Knights get healthier on way to UVA
Practices for the Rutgers wrestling team are gradually becoming shorter, and dual meets hold even less importance.
With a 12-5 record and two dual meets and the National Duals remaining, the Scarlet Knights will not even approach the 20-win mark they passed two of the past three years. Head coach Scott Goodale has no choice but to come to terms with it.
“What does it mean now? What is the dual meet season now? Nothing,” Goodale said. “Nobody hates to lose as much as I do, but we’re not wrestling for anything. We still want to be unbelievably competitive … but I have to make a training regimen, so we’re peaking at the right time. That’s going to be our focus.”
Goodale has four weeks to make sure his team peaks at the EIWA Tournament and again almost two weeks later at the NCAA Championships.
His squad takes at least a step toward that tomorrow, when it travels to 20th-ranked Virginia with three of its four injured starters making the trip.
Junior Mario Mason, who maintained his top-five ranking at 149 pounds despite missing six of the past seven matches, will return in Charlottesville, Va. Redshirt freshman Anthony Volpe and sophomore Dan Seidenberg will also return.
And while senior Michael DeMarco remains out for one more weekend at 133 pounds, Goodale at least has clarity at his lightweights.
Junior 125-pounder Joey Langel will again wrestle up in place of DeMarco, and sophomore Vinny Dellefave has control of the 125-pound class for the rest of the season.
While it is more about health for Mason right now, Dellefave needs to knock off a ranked wrestler to bolster his postseason résumé. He has an opportunity this weekend against 11th-ranked Matt Snyder, one of five ranked Cavaliers.
Nick Sulzer, No. 17 at 165 pounds, is another.
Built in the same mold as Lehigh’s Brandon Hatchett, Sulzer’s long frame presents a matchup problem for 13th-ranked Scott Winston.
“It’s more of an in-your-face approach,” Goodale said. “He’s going to wrestle him for seven minutes, so it’s a big test.”
Winston will find himself at the NCAA Championships regardless of his results over the next month, but Goodale does not want the junior to wait until March.
Goodale plans to back off on Winston in practice, focusing on technique and conditioning more than anything else.
“He’s not wrestling great, and somewhere down the line he has to turn it around,” Goodale said. “We’re going to change up his training from here on out. He’s capable. I don’t know if you’re going to see the results this week, but you’re going to see the results probably two, three weeks down the line.”
That means few rides on this weekend’s dual in Virginia, which Rutgers beat, 25-12, two seasons ago at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Goodale would like to see Dellefave and senior 141-pounder Billy Ashnault knock off their ranked opponents. But Ashnault is likely NCAA Championships-bound without it, and Dellefave can qualify with a strong EIWA Tournament.
So a trip south for the Knights only brings them a week closer to when it matters.
“Sometimes coaches are go, go, go, go, go. We have to back off a little bit,” Goodale said. “We have to stop pounding and pounding and pounding. Right now it’s about getting healthy, because our good guys can wrestle with anybody in the country. It’s a matter of beating those guys.”