Pair of Knights enter mix upon returning from redshirt season
Ken Theobold completed his junior season with a record of 24-9 and an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. His reward was taking a redshirt season the following year.
“(Goodale) wanted me around for an extra year and I wanted to pursue on that,” Theobold said of the rationale behind the decision. “Redshirt and take a year to really grow as a wrestler.”
To ask one of the best athletes on the Rutgers wrestling team to not compete for an entire year is a tall task, but it is nothing out of the ordinary for head coach Scott Goodale and other coaches around the country.
It is the world of college athletics, and that one year could end up being the most significant in the five a redshirt athlete spends at his or her university.
“Going into my redshirt year, I knew there were two things — I could fall back on it and not do well because the pressure it not there and you lose that competitive edge or I could take that experience and redshirting and turn it around and make it beneficial,” Theobold said.
Balancing those two becomes a hefty challenge for athletes of all arenas, as they are stripped of the training, practice and match routine that characterizes their seasons.
No. 10 Theobold, a fifth-year senior 149-pounder out of Toms River, New Jersey, was joined by junior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio in the weight room last season, as he donned the redshirt in his third year as a Scarlet Knight as well.
DelVecchio, like Theobold, also went from being NCAA qualifier to watching his teammates soar up the ranks the following year.
“After that season, I kind of knew I was going to redshirt the next season,” DelVecchio said. “I mentally prepared for it, but a side of you doesn’t want to do it — you just want to keep competing.”
And with last season’s success, 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault and 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti both earning All-American status, it was especially tough for competitors like DelVecchio and Theobold to sit around.
“It was definitely challenging to see my team — obviously, we competed really hard last year and we had ranked matches,” Theobold said.
Another challenge set in their paths was the rise of others in their weight classes.
Before last year, DelVecchio and Theobold were the starting wrestlers in their respective weight classes, but in their absences, others filled in the gaps and left question marks on Goodale’s lineup.
“Kenny and (sophomore Anthony) Giraldo, why should Giraldo be out of the lineup?” Goodale said. “We gotta figure that out.”
In Theobold’s absence came Giraldo, who posted a 17-16 record last year, qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Theobold had nothing but praise for Giraldo, who moved up two weight classes to join him at 149 pounds. Theobold has taken a coaching role of sorts, training with Giraldo and and helping him grow as the season wears on.
“I’m pushing him every single day as he’s pushing me every single day,” Theobold said. “He’s a great wrestler, and I learn a lot from him too. The biggest thing he can take out of this year is to keep a very positive mindset. Anything can happen, and I want him to look at this as another growing period possibly.”
So far in the 2016-2017 campaign, Giraldo has gotten some meaningful reps in, though Theobold is Goodale’s go-to at the 149 division. Giraldo scored a major decision over Cornell’s Dan Reed at the Grapple at the Garden, improving his record to 7-2 on the season.
So while Theobold and Giraldo have not come at the expense of the former’s time on the mat, the same cannot be said for DelVecchio, who had to make way for No. 13 Tyson Dippery, who also moved weights to hit the 133-pound mark.
“He’s been dedicated,” DelVecchio said of Dippery. “He’s got a good diet, and he’s bringing his weight down and everything. All of it is sport, no hard feelings, we’re both good friends so it’s best man wins.”
And so far, Dippery’s spotless 8-0 clip has left DelVecchio picking up the scraps as his 4-1 record, though nothing to scoff at, pales in comparison to Dippery’s.
But so is life for those who take redshirt seasons — they risk others stepping up in their places, no matter how hard they train in their year off.
Though DelVecchio has certainly fallen victim to that in the early season, he and Theobold are much less concerned with the repercussions of sitting out for an entire year.
That lack of wrestling has made them hungrier as ever for more success.
Whether their goals are to become national champions or become All-Americans, the fervor is all the same. It’s there and getting back on the mat has been a long time coming.
“It kind of just made me realize how much I wanted to get back out there,” DelVecchio said. “I’m just really amped.”
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