Rutgers looks to bounce back from loss to Cornell at Journeymen Tussle tournament held at Hofstra
Rebounding is not just restricted to basketball. In every sport, teams have to bounce back from adversity in order to prosper, and the same goes for the Rutgers wrestling team.
After a 28-10 loss to No. 8 Cornell at last weekend’s Grapple at the Garden at Madison Square Garden, the No. 12 Scarlet Knights (5-1) look to redeem themselves on Sunday at the 2016 Journeymen Tussle at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
Going from Manhattan to Long Island, the Knights will participate in the round-robin event, doing battle with any of North Carolina State, Penn, Brown, Campbell, Citadel and the hosting Pride.
Rutgers stands as the only ranked team involved in Sunday’s all-day affair, but that does not necessarily rule out the other programs.
Especially with the likes of NC State and Penn, the event poses a significant challenge to head coach Scott Goodale’s squad.
“NC State, nationally ranked program, really, really deep,” Goodale said. “Every kid they’re going to put out is going to very talented. Very, very tough team. UPenn is a very, very tough team. Hofstra’s getting better. I don’t know much about Brown. Campbell’s getting better.”
Above the team measures, Goodale also hopes that this weekend bodes some compelling individual matchups.
“There will be some really key individual matchups as far as national rankings go with an opportunity to get our guys some national recognition, that’s what you want,” Goodale said.
Outside of the Knights’ roster, there will be seven ranked wrestlers competing Sunday.
One of the most anticipated potential battles for Sunday is junior 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault squaring off with NC State junior Kevin Jack. Ashnault and Jack are jockeying for position in the rankings, at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, which would spell an impactful result if the two were to wrestle.
Ashnault and Jack have only wrestled once before. In the third-place match at the Midlands Championships last season, Jack served Ashnault his first loss of the season after starting out 17-0.
“I’m just looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to improve, especially since I lost to him last year,” Ashnault said. “I really wanna make it something personal for me because I lost to him, and I want to be able to beat him. And get back on top, get under his skin to make him know that I’m the better wrestler.”
The other matchups all depend on how concrete Goodale’s lineup is for this Sunday. With a couple of duels possibly in the books, the coach will most likely employ a rotational side at some aspects of the bouts, in order to keep his guys fresh.
But lately, Goodale has said that the lineup is far from set in stone, as competition between same-weight wrestlers has left him with a few tough decisions to make.
“The good thing about this weekend, in a tournament-type situation, is we’ll be able to wrestle more than one guy at a weight,” Goodale said. “A lot of our issues with who’s going where and what the lineup is going to be, a lot of is going to shake out probably over this tournament and the Midlands tournament over winter break.”
And though rotations may come into play against lesser opponents, one guy who will almost surely factor into play on Sunday will be senior 149-pounder Ken Theobold.
At No. 10 with a 6-0 record so far this season, Theobold’s success has come on the other side of a redshirt season, a time in which transitioning from unattached play to attached play could take time to manage.
“I’ve just been consistently doing hard work every day,” Theobold said. “I came off my redshirt year expecting a lot and having high expectations for myself. So therefore, I’m happy with my performance right now. I’m looking forward to moving on and beating better ranked opponents.”
And in the same light as Ashnault, if Rutgers were to go up against NC State this Sunday, Theobold would meet senior Sam Speno on the mat.
Six spots below at No. 16, it would be Theobold’s third ranked bout of the season so far, after defeating then-No. 19 Jordan Laster of Princeton at the Battle at the Birthplace and then-No. 19 Joey Galasso of Cornell at the Grapple at the Garden.
Other ranked competitors that could spell trouble for the Knights include Campbell’s 125-pounder Nathan Kraisser, Penn’s 133-pounder Caleb Richardson, NC State’s 157-pounder Max Rohskopf, NC State’s 184-pounder Michael Macchiavello and Penn’s 197-pounder Frank Mattiace.
From those, potential matchups could see No. 6 Richie Lewis against No. 4 Rohskopf, pending Lewis’ status, after Goodale mentioned over the weekend that Lewis is battling some injuries and does not want to rush him back before Big Ten action.
No. 14 Nicholas Gravina and No. 18 Macchiavello could also do battle Sunday, which could pose as redemption for Gravina after an up-and-down day last weekend in Manhattan. Gravina scored a fall in under a minute in the duel against Columbia, but lost handily to No. 1 Gabe Dean of Cornell soon after.
For Goodale’s group, a lot can happen over the course of a multi-duel event, and a lot of the questions regarding the lineup and the overall status of the team will be in clearer view come Monday.
It’s the reason these tournaments stack up toward the early season, and for Goodale, it could not have come at a better time.
“It’s a good tournament for us," Goodale said. "This early in the season, it’s a really good tournament for us."