Loss to Navy overshadows milestone
The last time the Rutgers wrestling team’s fate in a dual match came in the final bout, redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith delivered a victory for the Scarlet Knights.
With Nick Visicaro the last one to go Saturday afternoon against Navy, the sophomore 165-pounder dropped a decision against Peyton Walsh, completing a three-match swing for the Midshipmen that resulted in a 19-15 Knights loss.
The loss — Rutgers’ first defeat since losing Iowa State on Jan. 11 by the same score — was not a surprise for head coach Scott Goodale considering the Knights’ recent track record with Navy along with its hot streak, as Navy defeated then-No. 23 Maryland last week.
Rutgers (14-3) escaped with a 20-19 win last season against the Midshipmen, but could not make it five straight wins against them.
“Navy has really become a huge rival for us for the most part,” Goodale said. “The last five matches we wrestled have come down to the last match. We’ve been fortunate against them, but we lost … It was a really good match, but we were just on the wrong end of it.”
After Rutgers went up 15-9 on a 2-0 decision by senior Trevor Melde at 141, the Knights lost their last three matches.
That included a loss to Navy’s (4-1) Bobby Berg by 154-pounder Scott Winston, who collected his 100th career victory in the Knights’ 26-10 victory the night before against West Virginia.
But the loss to Berg left a bittersweet taste for both Winston and Goodale, who has seen Winston grow as a wrestler ever since his high school days at Jackson (N.J.) Memorial.
“It’s a milestone,” Goodale said of Winston. “It’s a hard thing to do in college wrestling … But Scott has bigger goals and he’s got to somehow find a way to put it all together this month and get his confidence back and wrestle like he is capable of wrestling.”
Rutgers also suffered two losses at 149 and 197-pounds, as freshman Ken Theobold continued to take over for senior Mario Mason. Then Theobold’s classmate, Hayden Hrymack, filled in for senior Dan Seidenberg, who Goodale decided to rest.
Both surrendered bonus points against Navy, including a pin by Oscar Huntly against Hrymack at 4:20.
Inserting freshmen into the lineup is not Goodale’s preference, but performance and injuries have forced both into starting rolls, something that is out of Goodale’s hands.
“We are giving up bonus points where our two freshman are wrestling,” Goodale said. “Those are two kids who are going to be good as the years go on but right now they are probably not ready for that type of match yet. But they have to be and are growing up quickly.”
The loss overshadowed the Knights’ dominating performance against a young West Virginia team (1-7) the night before, which included seven wins individually.
But Rutgers’ effort in its first match may have been a factor — along with its four-hour bus trip — for why it struggled against Navy.
Goodale said the factors are no excuse, as back-to-back matches will happen in the near future at both EIWA and the National Tournament.
For Goodale, Navy served as a wake-up call for the team, one that the Knights need to respond to before their next competition Feb. 8 against Bloomsburg.
“When you go to the national tournament and the EIWA tournament, it’s back-to-back,” Goodale said. “Is the travel part of it? Yeah, but everyone has to do that with dual meets … There’s no excuses — put your foot on the line and find a way to get it done. We just came up a little short against a real good team.”
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