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Freshman grappler earns top accolades

<p> Redshirt-freshman Anthony Ashnault earned All-American honors in 2014 after posting a 28-9 record for the Knights.</p>

 Redshirt-freshman Anthony Ashnault earned All-American honors in 2014 after posting a 28-9 record for the Knights.

When the Amateur Wrestling News publication announced its 2015 All-Rookie Team on April 28, only one member of the Rutgers wrestling team was selected.

With three newcomers to the Scarlet Knights lineup in the 2014-15 season, the lone Rutgers wrestler that stood out was redshirt-freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault.

Along with the national recognition for being one of the top-30 rookies in the country, The Daily Targum named Ashnault Rookie of the Year.

Ashnault started out the 2014 season as well as anyone could have expected. After redshirting his first year in college — winning the National Collegiate Open, going 15-3 unattached and winning the 2014 Asics University Freestyle National Champion at 65 KG — Ashnault had big expectations going into the season.

"I don't need to put any more expectations than (what) he puts on himself,'' said head coach Scott Goodale prior to the season. “He wants to win National tournaments and Olympic medals and World medals. I believe in all those expectations, I believe in the hype. I haven't seen anybody work harder. He's going to have a great career. We have certain things we'll expect when he takes the mat, but man, he has some lofty goals, and I wouldn't bet against him, that's for sure. He's pretty darn good.”

With his expectations high for the season, Ashnault did not disappoint.

Ashnault finished his inaugural campaign with an eighth-place, All-American finish at the 2015 National Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. Ashnault went 3-1 in his first four bouts before injuring his hamstring midway through his fifth match against Oklahoma’s Dean Heil.

Ashnault went on to lose the bout along with a medical forfeit in his final match, ending his tournament in eighth place and duplicating what junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti did at the 2014 NCAAs.

As pleased as Ashnault was to be named an All-American, he would have liked to finish third at NCAAs and join elite company. While eighth place at the National Tournament is respectable, Ashnault wanted more and expects more from his career down the line.

“It's great to be an All-American, it's just eighth is kind of like the bottom of the totem pole of All-Americans,” Ashnault said after being finished with the 2015 NCAAs. “It's good, I'm grateful and I'm proud of myself. I'm happy, but I think I've got a lot more potential in me.”

During the regular season, Ashnault solidified the lower weight classes and was a solid force in the starting lineup for the Knights.

The South Plainfield, New Jersey, native finished his season 29-8 and ended up with a team-high 19-2 record in the dual-meet season. Ashnault earned rankings as high as fifth in the nation during the season, bestowed upon him from Intermat earlier in the year.

The only freshman All-American in Rutgers wrestling program history, Ashnault also placed the highest at the Big Ten Tournament for the Knights notching a fifth-place finish.

When it comes to new faces for Rutgers Athletics, Ashnault takes home the crown for best rookie in this year’s Daily Targum Sports Awards. Ashnault will aim for bigger and better laurels in the 2015-2016 wrestling season for the Knights.

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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