RU enters down period after big win
In the wake of arguably the biggest win in recent Rutgers wrestling history, the Scarlet Knights enter a bit of a lull period before the Midlands Tournament over winter break.
That is, if the word "lull" even exists in the No. 18 team's dictionary.
"We are going to get — I wouldn't say down time — but some time to work on some things," said head coach Scott Goodale. "Starting back in the summertime and then when we got onto campus in September, there was automatic competition in our wrestling room. It forces you to wrestle at a higher level quicker. There are no breaks in our practice room."
The Knights took down then-No. 16 Missouri, 19-16, to cap off a busy November that saw the team compete in eight duals and the Oklahoma Gold Tournament.
Rutgers went 7-1 in that span and the starting lineup comprised of a number of wrestlers competing together for the first time pulled it together almost immediately.
"They knew that they needed to be eager and ready to go in early November," Goodale said. "Credit to those guys — our guys — because they have done that. They have gotten themselves ready and put themselves in a position where they could beat some of the best kids in the country."
The win over the Tigers helps fuel the Knights' momentum given the caliber of opponents that Missouri beat this season, including Lehigh, a team that throttled Rutgers last year.
"We are definitely heading in the right direction now. Missouri just beat Lehigh right after we beat Missouri," said sophomore Dan Rinaldi. "The sky is the limit for us. We have a great room and all of the talent in the world in the room."
But that is not to say that the Knights haven't been met with their fair share of adversity thus far.
Several grapplers fell short of an individual title at the Oklahoma Gold Tournament and the team dropped several crucial matches in a 22-10 loss to then-No. 6 Penn State.
"Penn State last week — we learned a lot about ourselves, we learned a lot about how you need to wrestle," Goodale said. "We've lost a couple of bouts that we shouldn't have. We're still not where we want to be, but at the same time we got geared up for November, which is one of the toughest parts of our schedule."
With the hardest part of the schedule in the rearview mirror and only one loss to show for it, the Knights are certainly in the driver's seat for a successful second semester campaign — success that is helped by the fact that 11 of the 14 duals in 2011 are either at the College Avenue Gym or the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
"It's going to be great having all of these home matches," Rinaldi said. "Every match is going to be a grind, but we can really do some damage this year."
But before Rutgers bears down to protect its two houses, the squad begins its "lull" period by traveling to Happy Valley, Pa., this weekend for the Nittany Lion Open.
Several of Rutgers' premier wrestlers will not make the trip, but that does not mean that the rest of the roster will be taking it easy.
"There are still some good wins out there. There's going to be some ranked guys," Goodale said. "It'll show us where some of our guys are at, and we want to win some individual titles.
"Most of the team will make the trip, but we probably won't bring [sophomore Scott] Winston. We probably won't bring [undefeated heavyweight DJ] Russo. We won't bring Rinaldi. These guys are just banged up. They need some time to heal so they can be ready for when it's really go time."