Rutgers shoots to build off last seasons success
"Starting off the season strong" — a phrase that offers a message that would otherwise seem to be implied, yet it is constantly thrown around by teams as they embark on a new season.
While all teams would prefer to begin their seasons with a strong showing and a victory, debut performances don’t always turn out that way.
But for the Rutgers wrestling team, a strong start to the season seems imperative.
The No. 18 Scarlet Knights will open the 2015-2016 campaign on the Banks this Sunday in the Rutgers Duals.
It will be 1 of 2 events that Rutgers will compete in before its begins its daunting stretch in their schedule with consecutive meets against ranked opponents.
With such a short turnaround before facing numerous top-25 programs, the Knights understand how important it will be to be performing at a high level heading into that portion of their schedule.
“What’s unique about the sport of wrestling is November now becomes unbelievably important, it’s huge,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “We’ll start Nov. 1 at The Barn (College Avenue Gymnasium) but then two weeks following, we have three nationally ranked teams in North Carolina, Oklahoma and Northern Iowa.”
The Rutgers Duals is a quad-meet that features three other schools along with the Knights. In the event’s sophomore year, Rutgers welcomes Centenary College (New Jersey), Franklin & Marshall and Binghamton to the College Avenue Gymnasium. The Knights will essentially have three meets on Sunday, as they will face each of the three opponents separately throughout the day.
“It kind of simulates a tournament style of a day,” said sophomore All-American Anthony Ashnault. “You got a two-hour weigh-in and you wrestle three matches no matter what, no matter the results are.”
Last season, the quad-meet featured three Division III schools. Rutgers went on to sweep the event with a dominating combined score of 128-9.
This time around, one Division III school, Centenary, will be returning, while the other two opponents will be Division I schools. While they may not measure up to the ranked opponents that the Knights will face over the course of this season, both teams hailing from Rutgers' former conference, the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, won’t be taken lightly.
“I remember last year they did three Division III teams, which that was kind of a warm-up,” said senior All-American Anthony Perrotti. “No disrespect to Division III, but I think we train a lot harder than those programs. Now you’re bringing in Division I programs who are battle-tested and have been through the grind. So it’s going to be tough. It’s definitely still a warm-up, but you gotta be on your game and if you have a bad match, you might take a loss early and then you’re already behind the eight ball for the season.”
The Knights are coming off a season in which they finished No. 21 in the country with a 14-7 record. They enter the 2015-16 season with high expectations for their second go-round in the Big Ten.
Not only is Rutgers, as a team, ranked No. 18, but its individual grapplers are receiving high preseason recognition as well. In four separate wrestling publications, Anthony Giraldo, Anthony Ashnault, Anthony Perrotti and Billy Smith each landed in the top 16 within their respective weight classes.
After a long offseason of training against one another in preparation of fulfilling those high expectations, the Knights are eager to get their season underway and finally be able to compete against an opponent at this Sunday’s Rutgers Duals.
“It’s exciting. We’ve trained so hard for preseason and before the preseason,” Ashnault said. “Now it’s the regular season and it’s time to compete and show what our team can do … individually show what we can do. It’s exciting. I think we’re a little tired of training with each other. Going through the grind everyday, we wanna put it on some other guys.”
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