Goodale faced with replacement of veterans
As 174-pounder Greg Zannetti was one of the seven seniors honored before Sunday’s match against Penn State, it signaled a glaring question that will have to be addressed for the Rutgers wrestling team.
How will the program respond to the group’s departure?
“Hopefully the other guys pick up where we left off and carry the momentum, like a snowball,” Zannetti said. “Just keep going hard.”
The Scarlet Knights will graduate five senior starters from this year’s team, exactly half of the starting lineup.
Both 157-pounder Scott Winston and 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi will leave the program with more than 100 career victories to their name.
Zannetti has been arguably the Knights’ most consistent grappler this season with a 15-5 dual record and No. 14 national ranking to back up that claim.
Trevor Melde has started every match this season at 141 pounds, while 125-pounder Joey Langel fought off the injury bug in the preseason to compile a 15-5 record in dual matches.
“We have quality wrestlers. We’re building a tradition here, but programs don’t come over night,” Winston said. “What we teach in this program is get it done today, get it done today.”
While getting it done today works for this team — as its senior-laden lineup is built to do so — it will be interesting to see how head coach Scott Goodale replaces the production. The five seniors have contributed 70 wins in dual action.
Winston does not see the team skipping a beat. In fact, he only sees the program going higher.
“It takes years to build college programs,” Winston said. “It takes consistent great recruiting classes, which we are getting now, and I think the results of this program are going to blow people out of the water.”
According to Amateur Wrestling News, Rutgers landed the 11th-best class in the country, with six grapplers coming into the fold for next season.
The group includes Anthony Ashnault, who will have an opportunity to become the first wrestler in state history to be a four-time, undefeated champion at South Plainfield (N.J.) High School.
Goodale said the class has the potential to mirror the talent of his first class — which happens to be the one that is departing after the national tournament in March.
But losses like the one that occurred against the Nittany Lions do not help in the recruiting world.
“Until you start beating those teams, and we were close a couple of years ago — and it helped us with some recruits — but until we do it on a consistent basis, we are not going to land the blue chip kids,” Goodale said. “We have to knock off a couple of those guys to attract those guys.”
Redshirt freshman heavyweight Billy Smith and junior 133-pounder Vincent Dellefave will anchor the team next season.
And though the replacement for the production that will be lost because of graduation will need to be addressed, for right now, Goodale can only worry about the present.
“I like where we are at right now,” Goodale said. “It’s been a good season, and I think we are going to start wrestling really well in these next couple of weeks.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.