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Goodale vows to return to former coaching philosophy

<p>Senior 141-pounder Billy Ashnault will return next season as an assistant coaching following his performance in St. Louis.</p>

Senior 141-pounder Billy Ashnault will return next season as an assistant coaching following his performance in St. Louis.

Scott Goodale realizes he is in store for his longest offseason yet.

After a season designed to produce the Rutgers wrestling team’s first All-American since 2002 and a dual-meet schedule with more losses than any in Goodale’s four-year tenure, the head coach has no choice.

“I’m going to try to remember very little from this season,” Goodale said. “I’ve never really been in this situation of not winning.”

Goodale had a dominant dual-meet campaign and the energy of a new March-specific mindset after two wrestlers fell short of All-American honors a year ago. Now he has a 13-8 season and only one of five NCAA qualifiers reaching the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships to remember for the next seven months.

He takes part of the blame himself.

Goodale admitted some regret in making the entire season about only March as he underestimated the effect a sub-par regular season would have on his team.

So rather than altering the entire mindset of the program again, the Scarlet Knights will simply return to the mentality it carried in Goodale’s first three seasons.

For Goodale and his staff, that means approaching a dual-meet season highlighted by home matches against two-time defending national champion Penn State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Lehigh as if it were the postseason.

For his wrestlers, it means returning to an attacking style.

“We can teach the technique. We can get these guys in great shape. We can get them strong, deal with nutrition and stuff like that. But they have to develop an exciting style of wrestling where it’s fun and it’s all-out,” Goodale said. “Two, three years ago it was fun to watch us. Last year it was fun to watch us. We’d go out there, rack up a bunch of points, pin some people and it was fun. We have to get back to that.”

Rutgers has an opportunity with a projected lineup that returns six NCAA qualifiers and talented redshirts that made this season a struggle while out of the lineup.

The Knights lose 141-pounder Billy Ashnault, who made a run at the podium last week in St. Louis, but Ashnault will remain in a coaching capacity. And in the final days of Ashnault’s fifth-year senior season, he set an example of how next year’s team can learn from this year’s mistakes — even with a torn ligament in his elbow.

“Something changed with him and it clicked where he believed it,” Goodale said. “We haven’t been around those types of kids because we haven’t had kids who have done it. But he flat-out believed he was going to win every time out. It’s about a game plan and an approach, but more a mindset. That’s what this program needs.”

The mindset now is to win every time Rutgers enters the circle.

Goodale says his staff always sought to produce All-Americans and national champions, only not at the expense of the dual-meet season.

That is how it will be once again.

“It can’t be, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter. It’s all about March,’” Goodale said. “No, it can’t be that way. It does matter. It’s important. You have to balance both.”

Health will remain a focus for the Knights, but that was their main concern this season, and junior 149-pounder Mario Mason still had to take a medical forfeit at the NCAA Championships after spraining his ankle at the EIWA Tournament.

Mason gave the Knights their best shot at the podium this season, but even when he started the year ranked third in the nation, Goodale was unsure whether he would place in the top eight at the NCAA Championships.

And that was during a year in which the postseason was the only focus.

“I thought about it and you start thinking, ‘What if? What if we don’t do it?’ I never let on to that, but that tournament is never a sure thing,” Goodale said. “You never know what’s going to happen at that tournament, so it’s never a guarantee. I can’t sit here today and say we’re definitely going to have an All-American next year. The reality is I don’t know. You would hope … but things need to change.”

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