Anthony Ashnault is the first and only three time All-American and two-time Big Ten Champion in Rutgers Wrestling history.
He has room for one more outstanding season and he envisions it ending at the top of the podium at NCAA’s in Pittsburgh in March 2019. With his move to 149 pounds, Ashnault issues a new challenge: come and take that title away.
Ashnault is one to never shy away from a challenge. Look no further than the 2016 NWCA All Star Classic where he was pitted against the defending runner up at 141 pounds, Bryce Meredith. “Shnaulty” would go on to win in the exhibition and finish 6th in the 2017 national tournament.
After taking a year off due to medical redshirt, Ashnault, in a recent interview with Flo Wrestling said he has grown, physically and mentally.
“It was an eye opening year to have off,” Ashnault said. “It was tough to take the back seat to my teammates but it was really good for my character. I built a lot in my inner self watching Suriano succeed and my other teammates doing so well.”
Since Ashnault is bumping up to 149, he will likely be one of the top three favorites to take home the title in Pittsburgh, but he is certainly not taking an easy road.
“You come see me,” Ashnault said. “Pantaleo you come down, Micah come join the party, Yianni, bump on up. Lets go, let’s have a party at 149. Whoever wants to go 149, I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting weights.”
Of course, Alec Pantaleo of Michigan, finished 5th at 157 pounds in 2018, Micah Jordan of Ohio State placed sixth at the same weight and Yianni Diakomihalis was the National Champion at 141 pounds as a true freshman. There has been some speculation that all three could come down and go up to meet at 149 pounds.
Since weights are never finalized until the beginning of the season, it is exciting to think about the possibility of Ashnault having to go through a slew of talented wrestlers to become Rutgers’ first ever National Champion. After Nick Suriano’s second place finish in 2018, Ashnault seems confident that he and his teammate can get to the big stage and bring home gold for the Scarlet Knights.
149 in 2018-19 will be loaded despite a lot of last year’s All-Americans leaving due to graduation. Zain Retheford of Penn State, a three-time champion, will no longer terrorize this weight class. The big guns still leftover include Princeton’s Matthew Kolodzik, Missouri’s Grant Leeth, and Oklahoma State’s Boo Lewallen.
Oh yeah, Princeton and Oklahoma State are coming to the RAC this season so there is sure to be some fireworks when Ashnault steps on the mat.
Like 141 in years past, 149 is expected to be wide-open but loaded with many wrestlers capable of winning a national title. With one more season to go, Ashnault is sure to make it count.
Back in the 2013-14 season, he was dubbed the new face of the program and the one to begin a renaissance of sorts for Rutgers Wrestling. Fast forward to the present day, Ashnault will make sure he leaves a lasting legacy and ensure the program never stops improving.