Big Ten benefits recruiting trail
“Long Island? When have we gotten someone from Long Island?” Frank Molinaro said in the the University wrestling office. “I’ve gotten a good hot dog from there, that’s about it.”
It’s a constant back and forth in what head coach Scott Goodale calls the “war room” between Goodale, assistant coaches Molinaro and John Leonardis and Director of Operations Billy Ashnault.
Names of recruits are thrown around, with kids either added onto the white board in Goodale’s office or erased as the staff tries to narrow down its targets for the 2014 season.
“We try to address the weight classes that we need and start from there,” Leonardis said. “Then we try to identify the best talent just off of pure wrestling skill, and then we will try to get to know those kids on a personal level and watch how they win, lose and prepare.”
The coaching staff divides recruiting equally, and Leonardis said they identified upwards at around 150 at the beginning stages.
“It slowly works its way down to whether we’re not a good fit for them or they’re not a good fit for us,” Leonardis said.
Recruiting for the Scarlet Knights program is an all-year event and is addressed every day after morning workouts.
Once the recruits are narrowed down to a reasonable number, phone calls are made and letters are sent out. Though a needed practice, the process can be a bit overwhelming, with possible recruits either choosing other schools or not qualifying.
But thanks to the announcement of the program’s move to the Big Ten Conference, at least a small portion of the work Goodale and the rest of the staff put in can be alleviated thanks to what the league brings.
The Big Ten is the country’s premiere wrestling conference, with nine schools ranked in the Top 25. At the NCAA Championships last season, the conference featured wrestlers in every weight class except at 197 pounds — generating seven individual champions in the process.
Molinaro, one of those seven, represents the transition the program is making as it gets set to join the conference in 2014.
Molinaro, a three-time State Champion at Southern Regional (N.J.) High School, picked Penn State to continue his career out of high school, as Rutgers was not even an option.
He would have considered Rutgers out of high school if it were in the conference back when he made his decision, he said.
“It’s the hardest conference,” Molinaro said. “If you want to be a national champ, and that’s your goal, then you want to be wrestling the toughest guys in the toughest conference. Besides Penn State, we are the closest East Coast school that is going to be in the Big Ten.”
Recruiting will also be boosted by the new wrestling facilities Goodale said would be built into the new renovations to the Rutgers Athletic Center.
The Knights currently train on one mat in the basement of the College Avenue Gym where the wrestling facility is currently situated.
What the coaching staff labels politely as “outdated” will be replaced by the facility at the RAC.
Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said he would deliver on everything he asked for, including three practice mats, a new video room, locker room and new administrative offices, Goodale said.
“If they give us what we asked for, it’s going to be sick,” Goodale said.
But at least for the next season, the future of the program is built on the second floor of the College Avenue Gym in the wrestling offices.
“This is where it all happens,” Goodale said.