When the Rutgers Wrestling team met for media day on Tuesday, there was one guy who feels better than ever.
Three time All-American Anthony Ashnault returns for his sixth and final year of eligibility after missing all of 2017-18 with shoulder and knee injuries. He has since moved up to 149 pounds and is ranked No. 2 and 3 by Flo Wrestling and InterMat heading into the season. Safe to say, he’s back.
“I feel real good,” Ashnault said. “Since the season started, I’ve been feeling really good and haven’t missed a day. I haven’t questioned (moving up a weight class) but I’m definitely big enough and you’re going to see that when I put the singlet on.”
.@FloWrestling's P4P rankings are out, as Nick Suriano (No. 10) & Anthony Ashnault (No. 17) appear among the nation's best.— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) October 2, 2018
: https://t.co/F0hNfZ0q2q#RelentlessPursuit | #GoRU pic.twitter.com/oDx9YSMiU8
When Ashnault first arrived, Rutgers hadn’t joined the Big Ten yet. Fast forward six seasons, the program has evolved as much as he has and is looking at a historic season.
“I came to Rutgers to help change the trajectory of the program,” Ashnault said. “I feel the team we put together really represents the culture we have always wanted.”
Head coach Scott Goodale is all in on the Ashnault hype train and seem very pleased about having him back after a year off.
“He looks really good and excited,” Goodale said. “Sometimes you worry about the college grind but the staff has been really smart with him in terms of rest. We have to keep guys like him healthy but he looks really really good right now.”
With an entire season to rest, recover and train, Ashnault said he added some new wrinkles to his arsenal. With the weight gain and added on strength he’ll utilize a little more concepts in his wrestling to ensure he earns gold in Pittsburgh, where the NCAA Championships will be held in March.
“I’m always adding things to my wrestling,” Ashnault said. “I’ve always tried to go with the most challenging guys in the room whether it’s (Nick) Suriano or the regional training center guys. I want to challenge myself every day to create new tricks and new go to attacks in all aspects.”
Ashnault has finished 8th, 4th, and 6th in his three trips to the national tournament but has plans on wrestling in the final session and claiming gold this season. It could come down to a match with fellow Jersey wrestler Matt Kolodzik of Princeton, whom Ashnault has wrestled plenty and created a bit of rivalry.
“That’d be really cool if that’s what determines the national champ,” Ashnault said. “Right now, I’m trying to focus on myself and as long as I’m doing my best, it should be a good year.”
While a possible run at Olympic wrestling and coaching potentially in the cards for Ashnault post-2019, the tunnel vision is real when it comes to this final season.
“After this year you don’t get that routine anymore,” “I am looking forward to everyday I get to go to practice and be with my teammates. It’s a renewed energy.”