Podium focus shows through at Va.?Duals
As much as head wrestling coach Scott Goodale wants to win every dual meet, he recognizes this year’s squad is not exactly built for that type of competition.
With a lack of depth, the season’s focus is instead on individual All-Americans, which meant there was still plenty to take away from a fifth-place finish last weekend at the Virginia Duals for the 20th-ranked Scarlet Knights.
“It’s great for notoriety and it’s great for the program if you do well, but they’re dual meets,” Goodale said. “As much as I wanted to do well, we had guys injured and banged up, and that goes back to the philosophy we had coming into this year: We have to keep them healthy.”
That meant resting 197-pounder Dan Rinaldi for all but one match, even though he was medically cleared from a concussion on the second day of competition.
It meant there was no way 10th-ranked 165-pounder Scott Winston would find himself near a mat with some soreness in his shoulder, which he dislocated during a match Jan. 6 against Harvard, only to record a pin moments later.
And it meant a welcomed return for 125-pounder Joey Langel.
The junior, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, wrestled two matches in Virginia, winning one by pinfall and beating North Dakota State’s ranked Trent Sprenkle, 9-6, in the other.
“Joey just brings a certain spark. It’s crazy, crazy,” Goodale said. “I had no problem with him wrestling North Dakota State and a nationally-ranked kid. He just messed around, funked around, played with him. That’s Joey Langel.”
Goodale also saw the Billy Ashnault he expected from the start of the season, when the 141-pounder returned from a redshirt year to wrestle his senior season.
Ashnault lost to Old Dominion’s Justin LaValle in a dual meet early in the season when he started erratically, but he beat LaValle in a Virginia Dual rematch, part of a seven-match winning streak for the South Plainfield native.
Of the seven wins, two came via pinfall and three were major decisions.
“This is why I redshirted,” Ashnault said, “to feel this good when I’m wrestling.”
Now Goodale wants that good feeling to spread throughout the lineup.
Rutgers went winless at heavyweight and 165 pounds without Winston, and took one of four matches at 157 pounds in Hampton, Va.
“Nobody outside of this program is really going to care if you win or lose,” Goodale said. “Maybe your mommy, maybe your close friends, but that’s it. No one’s going to feel sorry for you, so find a way to win.”
Junior 149-pounder Mario Mason found a way in the two matches he wrestled in Virginia, but the nation’s fifth-ranked wrestler lost to Harvard’s Corey Jantzen, who is now ranked seventh, in a dual meet at the College Avenue Gym.
The loss followed a second-place finish at the Midlands Championships — the closest thing to the NCAA Tournament this early in the season.
Mason won four matches, including a semifinal bout with Oklahoma’s eighth-ranked Nick Lester before losing to former Purdue wrestler and Notre Dame College wrestling coach Jake Patacsil in the finals.
“It would be great to be a Midlands champ, but it doesn’t hurt him,” Goodale said of Mason. “The bottom line is he hasn’t wrestled well since then. We have to get him back on track.”
For some that means continuing to wrestle — but for most, it means rest.
“You can’t make it important in January,” Goodale said. “As much as it stinks, as much as we want to win duals, you have to think of down the road.”
Goodale welcomed Justis Flamio, a Navy transfer, into the program. The 133-pounder from Mahopac, N.Y., will redshirt this semester, then compete as a redshirt sophomore next season.