Knights earn biggest win in Goodale era
Scott Goodale and the Rutgers wrestling team came close for years, but could never take down a top-tier program — until this weekend.
The four-year head coach and his Scarlet Knights came within one point of beating Penn State last year and fell by three to Virginia Tech two seasons ago as their search for a signature win hit dead ends at every turn — until this weekend.
At the Northeast Duals in Albany, N.Y., the No. 24 Knights went toe-to-toe with No. 16 Missouri and finally flexed their muscles, winning, 19-16.
"That was a huge win for this program," said Goodale, whose team also earned wins in Albany over Stanford and Columbia by scores of 18-13 and 29-9, respectively. "You have to put teams like that on your schedule. I don't care what sport it is — you have to challenge your athletes against the best teams in the country."
The dual against the Tigers (5-3) came down to the final bout tied at 16 apiece. The match pitted senior DJ Russo, the No. 5 heavyweight in the country, against No. 2 Dom Bradley.
The Missouri junior took a 3-2 lead into the final seconds before Russo stormed back with a takedown in the match's waning moments to earn a 4-3 decision and give Rutgers (7-1) the win.
"It was nerve-racking. It gave me a heart attack," said sophomore Dan Rinaldi about the match. "It was a roller coaster — such a wide range of emotions. With 11 seconds left, [Russo] almost gets a takedown and then he almost gets taken down. Then Bradley's sitting on a single leg with short time left and DJ throws in a whizzer and hips him over. The whole side just went nuts."
Russo remains undefeated with the win, a victory that was all but decided after Bradley jumped out to a 3-1 lead.
"I thought that it was going to be very difficult to take this kid down," Goodale said. "But with about 20 seconds to go, [Russo] just started wrestling hard. When DJ wrestles hard, it's hard to beat him."
Rinaldi also delivered a critical victory of his own against the Tigers at 184 pounds. The sophomore earned a 2-0 decision as part of an undefeated day for the Lodi, N.J., native.
The three wins come one week after Rinaldi let a 4-1 lead over No. 6 Quentin Wright of Penn State fall by the wayside in the form of a 6-4 overtime defeat.
"You can look at it two ways: You can either dwell on it and keep kicking yourself in the tail for it or you can learn from it and move forward from it," Rinaldi said. "I'm going to choose the road of learning from it and not making that mistake again."
Missouri took the first three matches of the dual to jump out to a 10-0 lead.
But the Knights came storming back courtesy of three straight wins, including a pin at 165 pounds from No. 8 sophomore Scott Winston that flipped the score from Missouri being ahead, 10-7, into a 13-10 Rutgers lead.
"That was a huge swing of not only momentum, but the team score also," Goodale said. "That's like another win for us."
The Jackson Memorial High School product's victory came just two minutes into the match, when both he and No. 14 Zach Toal scrambled on the mat.
With both wrestlers in vulnerable positions, Winston was able to hold down Toal's shoulders long enough for his third pin of the young season.
"We were just in a scramble and watching the film, I honestly think that I was pinned a couple of times," Winston said. "I ended up coming out on top."
For Goodale, even the losses in the lighter weight classes marked contributions for the Knights' first signature win.
"Someone like [junior 133-pound] Mike DeMarco, you look at it where he loses 5-3 — that's a win for us," Goodale said. "I'm sure that [Missouri] expected to get bonus points out of that match because they do a good job down low."
The win over the Tigers is one that was four years in the making and it might be the win that gets the Knights rolling.
"I think that win put us on the map as a program," Winston said. "It was a great atmosphere. Both teams were into it. People in the stands who weren't with Rutgers or Missouri were into the match. It's a win we have been searching after for a while."