Junior college transfer shoots for seamless transfer to Rutgers
In the latter stages of his high school career, Richie Lewis didn’t have an exact college in mind for where he planned on continuing to wrestle at the next.
Although he didn’t have a specific school in mind, Lewis was settled on going somewhere away from his Toms River, New Jersey, residence.
So even though head coach Scott Goodale recruited Lewis when he was a junior in high school and constantly told him that he was a fan of his, Rutgers wasn’t on his radar of prospective schools due to its proximity to his hometown.
But Lewis decided to attend junior college at Iowa Central to work on his craft more before choosing which four-year university to move on to.
In his first two seasons at Iowa Central, Lewis claimed the title of an All-American in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) twice at his 157-pound weight class. In his two trips to the NJCAA Championships, Lewis finished third and second overall, respectively.
Following his successes at Iowa Central, Lewis received a familiar phone call, which would wind up convincing him to make his final decision as to where he would wrestle out his final two years of collegiate eligibility.
“After I did pretty well at junior college, I got another phone call from coach and (he's) ‘still a Richie Lewis fan.’ He kind of sold me over with his consistency and his determination," Lewis said. "Him and (associate head coach Donny) Pritzlaff told me I could be a national champion here. They’re really the only coaches that made me believe they could make that happen for me.”
Lewis has come to Rutgers not only with a chance to become an All-American and National Champion in his weight class, but also with the chance to make an immediate impact on the No. 17 wrestling team in the country.
As senior All-American Anthony Perrotti moved up in weight to 165-pound class, the move allowed Lewis to claim the 157-pound spot in the starting lineup.
In his Division I wrestling debut at the Rutgers Duals, Lewis won both of his matches against opponents from Franklin & Marshall and Binghamton, with one of them coming by way of pin fall.
Although the Knights are still in the beginning stages of the regular season, Lewis has adjusted smoothly to Division I wrestling and said he feels a lot more confident on the mat as a member of the Rutgers wrestling team.
“I just feel so much more confident on the mat,” Lewis said. “Going out there a lot of my matches (at junior college) were toss-up matches when I would wrestle D-I guys. Now I just feel so much more prepared and so much more in control of myself and the matches.”
Perrotti, who is Lewis’s training partner, has been impressed with what he has so far from the junior college transfer.
“He’s doing good, he’s wrestled really hard in the room (practice facility),” Perrotti said. “Just finding his grove on the mat, pulling the trigger. He looked good last Sunday when we wrestled. Now we got a couple big tests and we’re going see what he’s made of. He looks good, he competes hard in the room with everyone, so I’m not surprised if he does really good.”
At the upcoming Northeast Duals on Sunday, Lewis will have the opportunity to show how he matches up against grapplers from other top programs. The Knights will face three ranked opponents in No. 13 North Carolina, No. 22 Oklahoma and No. 25 Northern Iowa.
Lewis will get his first taste of big-time Division I wrestling, and the original member of his fan club is looking forward to seeing how he responds to the intensity of those matches.
“Super talented, the kid can wrestle,” Goodale said. “You’ll find out a lot about him. Can he handle adversity, there’s going to be a lot of tough matches for him this weekend. That’s something we’re looking for, how he handles any type of adversity and he’ll get some for sure this weekend.”
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