July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Exhibition paves way for Rutgers' season

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault tries to turn sophomore Jalen Ramos to collect more back points. Ashnault recorded a 19-technical fall of Ramos. 

Head coach Scott Goodale never really bought into the whole concept of the wrestle-offs. For him, it’s just an extension of practice where everything ends up being a lot different than actual training. 

Actually, Goodale doesn’t really like wrestle-offs at all, but still finds some things to take from the exhibition that takes place prior to the season. 

This past Saturday, the Rutgers wrestling team hosted its annual wrestle-offs, and while team scores was not kept in dual-meet fashion for either the Scarlet nor Black team, there were positives to take from all sides, Goodale sid. 

“I don’t really get into it, I don’t really like them,” Goodale said. “But to start the season, you have to kind of get a feel for where your guys are at. It’s good that they have to make weight, come up here and wrestle in front of all these people. So, there is a lot of anxiety, but all-in-all there was some good bouts, but it’s hard to open up on your teammates.”

Although Goodale credits anxiety for some mishaps in the dual-meet exhibition, there were performances that stood out for the Scarlet Knights. 

Sophomore 174-pounder Phil Bakuckus didn’t seem nervous after he earned a 17-2 technical fall over freshman Lucky Shaut in the second bout of the dual. Bakuckus opened up the scoring with a takedown and earned three back points eight seconds into the match.

For Bakuckus, he said there were no nerves. He was simply ready to wrestle after sitting out for a while and being unable to grapple with an injury. 

“I was just ready to go out there and wrestle,” Bakuckus said. “I had just been injured with my shoulder over the past three weeks, so I couldn’t really wrestle live. It felt good to just go out there and wrestle live in front of a crowd. I was pretty pumped up to just go out there and do my thing.”

One of the most anticipated matches was redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault. The South Plainfield, New Jersey, product faced sophomore Jalen Ramos. 

Ashnault sought to impress and make a statement in his opening match for the Knights scoring a 19-4 tech fall, with all of Ramos’ points coming from escapes where Ashnault appeared to force the neutral start. 

With such a good performance from both Bakuckus and Ashnault, Goodale was quick to praise their work and their talent.

“They were confident they were going to win and went out and scored as [many] points as possible — that’s how you got to approach every match no matter who you wrestle,” Goodale said. “Phil’s really, really good. He can be special and I think he is going to be there at the end, I really do. And with Anthony Ashnault, I believe all the expectations, I believe all the hype and I believe everything, but he still has to do it. He’s going to be be really good.”

Goodale said there were surprises and upsets Saturday in the preseason exhibition.

Sophomore 125-pounder Sean McCabe fell 4-3 in a minor decision to freshman Nick Ottaviano. McCabe returns this season after compiling a 21-12 overall record last season, going 6-5 in duals, and was a staple in Rutgers starting lineup.

“There were a couple upsets,” Goodale said. “At 125-pounds there was a huge upset. Good for Nick Ottaviano, and at 165, it wasn’t really a surprise, but the most anticipated match at 133-pounds between [Freshman Anthony Giraldo and sophomore Scott DelVecchio] went as I thought, anyone can win that on any given day. We’ll have to make a decision on who redshirts there.”

But as exciting as the first outing for the Knights is, there are still bigger and better things waiting the rest of the season, Ashnault said. He was able to put it in perspective. 

“For me, I wasn’t really that nervous,” Ashnault said. “My goals are a lot higher than winning the varsity spot.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Tyler Karalewich

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