Goodale becoming one of school's elite
With stellar recruiting and improved records year after year, Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano firmly entrenched himself as the model for molding University sports programs into winners.
After a short time, the attitude around the team changed and it began to gain followers — students, fans and recruits alike.
It took Schiano five years to mold his team into a phenomenon when the Scarlet Knights played their first Bowl game in the Schiano era after the 2005 season.
It took Scott Goodale just one year to completely transform his sport into a culture — and barely anybody is giving him the acknowledgement he deserves.
The Rutgers wrestling program was not as bad as the football program was when Schiano took over nearly a decade ago. The Knights were perennial winners, though not in a dominating fashion, until back-to-back losing seasons marked the end of John Sacchi's impressive reign over the team.
When Goodale took over, much like Schiano took over after the tumultuous Terry Shea era, he had a vision for his program and planned on turning that dream into a reality.
"I have such a passion for New Jersey wrestling," Goodale said when he took over last year. "It's going to be a challenge, but I'm up for the challenge. We are going to try and take this team to the next level."
In his first season at the helm of the Knights, Goodale had a winning record and guided two wrestlers all the way to the NCAA Championships, the first pair of Rutgers athletes to compete there since the 2004-05 season, coincidentally the program's last winning season.
Not content, the former Jackson Memorial High School coach, a state power in its own right, brought in the school's first top five nationally ranked recruiting class in history, including current nationally ranked freshman and Jackson, N.J. product Scott Winston.
Just months later, Goodale has his program on the cusp of a top 25 ranking and well on the way to qualifying a number of wrestlers for the EIWA and NCAA Tournaments.
"I think every aspect of the prgram is a lot different now, there's a different intensity in the practice room," senior Mike Whalen said. "We're a lot more intense. Everyone is taking the program more seriously inside and out."
To put it in perspective, in Schiano's second year at the helm of the football program, Rutgers went 1-11 and failed to win a Big East game.
Not knocking Schiano because the job he did in turning the Knights into what they are today is truly incredible, but for Goodale to have such success so soon was nearly unfathomable.
Rutgers is in the same recruiting area as consistently ranked programs such as Lehigh, Cornell, Penn State and Rider, yet Goodale brought in a better recruiting class then all of them and has subsequently changed the wrestling culture in the area and the locker room.
"The way this team has gelled has been awesome," Winston said. "You have the guys who have been here for five years and then you have us freshman and it seems like we've been together for five years...We all just kind of bonded together, it's a fun atmosphere, I like going in there and Ilike seeing everybody, it puts a smile on my face."
Whereas the football team entertained casual fans for a long while who showed up to Rutgers Stadium because there was nothing else to do, the wrestlers took to the mats in front of relatively miniscule fans at the College Avenue Gym — and Goodale quickly changed that notion.
I was at a match last year when Rutgers beat Lehigh at the Barn on senior night in front of a little over 1,000 fans, no small turnout for something that went largely unpublicized. After the match, Goodale told me he anticipated much bigger and better things for his program.
Fast-forward 11 months, and the Louis Brown Athletic Center turned into the site of a brand new phenomenon as over 4,000 fans packed the RAC to witness a revved up Rutgers squad take down Rider for their school record 18th victory.
In a basketball-dominated metropolitan area where Rutgers football has taken over as the number one commodity in Middlesex County, it was a stark change of pace to see a slew of fans in scarlet shirts discussing wrestling after taking in a match at the site of the basketball teams.
And Goodale contends there is still much more work to do.
"I think because of the atmosphere [at the RAC], this was the first time that a lot of our guys were wrestling in front of a crowd like that, which is why we have to continue to compete in these situations," Goodale said. "I knew they would be tight — both teams wrestled tight — so it made for kind of a boring match, but the bottom line is a win is a win and we are certainly on our way to building something."
If Schiano is the benchmark for this type of turnaround, what does that make Goodale?
All the man has done is transform a program with a losing record into a force to be reckoned with in a matter of two seasons on the job.
Not only has Goodale put the wrestling program on the map as an up-and-coming EIWA power, but he has firmly entrenched himself next to Schiano and women's basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer as one of the best and most influential coaches at the school.
Matthew Stein welcomes all comments and criticisms at
—Chris Melchiorre contributed to this report.
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