Freshman earns time as starter
Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale did not hesitate when asked about what Ken Theobold brings on the mat.
But he was also quick to point out how the freshman 149-pounder’s biggest asset has also led to some problems in his first year.
“Energy. He wrestles really hard and never backs up,” Goodale said. “He goes forward, which can get him into trouble because he comes out of position a lot, so he needs to balance that. But he just brings a lot of energy because he wrestles so hard.”
Theobold said he also had trouble with starting on top in matches this season, but freshmen are usually allowed to work those kinks out their first year on campus with a redshirt.
Because of injuries to senior 149-pounder Mario Mason, Theobold has not experienced that luxury.
“He definitely could have benefited from [a redshirt season],” Goodale said. “He needs to learn a lot and is very raw. He gets a lot of millage out of hard work and dedication, but from a technique standpoint he needs to get a lot better and he knows that.”
Goodale has not been afraid to use redshirts on younger grapplers even if they could benefit the lineup, as evidenced by redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith.
Smith sat out last season even with a glaring hole at the position. He entered the individual rankings for the first time in his career yesterday, coming in as the No. 20 heavyweight in the AWR polls.
Goodale felt differently about Theobold.
“It just wasn’t in the cards for him, and he will probably learn more from competing,” Goodale said. “Not everyone needs to redshirt right away, so he is probably going to learn a lot more of what it takes from the older guys and what it takes to be in a college season compared to a high school season.”
The Toms River South (N.J.) High School product said Goodale never told him after he committed to the Scarlet Knights whether he would redshirt, as he saw benefits from either decision.
“I think a redshirt season as a freshman is good to get used to college at first,” Theobold said, “but to get thrown in there with the big dogs right away can be beneficial for me in the long run because I’m going to have more match experience and overall just getting better at technique.”
Theobold saw action in the Knights’ second and third dual meets against Rider and Princeton on Dec. 8, when he split both matches. Shuffled in and out of the lineup, Theobold competed with the starters in Rutgers’ 19-15 loss to Iowa State on Jan. 11 and has not left since, going 3-3 in that span.
Goodale pointed out that Theobold, along with fellow freshman 197-pounder Hayden Hrymack have struggled recently in surrendering bonus points, but he said that comes with the territory.
For now, Theobold can only improve in his current role.
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.