Goodale's winning plan deserves full RU support
To a man, the Rutgers wrestling team did not believe it needed Friday's win to arrive.
It hosted marquee matchups at the Louis Brown Athletic Center before, and it won them all. It beat ranked opponents before, too.
So a dominant win over No. 3 Virginia Tech was just another notch on the belt of the Scarlet Knights, who established themselves as a national program in four years under head coach Scott Goodale.
But for the almost 3,000 in attendance — those who made cries of "Two!" reverberate off the trapezoid that is the RAC when Joe Langel got Rutgers' first takedown until DJ Russo got the last — this win was a must.
There are the diehards, sure — the season-ticket holders who would return the following day for a little advertised win over Rider.
They are the ones who make Goodale's vision a very possible reality. They are the wrestling fanatics in a state where most sports fans know the significance of Don Bosco football or St. Anthony, St. Benedict's and St. Patrick basketball, but wrestling has a very specific, very loyal following.
Goodale is one of them, a former New Jersey high school coach who assembled a coaching staff that would not only attract the top local talent, but also pull it back in with transfers from major programs.
Scott Winston was the No. 2 recruit in the country and he remained with Goodale, his old Jackson Memorial head coach. Mario Mason left his state for Minnesota, only to return and reunite with mentor and assistant coach Cory Cooperman.
"The best part about this program is where we are [located]," said Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. "I think wrestling is about as big as there is in the state of New Jersey. Whether it's wrestling, football, field hockey or basketball, this state continues to crank out some of the best student athletes in the country, and our challenge is to keep them all here. What Scott has shown is that if you can get that done, the results can very quickly turn positive."
Goodale has the same vision that, after 10 years, head football coach Greg Schiano is still putting in place — establishing a "State of Rutgers" that can create a national program with the talent so prevalent in the backyard.
He just did it better.
That is why Friday's win was so important to the layman fan — those who took a bus or drove to Livingston, unlikely lured by the drawstring bags that can be found at any involvement fair or orientation event, but the allure of the University boasting a program that, at the most basic level, represents the state.
They may not have known a reversal from a takedown or riding time from a College Avenue basement party, but now they know a little blood does not stop Alex Caruso, and ranked opponents do not stop Langel or Trevor Melde.
They know the Knights do not fold in the spotlight — that they thrive at the RAC, where they are 6-0 and outscored opponents, 188-44, in three years, that they created more of a home-field advantage than any other Rutgers program has.
They know it is fun as hell to scream when Mason makes a lightning-quick move and just to watch when Russo imposes his will on an opponent.
Pernetti knows that expanding the RAC schedule from one to five matches works — that the interest is as great as ever after the Knights just hosted one major opponent there the past two years. He knows, as he and Goodale plan, that wrestling can be a revenue-making program — that an Olympic sport can benefit the University.
And he knows that he has something special in Goodale and his group of 28 wrestlers — 26 of which are from New Jersey.
At least 2,739 other people know it, too, but it is time for more.
Get behind the Rutgers wrestling team, Scarlet faithful, because it is the best you have, and it has long since arrived.
— Steven Miller is the sports editor for The Daily Targum and accepts comments and criticisms at steven_mi ..at.. comcast.net.