Last weekend’s wrestling/football doubleheader was a great event. I am so glad it was moved back to High Point Solutions Stadium, but was sorry for the turnout (or lack thereof). Most people with whom I spoke said it was simply due to fans who had decided not to attend at Yankee Stadium, and then when it was switched back just a couple of weeks before the game, already had other plans and couldn’t or wouldn’t cancel their alternate for November 4.
In any case, I know you’ve all heard again and again what an exciting game you missed, but that wasn’t all. You all know there was a wrestling match as well, where Rutgers rolled Maryland in both ends of the doubleheader by winning on the mat 27-9. There was a good crowd for that, too!
With the great weather, the wrestling conditions were perfect. It was good to see the squad in action too. I’m nothing more than a casual fan, but the crowd that was there was anything but casual. They were really intensely into it.
Well, with all this going on, I thought it only appropriate to choose a wrestling tailgate for this week’s winner. It wasn’t hard to figure out which one, either. My trip to the Scarlet Lot for this week’s winner quickly found the biggest tailgater group in the entire lot gathered around Bill Ashnault’s vehicle. There were easily more than 150 hard-core wrestling fans hanging out with Bill and his crew.
Bill, who happens to be the father of current Rutgers wrestler Anthony Ashnault and former Rutgers great Billy Ashnault, has been a football season ticket holder for over 15 consecutive years. He started buying season tickets more than 20 years ago before a brief break. With his sons going into the wrestling program, and Bill being a former wrestler and coach as well, his family is closely tied to Rutgers athletics.
With the growth in popularity of wrestling, the crowds around the Ashnault tailgate have grown with not just football fans, but wrestling fans as well. Being in the crowd was slightly intimidating, there were some big boys there!
However intimidating these guys may look, they were among the friendliest people at any tailgate I’ve attended. They are hard-core Rutgers supporters, and enjoy the atmosphere as much as anyone. It was a joyous time, too, as they already had the wrestling win under their belt by the time the tailgate got underway, and so were having a great time, and getting ready for the second half, to see Rutgers beat the Terps in football as they had already done in wrestling!
The music filled the air around this group, and it was easy to see they were celebrating a conference win. It’s a different atmosphere than most tailgates you visit. In most, there is anticipation tinged with anxiousness about the team doing well. This group was celebratory, excited about having already won!
Of course, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to ask Bill about how his son was doing. Anthony, in case you don’t follow wrestling, underwent two medical procedures in the off-season, and is still out as the season gets underway. I tried to see if there was a date they expect Anthony to return, but his father would only say that he’s working hard, and would be back as soon as he felt ready to go.
Another point to the Ashnault tailgate is to promote the Scarlet Knights Wrestling Club, or SKWC. Currently headed by former Rutgers wrestling star Billy Ashnault, this independent, not-for-profit group’s goal is to promote both Rutgers Wrestling as well as amateur wrestling throughout the state of New Jersey. The group has also been designated as a U.S. Olympic Regional Training Center site and has top flight staff including Tyler Graff and Josh Demas as well as the Ashnault family. They are always welcoming of new members, and make it very easy to do so, as well as providing a lot of benefits for their members. Just click here if you’re interested in becoming a member to support Rutgers as well as NJ wrestling.
Bill wrestled for former Big East foe West Virginia, though he told me he tried three times (unsuccessfully) to join the Rutgers program. Since then, however, all three of his children attended Rutgers and it has been a great experience for the family. A pharmacist, Bill loves the atmosphere at Rutgers on game day, and is excited about how the Big Ten affiliation will only help Rutgers to grow as a wrestling school, as the Big Ten is easily the toughest conference in the country for that sport.
Bill’s partners in the tailgate, Tom Cassio and his wife are usually the cooks, but this week he had assistance from a couple of other guys, Scott Dickerson and Tom’s brother Gary Cassio.
A tight-knit community, wrestling in NJ goes well beyond the borders, as even Maryland families came to this tailgate, as five of the Terrapin squad have Jersey roots. This was a great tailgate, as it demonstrated the best of tailgating, sports, and Big Ten sportsmanship. Congrats to a great group!
In our last tailgater article on the Purdue game, I shared a picture of Gio Rescigno’s family enjoying the great atmosphere at HPSS, and being able to support Gio this season. At the Maryland game I was able to meet another member of the Rutgers football family.
Anyone who attended or watched the game last Saturday was excited, frustrated, and vocal during the game. The intensity grew until even the announcers spoke about how the crowd had become an integral part of the game.
( VOLUME UP)— Rutgers Athletics (@RUAthletics) November 8, 2017
BTN's @BTNGlenMason needed more than #280characters to sum up @RFootball fans:
"They're not spectators. They are PARTICIPANTS! This Rutgers crowd... they are into it."
"When they get this place packed, this is going to be a snake pit. This place is LOUD!" pic.twitter.com/a0BSlutt3s
The area in which I sat was pretty loud, and hearing a young man shouting just as loud as me drew my attention. After a moment, I realized the young man was current Vineland HS senior running back and 2018 Rutgers commit Isaih Pacheco, who was at the game with his mom, Felicia Cannon. He was at the game along with other committed players as well as others who were invited to the game by Rutgers Athletics. He was clearly having a good time, and yelling himself hoarse cheering Rutgers on at the end of the game, when Maryland was threatening.
Isaih as well as his mother are excited about his move to Rutgers next year, and even my brief conversation was able to confirm Isaih is a well-spoken, intelligent young man and sure seems like he will be a tremendous asset to our program. If Isaih is representative of the incoming class of commits for 2018, our program will be in great shape!
Our next two weeks are away games, so there’s only one tailgate left for the 2017 season. See you all on November 25 when Rutgers takes on the Spartans of Michigan State.