Lehigh match offers chance to build résumés
It does not matter to Scott Winston that his 165-pound counterpart from Lehigh will be absent today with a broken collarbone. It does not matter that the marquee rematch of last year’s All-American-deciding and dual-meet-momentum-shifting meetings will have to wait until at least the EIWA Tournament.
Winston said he was embarrassed by his 7-2 loss to Brandon Hatchett in last year’s dual-meet, but he was equally embarrassed by a 21-9 Lehigh victory that extended its winning streak against Rutgers to 37.
“Last year I viewed this as the biggest dual in our program’s history, and I think you’re crazy if you didn’t think it was at that time,” said the 10th-ranked Winston. “They came in here and spanked us pretty good. It was in front of a big crowd, in front of New Jersey … and they came out and embarrassed us.”
This year’s EIWA meeting does not hold nearly the importance.
It is at Lehigh’s 6,000-seat capacity Stabler Arena, not in front of an anxious Rutgers crowd at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. It features a favored Lehigh lineup with three top-10 wrestlers and another ranked 15th in his weight class.
And it welcomes a Rutgers squad not built for dual-meets as much as it was in seasons past, but more focused on placing All-Americans at the NCAA Tournament.
As much as Winston and the Scarlet Knights want it, this match is more about an opportunity to pick up résumé-building wins and less about picking up the first dual-meet victory against the Mountain Hawks since Feb. 22, 1950.
“Those are the [matches] you sign up for, and there’s a lot of them,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “Heck, you can go up and down the lineup — they’re pretty good in a lot of different spots, so there’s a lot of signature wins. You just have to do it.”
Winston will miss his rematch with 12th-ranked Hatchett, but Winston does not necessarily need a marquee win. The defending EIWA Champion at 165 pounds will qualify for the NCAA Tournament and be in the All-American conversation.
Some of his teammates could bolster their credentials, though.
Senior 141-pounder Billy Ashnault won his past seven matches, but has a test Friday in 15th-ranked Stephen Dutton. Junior 197-pounder Dan Rinaldi is 15-3 this year and unbeaten in dual meets, but not against an opponent like No. 10 Joe Kennedy.
“He needs a big win, a signature win,” Goodale said of Rinaldi, who could also face an unranked Kadeem Samuels. “You need to pick somebody off who is highly regarded, then it becomes a confidence thing. He doesn’t have one of those. … If it’s Kennedy, that’s a signature win. If it’s Samuels, that’s a good win. That’s depth.”
Lehigh features depth throughout, but its strength is in the heavy weights.
Defending NCAA Champion Zach Rey is ranked third nationally at heavyweight and defending national runner-up Robert Hamlin is ranked fourth at 184 pounds.
Sophomore 184-pounder Dan Seidenberg will have arguably the toughest weekend in a Rutgers singlet, facing Hamlin on Friday and Navy’s 13th-ranked Luke Rebertus on Sunday at the RAC.
“It’s a big name, and I’ve seen him in big matches,” Seidenberg said of Hamlin. “I know he has incredible pace and wrestles hard, so I’m going to go out there and bang with him.”
It is the mindset Goodale tried to instill in his team all week approaching the match, which Goodale realizes is more about winning individual bouts than snapping a six-decade long streak.
But that does not stop Winston from wanting to erase his embarrassment.
“It’s something I want to do, go into Stabler Arena and throw them a beating, let them taste it a little bit,” Winston said. “It hasn’t happened in 60 years. They don’t even think about Rutgers wrestling over there.”