A nine person recruiting class ranked 20th in the nation. Sounds good. The class is also No. 10 in the B1G. Such is life in the best wrestling conference in the country.
Head Coach Scott Goodale begins his ninth year leading the Knights (14-7, B1G 2-7), and has steadily built the program into a solid eastern competitor. The Big Ten, of course, is another animal.
Strengths from last year
The team finished 2014-15 as the No. 21 team and graduated only one wrestler, Nick Visicaro at 165. But it brings back a wealth of talent, including 2015 All American Anthony Ashnault (141) and 2014 All American Anthony Perrotti (157). Ashnault went 29-8, including 7-2 in the Big Ten. Perrotti, fighting an injury, was 13-5 (B1G 3-3). Add in 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio (21-12 B1G 5-4) and Ken Theobold (24-9, B1G 7-2) at 149, and the lower end of the lineup is strong.
At heavyweight, redshirt senior Billy Smith is back, bringing along a 20-10 (B1G 3-6) record.
The Upper Weights
In between Perrotti and Smith, the Knights had weights that had their share of ups and downs in 2014-15. The wrestlers at those four weights had a combined 7-28 record in Big Ten competition. That being said, redshirt Junior Phil Bakuckas did go 20-14 last year and is working to strengthen himself for the 2015-16 season. Assistant Coach Joe Pollard is impressed.
Goodale only recruited three wrestlers in that part of the lineup. South Brunswick's Jordan Pagano (165) is transferring from Penn State, Wille Scott from Brick is a 165-pounder, while Kyle Kremiller comes in at 197. Pagano spent one season in Happy Valley, posting an 8-8 record wrestling unattached. He wrestled for four seasons at Bergen Catholic, going 128-29 with a fourth-place NJSIAA State Championships finish at 160 pounds in 2014 and is a two-time district, region, and county champ.
Kremiller is the only out of state wrestler in this year's recruiting class. He was a four-year football and wrestling letterwinner at Perry (Ohio) HS and a two-time state placewinner and 2015 OHSAA Division II State Champion at 195 pounds. Last year, he achieved a 46-3 mark in his senior season.
Scott was a four-year letterwinner at Brick Township HS, placing sixth at the NJSIAA State Championships at 160 pounds in 2015, while also capturing a district and region championship. He holds the state record for most tech falls in his career (49) and in a single season (23). As Yoda might say, the "force" is strong in this one; his father, Bill, was a three-time district and region champ at Brick Memorial High School.
The Lower Weights
With the exception of Theobold and Perrotti, the returning lower weights lineup is populated by underclassmen. But there are six incoming wrestlers among the five weight classes. Sean McCabe was the principal 125 for Goodale, racking up a 15-10 (B1G 4-4) record as a redshirt sophomore. He'll be the lead dog for two freshmen, Luis Gonzalez (Don Bosco) and Peter Lipari (Bergen Catholic).
Gonzalez was a two-year letterwinner at North Bergen HS before finishing his final two years of high school at Don Bosco. He was a four-time NJSIAA placewinner and 2013 State Champion at 113 pounds, placing fifth as a senior in 2014 at 120 pounds. As a sophomore he took fourth at 113 pounds in 2012 and was runner-up at 103 pounds in 2011 as a freshman. Luis is a two-time FloNationals All-American and will be an early threat: he wrestled atArmy Prep, placing second at the New York State Collegiate Championships. His uncle, Pete, was a two-time Division III National Champion Montclair State in 1988 and '89 and two-time Division I All-American wrestle.
Lipari is the second Bergen Catholic wrestler. He is a three-time NJSIAA placewinner at BC, finishing seventh at 126 pounds in 2015, sixth in 2014, and seventh at 120 pounds in 2013. He was ranked as a high as No. 15 at 126 pounds by FloWreslting, while placing fifth at the Beast of the East.
Sam Cali (133/141) and William Povolac (141/149) are in swing position with their weights. With the South Plainfield duo of Ashnault and DelVecchio at 133 and 141, respectively, neither of these wrestlers will likely be called upon this year for service.
Cali, like Gonzalez, is out of Don Bosco Prep. He is a two-time district champ and NJSIAA placewinner, with an 89-28 record through his high school career. He placed fourth at the Beast of the East and third at the NJSIAA State Championships at 132 pounds as a senior. He was a senior national finalist and finished fifth at sophomore nationals.
Povolac is out of Edison High School. A two-time NJSIAA placewinner, he finished fourth at 145 pounds in 2015 and fifth at 138 pounds in 2014. Povolac was Region 5 runner-up in 2015, finishing third in 2014 and was a two-time Greater Middlesex County and District 19 champ (2014, 2015).
Ronald Gentile (Paulsboro ) and(Iowa Central/Toms River High School East) round out the class. Lewis is coming in to Rutgers after being a two-time National Junior College Athletic Association All-American, finishing second and third in two tournament trips while at Iowa Central. At Toms River East he placed at the NJSIAA Championships three times, finished third at 138 pounds in 2013, fifth at 132 pounds in 2012, and seventh at 119 pounds in 2011.
Gentile was the 2014 NJSIAA State Champion at 138 pounds. He finished as runner-up at 132 pounds at 2013 and was a two-time Region 8 (2013, 2014) and District 29 (2013, 2014) Champion.
The Coach's Take
Overall, Goodale is pleased with the class, "We are very excited about this incoming group of student-athletes. We believe there is tremendous upside with every one of them and the staff believes with the right work ethic and mindset, this group has the potential to do some really good things in the future." At the same time, he knows they don't have to perform immediately. "There will be a developmental stage, but we feel we are in a position where they don't need to be the guys right away. In the future we believe these guys will challenge for spots in the starting lineup."
And from the other side of the country....
Outdoor wrestling matches are rare, though they have occurred. In 2014, Cal Poly hosted Oregon State in 59 degree weather in San Luis Obispo. I guess that's reasonable. But Iowa City?
The Hawkeyes are looking to set a record, and Kinnick Stadium might be the locale. Now, if they wrestle in November, the average high temp is 50, with the average low at 31. Move that to December and the high low changes to 35/18.
That being said, it would be pretty cool (no pun intended) to have an outdoor match at HPSS. If there's a will, there's a way. And compared to Iowa City, the New Brunswick area is balmy in December, with an average high/low temp of 44/27. Come on, let's be creative!