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Title shot gives senior motivation

<p>Senior Scott Winston has one more year to become a national champion.</p>

Senior Scott Winston has one more year to become a national champion.

It was third grade when Scott Winston and the rest of his class had to write their goals on the chalkboard.

Some listed dreams of becoming NFL superstars. Others wanted to be rocket scientists.

Winston picked wrestling national champion.

“[My classmates’ dreams] are kind of a wash,” the senior 157-pounder said Tuesday while untaping his ankles after practice. “I’m still living my dream, and I feel blessed that the dream I wrote down when I was little is right in front of my face.”

Winston has one more season to turn an NCAA qualification — which he accomplished in each season he has been with the Rutgers wrestling team — into a championship showing.

Winston’s plan this year is to treat his goal as a staircase, looking at each day as a step toward the podium in March at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

The plan included dropping from the 165-pound class he competed at last year, a move Winston said made him a better wrestler.

The Jackson, N.J., native also changed his eating and sleeping habits, allowing him to focus more on training.

Head coach Scott Goodale said he needed it.

“This sport is a life style. You either live it and succeed or you do it half and fall short of your goals,” Goodale said. “His maturity right now and his lifestyle has changed dramatically. When he decided to go down to 157, his whole life changed throughout the summer — the way he ate, the way he lived, the way he trained for this sport.”

Winston also credits a newfound focus he has developed, which he believes was absent last season.

“I would make it through with my work ethic, but I wasn’t necessarily getting better because I wasn’t focused before walking into the room,” Winston said. “So I did a better job of visualizing and having key points for each day to attack.”

He demonstrates his focus with his ability to quickly move on from matches.

After his last-second loss to Clarion’s James Flemming on Nov. 11, Winston went 3-0 at the Northeast Duals on Saturday, including a 3-1 decision against Columbia’s No. 11 Jake O’Hara that showcased his day-by-day approach.

The performance did not surprise Goodale.

“It is always good to see him do well, but I don’t put much stock into it because I expect it from him, and I know the way he’s trained and prepared for this season,” Goodale said. “So it was totally expected.”

For now, Winston continues to approach his goal on a daily basis, following a dream formulated on a chalkboard in his third-grade classroom.

It is a dream he believes is well within reach.

“Every day I work toward the national title,” Winston said. “I walk around like I’m a national champ. Fake it until you make it, I’m a firm believer in that.”

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