Goodale makes changes with podium, March in mind
Coach-speak lasted only so long with Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale when asked what would make his fifth season in Piscataway a successful one.
“To be boring: Let’s get better every day,” Goodale said. “But people around here are smart enough to know that the end of the year is what this is all about. We need to do a better job at the national tournament. To put it out there: We need to have some guys on that podium. These guys know it. We all know it.”
The Scarlet Knights came close last season.
Juniors Mario Mason and Scott Winston each lost their final matches at the NCAA Championships, keeping them a win away from All-American status.
Instead, Rutgers remained shut out from the podium since 2002.
“That’s how we’re going to be measured,” Goodale said. “We went 21-2 and finished ninth in the country last year. To everybody else around Rutgers University it’s a great year. To us it was very disappointing.”
It led Goodale and his staff to re-evaluate the way they operate.
The Knights spent less time wrestling and instead focused on technique, strength and conditioning. They spent more time in a swimming pool and less time on mats.
Eight traveled to Colorado Springs, where they worked out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and climbed Pikes Peak.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Goodale said, “and I may not do it again.”
The head coach admits the offseason changes might create a slow start to the season, but that is OK. This season is about March and the NCAA Championships, where Rutgers fully expects to place wrestlers in the top eight of their weight classes.
The obvious favorites are Mason and Winston, ranked No. 5 at 149 pounds and No. 6 at 165 pounds, respectively. But Goodale also calls 125 pounds his deepest weight class, and 174 pounds arguably his best.
Junior Dan Rinaldi will start the season at 197 pounds after wrestling last year at 184 pounds, and that is a move Goodale made with a podium spot in mind.
“I should have been [an All-American] last year,” Rinaldi said.
It is a feeling shared throughout the wrestling room, by none more than Mason and Winston.
“They know that they didn’t achieve the things they needed to achieve,” Goodale said. “For Mario, he fully expects to win a national title, if not two. That’s what’s motivating him.”
For Winston, motivation is to wrestle a healthy season.
The Jackson, N.J., native battled a right knee injury last year and underwent surgery a week after a loss to Lehigh’s Brandon Hatchett ended his season. He rehabbed and then spent the final two months of the summer away from wrestling.
Mason also spent time away from the mats while dealing with a summer back injury, which gave him only more time to think back to last season.
“I’d like to get a shot at Frank Molinaro again,” Mason said of the No. 1-ranked 149-pound Penn State wrestler, who Mason went 1-2 against last season. “I lost to him when it counted at nationals, so that’s a match I’m looking forward to.”
This entire season is about looking forward to nationals for Rutgers.
It will host a regional bracket of the National Duals tournament in February and it opens its dual-meet schedule at perennial top-five power Oklahoma State.
But national success is measured in March, and now it is measured the same way in Piscataway.
“I don’t want to say they’re dwelling on it,” Goodale said of the wrestlers who came up short, “but they know their careers aren’t going to be complete unless they’re where they should be.”
Goodale tweeted Monday that former Rutgers football player and standout high school wrestler Kevin Malast joined the staff as a strength and conditioning coach. Former assistant coach Cory Cooperman left the staff in early September to join Illinois.