Hofstra offers chance at redemption for Rutgers
The score was 21-17 with the final match ready to take the mat last season when the Rutgers wrestling team grappled Hofstra in its season-opening dual-meet.
The Scarlet Knights sent out 125-pounder Sean McCabe at 133 pounds to fill in for former Knight Vinnie DelleFave, who was nursing a wrist injury early in the season. McCabe, who wrestled up a weight class — rarely done in college wrestling — lost by a major decision.
All of a sudden, Rutgers was tied with the Pride, 21-21, with grapplers scratching their heads about what would happen next.
In NCAA duals, there are no ties. When a tie occurs, the match winner is determined by criteria, and in the case of last season, the Knights won off of criteria three: wins by fall. With two falls to one, Rutgers defeated Hofstra, 22-21, and ensured its first dual-meet victory of the season.
But in reality, last season was only that — last season. And this year, junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold said the Knights are a whole different animal.
With Hofstra coming to the College Avenue Gym this weekend, Rutgers prepares for its first dual-meet against just one team.
“Last year, we had a good program and all that, but I feel like this year is our year,” Theobold said. “We have a lot of good kids out there and a lot of energy, so it’s going to be exciting.”
While the Knights have already opened up their season at the Rutgers duals against a trio of Division III programs, this matchup will be that much more competitive. Going up against its first Division I opponent leaves a true test for Rutgers.
Head coach Scott Goodale expects an improvement in competition from the Rutgers Duals going into this weekend’s dual.
“We expect them to be unbelievably competitive. They’ll wrestle hard — we know that,” Goodale said. “We’re excited for some of these big matches that are coming up on Sunday night. That’s really all we are looking at right now. Its two good programs, and we’re going to wrestle hard. It’s a step up in competition.”
Bonus points always aid teams in dual-competition, but the Knights always try to pick up bonus points when they can.
While last season’s matchup with the Dutchman was won due to bonus points — in addition to many other dual-meets along the way — the Knights will look for them when they can to help ensure team wins.
“We’ve got to keep scoring them,” Goodale said of how bonus points have helped Rutgers. “Major decision, technical falls and pins … are very important. You get a guy on their back, you got to put them away and you got to stick them. It’s something we’ve been preaching, and we will continue to do that. When we win dual-meets, it’s because of bonus points. That’s got to be part of the mindset going in.”
While Goodale does not want to reflect on last season, Theobold has thought plenty about his match last season against Hofstra and has been thinking about his possible redemption.
When Theobold matched up against Cody Ruggirello, he dropped the decision by fall in the third period. Since then, Theobold has looked for an opportunity to get even with Ruggirello.
“There’s a lot of revenge to be had,” Theobold said. “I was supposed to wrestle this kid at the EIWAs last season for third or fourth place, but it didn’t work out that way. I’m very excited to have a little revenge match. It’s more personal now than anything.”
While it might be a regular dual-meet for everyone outside of Theobold, it serves as something else for one of the new faces of the Rutgers wrestling program.
Redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault, who dominated at the Rutgers Duals and collected three bonus-point decisions, will open up in his first Division I program. While he may have officially debuted two weekends ago, this match serves as his real introduction to the NCAA wrestling circuit.
“I’m just really excited, both individually and for the team. It’s a chance for myself to really promote my abilities on the national level [since] this kid’s ranked in a couple polls,” Ashnault said. “And it’s a chance for Rutgers wrestling to promote ourselves and really dominate Hofstra. … Rutgers Duals — not to knock any of those teams — [is] not like … wrestling a Division I school or individuals. It’s definitely a big step up, and that’s how I’ll approach it.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.