he said. "During warm-ups, it's important to remember that if you stick to your game plan, you will win."
Whether they are from the four ranked schools or the other four schools participating — Army, SUNY Buffalo, Liberty and SUNY Brockport — there are national ranked opponents in every weight class.
To advance in this tournament, energy must be conserved due to the fact that wrestlers may be involved in five matches in one day.
"I want to see how our guys respond to wrestling four or five times a day," Goodale said. "If they advance then they have to stay focused longer and that can take its toll on a wrestler."
Ohio State comes into the tournament as the favorite. The nation's third-best team boasts a nationally-ranked wrestler in all but one weight class, and senior Mike Pucillo is the top ranked wrestler in the 184-pound weight class.
Rutgers' seemingly best chance at capturing an individual title in Brockport is in the heavyweight bracket. Redshirt junior Dominick Russo is ranked No. 12 in the country; the only wrestler ahead of him in the tournament is senior Chris Birchler of Edinboro, who stands at sixth in the nation.
With a team that has the ability to pin at every weight class, the extra team points earned for pins can go a long way in a tournament format.
"You have to take advantage by getting bonus points [in tournaments]," Goodale said. "We will use the points from the top scorer in each weight class, but pin points and advancement points will really help in the long run."
The Brockport Gold Tournament marks the only tournament for the Knights until after Christmas, when the team travels to Chicago Dec. 29 for the Midlands two-day tournament.