Fifth place in the regular season. Fifth place at the Big Ten Championships. It was a season to remember as the RU wrestling team finished the season as the No. 10 team in the nation in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches final poll, sending all ten of its wrestlers to the NCAA tournament. And the hope for Head Coach Scott Goodale is that the Knights will pick up where they left off.
"The whole team has been working really, really hard, whether it's in the weight room, the classroom, or the practice room" - A. Ashnault pic.twitter.com/ZWH9Af0KEj— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) October 26, 2016
The Big Ten continues to be the best wrestling conference in the nation. Rutgers has established itself as a legitimate competitor in the B1G as the Knights open the season with a solid contingent of ranked wrestlers.
Two-time All-American Anthony Ashnault is ranked No. 4 at 141 pounds, NCAA qualifier Richie Lewis is ranked No. 6 at 157 pounds, NCAA qualifier Nicholas Gravina is ranked No. 15 at 184 pounds, and two-time NCAA qualifier Ken Theobold is ranked No. 16 at 149 pounds.
The Big Ten as a conference has 60 wrestlers in the AWN preseason rankings, meaning out of the 200 slots, 30% are in the top 20 of their weight class.
Five Rutgers wrestlers were recognized in the Intermat Preseason Rankings, including 2016 Big Ten champion Anthony Ashnault (No. 4). Also in the top 10 is senior Richie Lewis, ranked No. 6 at 157 pounds. Redshirt junior returner Nicholas Gravina is ranked No. 16 at 184 pounds. Two Scarlet Knights are ranked coming off redshirt seasons: 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio is tabbed No. 15, while redshirt senior Ken Theobold is No. 13 at 149 pounds.
The five wrestlers are also all ranked by FloWrestling in the preseason. DelVecchio is No. 11, Ashnault No. 5, Theobold No. 13, Lewis No. 8 and Gravina No. 14.
There are two wrestlers coming back off of redshirt years, Scott DelVecchio and Ken Theobold. They will be looking to return to the lineup against a tough group of newcomers as well as those who have been in the room. As it stands right now, there will be one definite redshirt this season, transfer Eleazer DeLuca (149). DeLuca transferred from Northern Colorado and will have one year of eligibility remaining.
"My goal is to get as high on the podium as possible. I'm just going to keep training like I've been training" - S. DelVecchio pic.twitter.com/VollDzSPV5— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) October 26, 2016
A Rutgers First
November 5 will be the first appearance by a Rutgers wrestler on the mat this season, and it will be a first for RU. Anthony Ashnault will be wrestling in the prestigious NWCA All-Star Classic in Cleveland. It is the first time a Scarlet Knight will appear at the event. AA will face returning NCAA runner-up Bryce Meredith of Wyoming.
Flowrestling NCAA Tournament Predictions
This is sort of like picking the Final Four in November, but it has a certain fun element to it.
Again, Anthony Ashnault is the face of RU in the rankings, as FloWrestling sees him finishing third.
I like Ashnault to climb up a bit this year. He had a few off moments a year ago, but I think we see him wrestle more consistently. He has as many leg attacks as anyone in this field: low ankle, single leg, etc. His head hands can leave him vulnerable against the best of the best, however.
The Starting Lineup
Unlike in past years, there will not be an open practice for wrestle-offs. Instead, wrestlers will be traveling to the East Stroudsburg Open on November 6, doing so on their own to compete against “live” competition, with that serving as the wrestle-offs. Goodale said that there are five weight classes (125, 133, 149, 165, and Heavyweight) where competition is very tough and even some newcomers are competing.
Scott Goodale brought in a solid recruiting class. Depending on the ranking service, Rutgers has a top 10 class, including six New Jersey athletes. The class includes three New Jersey state champions as well as an Ohio champion.
In terms of recruiting, Goodale knows what he wants. “We still have certain guys who want to leave this state thinking there’s something better out there. That will probably always be the case. We have to continue to get the best guys who fit our program, not necessarily keep everybody home. You hear that all the time, we have to keep everybody home. We don’t have to keep everybody home, we have to keep the right ones home. The ones who are committed to this place, to what those guys back there [current wrestlers] have built, that’s a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Matt Correnti: four-time NJSIAA placewinner, state title at 220 pounds in 2016
Brett Donner: third in the state tournament at 170 pounds in 2016 and 2014
Joseph Grello (170) and Kevin Mulligan (195) won back-to-back state NJSIAA state titles to finish their scholastic careers at Bergen Catholic
Brandon Paetzell: NJSIAA runner-up at 132 pounds in 2016 and at 106 pounds in 2014
Mike Van Brill: high school All-American, 2016 runner-up at 138 pounds
Alex Mackall: 2014 Ohio state champion at 120 pounds
John Finnerty: sixth in the 2016 NJSIAA tournament
At Media Day, Goodale commented about recruiting.
Battle at the Birthplace
At last count, Rutgers has sold around 12,000 tickets to the outdoor match against Princeton on Nov. 19. Tickets are still available and there is even an opportunity to get mat side seats.
Football is on a bye week and Chris Ash gets the week off from his radio show. In his place are two coaches who have a few wins under their belts. That’s tonight.