Winston embodies face of program
Simply put, Scott Winston had the ability to go anywhere.
The No. 2 overall senior wrestling recruit in the country left Jackson Memorial High School with an impeccable 137-0 record, the first wrestler in New Jersey high school history to finish a four-year career unblemished.
Every major Division I wrestling program in the country wanted Winston to don their colors, and he could have gone to any of them. But he chose Rutgers.
"I was looking at programs like Iowa and Wisconsin and other great wrestling programs," the three-time state champion said. "I really didn't know where I wanted to go. I just always felt a strong connection to Rutgers over those schools."
It also doesn't hurt that the Scarlet Knights' third-year head coach Scott Goodale is the former coach that Winston came up with at Jackson.
Goodale left Jackson for the Banks just one year before Winston began a much-anticipated college career.
"All along in high school I was telling [Winston], ‘Let's look at Big Ten schools and other big programs,'" he said. "But then I got the job [at Rutgers] and our talks turned into, ‘You don't need those schools, you don't have to look at them.' Having him come here wasn't in the bag for sure."
In his first season last year, Winston injected instant success into the RU wrestling team, leading the entire nation in wins with 39 and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament at 157-pounds.
Simply put, Winston was the real deal.
He made it look easy in his first year, but that is not to say he did not learn anything.
"I learned quickly that wrestling through an entire match in college is a lot harder," Winston said. "In high school, if you got two takedowns early, [your opponent] broke down mentally and they wouldn't attack you as much. Here, in the second week of the season, I was up by two takedowns early against the No. 4 kid in the country and he came back to beat me by like two or three points."
His early successes did not go unnoticed in the locker room.
Senior captain Lamar Brown knew how much of an impact Winston would have both on the mat and in the locker room.
"From the day [Winston] stepped in he showed a lot of leadership," he said. "Right off the bat he started knocking off good wrestlers and we knew he was everything we had heard about him."
Media and fans alike anticipated seeing much of the same in his sophomore year, but instead, Winston and the coaches decided it would be best for him to redshirt and build up his already-impressive skill set.
As the 2009-2010 season comes to a close, the fun begins for Winston. He plans to compete heavily in the upcoming freestyle year that commences once the NCAA Tournament closes out this March in Omaha, Neb.
"This freestyle season is going to be big for me," he said. "I've got the FILA Juniors [Nationals] coming up where I have a shot at making the junior national team. There are a couple of other tournaments coming up after the regular season is over that will have all the big guys. If I can beat them now, then I can break into the top-five rankings for next year."
During the redshirt year, Winston is working on a couple of new styles, including wrestling a more hand-fighting match, he said.
This is a departure from his normal style of simply overpowering opponents.
"I've been focusing a lot on the little technical things this year," he said. "I'm usually bigger and stronger than most people I wrestle. I usually just want to pound people and basically go out and bully people around."
The Knights fared just fine with Winston on the bench this year, nearing the 20-win plateau for the second straight season up against a much tougher schedule. Goodale anticipates his former Jackson pupil to return to the lineup next year and carry on his legacy as the future of RU's program.
"He is the one kid I have come across during my experience in high school wrestling that has wanted to be the guy to put a program on his shoulders," Goodale said. "While so many recruits find it hard to take that chance, he was the guy that wanted to do it. Every program needs that signature recruit and for us, it was him."
Simply put, Scott Winston is Rutgers wrestling.