Goodale, RU separate from in-state rivals
The memory of the Rider match in 2009 is still fresh in the minds of the Rutgers wrestling team. For some it brings a smile. Head coach Scott Goodale recalls the tight 18-16 final score.
The match was a milestone for the program.
It was the first dual meet at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. It broke a 17-year-long record for most wins in a season. And it probably never should have been that way.
“I give a lot of credit to their coaching staff because it’s a small, private institution that doesn’t have football to sell,” Goodale said. “This one has the facilities, the academic support, football, Big East basketball — it’s got everything you want as an athlete. We have a lot more than Rider, but they do a good job of wrestling.”
The first RAC victory came in Goodale’s second year at Rutgers.
A pair of lopsided victories followed the next two seasons, and tomorrow the Scarlet Knights travel to both Princeton and Rider as the No. 17 team in the country and unquestioned favorites among the three state schools.
The Knights’ last dual-meet loss against Princeton, where they start the day, came in 1990. But before beating Rider at the RAC, Rutgers lost its previous five matches, including a 19-13 match in Goodale’s first season.
Asked if the rivalry should have ever been that close, Goodale’s answer was simple:
“They know what they’re doing and they’re doing something right, but I don’t think it should have been,” Goodale said. “But it was, and I give credit to them. That’s not a slight on them. It’s two totally different schools.”
They each recruited 14th-ranked 174-pounder Gregory Zannetti once, but that was when Goodale began to establish Rutgers as the dominant New Jersey program.
“He’s changed the whole culture around here,” Zannetti said. “It’s completely different.”
It sets up a matchup with Rider’s 11th-ranked Jim Resnick and gives the unbeaten Zannetti another opportunity to continue his climb through the national rankings.
Zannetti was lightly recruited out of J.P. Stevens High School, but Goodale said his No. 1 priority when taking the Rutgers job was locking down New Jersey. Zannetti took note of his early successes.
“Once I saw everyone was coming here, I said, ‘Forget it,’” Zannetti said. “[Rider] was under serious consideration at one time, but once I saw everyone coming over [to Rutgers], I had to come.”
Rutgers now has a lineup filled with New Jersey high school state champions. Rider has one.
Princeton boasts 125-pounder Garrett Frey as its most experienced wrestler after four years at Blair Academy and a pair of NCAA Championships appearances.
“He was in the Blair room for four years,” said 125-pounder Vincent Dellefave, “so it’s like he’s been in college six or seven years already with the way they do things.”
But Dellefave, a two-time state champion at Toms River East High School, still beat Frey when they met as freshmen. Then Joey Langel beat Frey last season.
It is part of the Knights’ dominance in New Jersey — something Goodale and assistant coach John Leonardis attempted to establish on Day 1. They took one of their earliest steps toward it in 2009 at the RAC.
“When I was a freshman and Goody and Leo were saying this kind of stuff, with the team we had and what they had done so far, it was kind of like, ‘What are these two talking about?’’ said 133-pounder Mike DeMarco, the only member of the team remaining since Goodale’s first year. “Over the course of a year or a year and a half, when you buy into their system and their vision, everything falls into place.”