Big Ten wrestling team needs new practice space
One week ago, a Change.org petition titled “Keep The Rutgers Rock Wall Open” surfaced. The petition states that the Rutgers rock climbing wall is in danger of being taken down by Rutgers Recreation and the Athletic Department. The wall currently sits on the ground level of the College Avenue Gym, and a recent Daily Targum article, written by Copy Editor Chris Roney, said that the wall could be taken down in favor of a larger practice room for the wrestling team.
Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale and the wrestling program do have plans to expand their facilities — which they desperately need to do. But the petition, with over 2,000 signatures, is news to Goodale, who said he never wanted the space where the rock wall sits, rejecting that idea immediately.
Although the controversy surrounding a Big Ten program taking the facility of the underdog Rutgers Climbing Team was unnecessary and proved incorrect by Goodale, there still needs to be a conversation. The conversation that needs to be had is that the wrestling facilities are out of date and out of place for a Big Ten Wrestling program. If there is any underdog in the Big Ten at Rutgers, it is the Rutgers Wrestling team.
Out of all 14 schools in the Big Ten Conference, Rutgers is the only program with a two-mat wrestling room. All other programs in the Big Ten have either three mats or four mats, Goodale said. With room for only two mats, Rutgers has to split up practices to ensure that everyone on the team gets enough work in, sometimes leading to injury and fatigue in an already grueling Big Ten schedule.
Along with a small room, Rutgers has other issues with their dated facilities. What sticks out most when I go to cover the team is that I have to travel down into the depths of the College Avenue Gym. Walking down into the basement, a visitor to the gym would have a hard time finding the current wrestling room. Walk through the weight rooms, past the sauna and you will see a small 40-by 80-foot room. Just outside of the room are about half a dozen stationary bikes. On each bike, there is a ranking system of the effectiveness of each ones use. One of the bikes reads, “Broken — still works.” That’s what the wrestling team has to work with.
Scott Goodale, by self-proclamation and by every interaction I’ve had with him for the past two years, is a blue-collared guy. All the wrestlers and coaches are blue-collared guys, which is exactly what Goodale wants in his program. Goodale wants wrestlers and coaches who aren’t afraid to work and can do it with what is provided.
But the reality is, if you look at schools like Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan, you see that they have four-mat, stand-alone wrestling rooms that dwarf anything the Scarlet Knights have to offer. When recruits interested in Rutgers see that they will have to wrestle in a basement with pipes and air vents hanging off the walls and ceiling, they will look elsewhere. Goodale called the facility contest an uphill battle that the Knights lose every time.
As Rutgers transitioned into the Big Ten, the facilities have yet to hurt the team. Rutgers ended the season ranked No. 21 in the country, according to USA Today/NWCA Coaches. Rutgers will also send five wrestlers to St. Louis for the NCAA Championships next week.
But, what the Knights (14-7, 2-7) didn’t do this season is have a winning record against the Big Ten — all seven of Rutgers losses came against Big Ten teams, and they won only two. Although they were Top-25 in the country, Rutgers finished 10th in the Big Ten during the regular season and placed 11th at the Big Ten Tournament.
If nothing is done about a new facility, the Rutgers wrestling team won’t have a chance to ascend to where the other Big Ten schools are. Rutgers has the opportunity to be a premiere wrestling school in the top wrestling conference if they can train and recruit like other schools do. The one thing holding them back is their facilities and the lack of upgrade on the horizon.
If all five NCAA qualifiers reach the podium as All-Americans next week, like they plan to do, Goodale will be in unique company at Rutgers. A Top-25 program with multiple All-Americans is hard to come by at Rutgers. And when Anthony Ashnault, Anthony Perrotti or any other Knight becomes a National Champion, like they dream of doing under Goodale, it won’t be because they didn’t work hard. But if the wrestling team doesn’t accomplish their expectations, it will be because someone at Rutgers didn’t work nearly as hard to find them a new wrestling room. And that is a controversy that needs to be changed.
Tyler Karalewich is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and history. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.