Big Ten

Rested Rutgers Ready For Stretch Run

Rested Rutgers Ready For Stretch Run

After a rough weekend trip to Michigan, Scott Goodale gave his Rutgers squad a break and the Scarlet Knights responded against Rider.

Feb 5, 2022 by Brendan Scannell
Rested Rutgers Ready For Stretch Run
Wrestlers are used to pushing the pace and pushing their limits. This sport is ultra relentless and that “go-go-go!” mentality is consistently and appropriately preached. But sometimes, in the midst of a long, grueling NCAA season, it doesn’t hurt to give your guys need is a few days to rest.

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Wrestlers are used to pushing the pace and pushing their limits. This sport is ultra relentless and that “go-go-go!” mentality is consistently and appropriately preached. But sometimes, in the midst of a long, grueling NCAA season, it doesn’t hurt to give your guys need is a few days to rest.

That’s what Rutgers did.

After a tough road trip against some of the Big Ten’s best programs, coach Scott Goodale and his team found it necessary to put an emphasis on the “rest” part of wrestling. After that rest, Rutgers came out against in-state rival Rider on Thursday night with a renewed energy to put on a show for its home crowd in a 36-3 rout.

Thursday night’s match came after a long week and a half since we last saw the Scarlet Knights hit the mats. That lengthy layoff from competition came at the perfect moment for a Scarlet Knights team that could use some time to lick fresh wounds, re-focus, and most importantly, rest.

After opening the season 11-0, Rutgers was off to the best start in program history before losing four of its last five matches.

Rutgers looked solid in tight losses to Wisconsin and the nation’s #1 team, Penn State, but then came a difficult trip to the Mitten, getting upset by Michigan State and falling 32-8 to Michigan.

There were plenty of discussions early on that this could be Rutgers’ best lineup it’s ever fielded, and while that still could be the case, after some injuries and weight class issues, the lineup looks a little different.

Suddenly, the lineup features six freshman starters. 

Joey Olivieri is now the guy at 133 pounds as the weight is no longer an option for Sammy Alvarez. Coach Goodale confirmed as much. Returning 174-pounder All-American Jackson Turley will undergo surgery soon and is also out for the year.

Last weekend in Michigan, All-American contenders and standouts early on like John Poznanski and Greg Bulsak both fell to lower-ranked wrestlers. 

Though losses like this can sometimes trigger overreactions, that isn’t the case for Goodale and his staff. After the loss to Michigan on Jan. 3, Goodale gave the team off until that Thursday — a full three days. 

Rutgers is a young team. Coming off of a 2021 season that can be described as anything but normal, these peaks and valleys in the season are expected. And most teams recognize that the last weekend in January isn’t when they should be peaking, anyway.

“Some of our guys have never been through this, there’s something to be said for travel…weather delays…hotels…there’s some good days, there’s some bad days but it’s all part of the learning process,” Goodale said. 

“Our guys believe in the process. For us, it’s about getting rest and getting healthy.”

Coming off that much-needed rest, Rutgers won nine of 10 matches against Rider on the first Thursday in February, putting up bonus points in more than half of those wins.

Rutgers undefeated star Sebastian Rivera worked a methodical 7-3 win over former South Jersey standout Quinn Kinner at 141 pounds and Andy Clark got back in the wins column with a 3-2 victory at 165 pounds.

Olivieri got back on track in a big way, putting the finishing touches on a 14-4 major decision at the buzzer to beat NCAA-qualifier Richie Koehler. It’s clear that Big Ten tune-up he received in the weeks prior, facing three All-Americans including the defending national champ, prepared him for any level of competition he might face from here on out.

Up top, Poznanski and Bulsak each recorded technical falls as Rutgers continued to pile on the points. 

In the final match of the night, heavyweight Boone McDermott delivered the finishing blow — a first-period fall from what has to be one of the most impressive throws and finishes we’ve seen all season long — to bring the crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena to its feet.

Rutgers lone defeat came at 174 pounds when Connor O’Neill fell to Shane Reitsma in a rematch of the 2020 New Jersey state finals. Based on Reitsma’s reaction to his 5-4 win, it was clear he hadn’t forgotten about their last meeting.

And who can blame him? The dual meet win meant a lot to Rutgers, too.

It may not have been a Big Ten foe, but winning this match was big. Not just for in-state bragging rights and recruitment rivalries, which Goodale and the wrestlers acknowledge, but also for this Rutgers squad to take advantage of its time off and get back to those winning ways.

Now, Rutgers gets to finish the remainder of its regular season at home before the Big Ten tournament in March.

The match against Rider was a happy return but this weekend it’s back to Big Ten competition. The Knights eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Ohio State Buckeyes — a premier Big Ten program — on Sunday in a match that Rutgers is confident it can win if it can wrestle a complete match. The programs have a history of wrestling tight duals. This looks to be Rutgers best chance in recent history and would be huge for the program moving forward

“Eventually, you’re going to have to finish one of those matches.” Goodale said.

His Rutgers team hopes to do that against the Buckeyes on Sunday.