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Rutgers wrestling readies for “a little bit of an overhaul”



Dean Peterson went the farthest of any Scarlet Knight but fell just short of the podium. Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers wrestling had a humbling weekend at nationals as the program’s All-American streak came to an end. After seven years of multiple top-eight finishes and at least one in every year since 2014, none of the seven wrestlers at the 2023 NCAA Championships were able to get to the podium.

Redshirt freshman Dean Peterson (125) came the closest, losing in the blood round to Anthony Noto of Lock Haven 3-1. Peterson was the highest seeded Scarlet Knight at No. 13 but lost his opening match in a 4-3 decision to No. 20 seed Jarrett Trombley of NC State. He then won three straight matches including a 6-4 victory over No. 11 seed Patrick McKee of Minnesota. Despite falling short, Peterson showed plenty of promise and is a key piece moving forward.

True freshman Brian Soldano (184) also showcased his talent with two thrilling pins in matches he was trailing on the scorecard. The No. 18 seeded Soldano did it against No. 15 Layne Malczewski of Michigan State and No. 16 Reece Heller of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Soldano was unable to was eliminated in a 9-2 decision to No. 8 Matt Finesilver of Michigan one match before the blood round.

The only other Scarlet Knight to make it to the second day of nationals was Joe Heilmann (133). Seeded at No. 16, Heilmann lost to both seeds he was sandwiched between with his lone win over No. 33 seed Ethan Oakley of Appalachian State.

Four additional wrestlers in Tony White (149), Andrew Clark (157), Jackson Turley (174) and Boone McDermott (HWT) were all eliminated on the first day. Jackson Turley (174) won his pigtail match but finished 1-2, unable to advance past the first round of consolations. White, Clark and McDermott all finished 0-2 at nationals. Each had some big moments this season but none were able to have success this past weekend.

It was a disappointing performance for Rutgers as a whole but one in which head coach Scott Goodale did not shy away from.

“Excited to rebuild it and get it back to where we were — on the last day with three or four guys wrestling (on the final day of the NCAA Tournament),” said Goodale in regard to the state of the program.

Goodale continued, “That’s what we’re going to do. I’m pretty honest with myself, our staff, where we’re at and what we need to do. We may need a little bit of an overhaul right now. Not a total overhaul.”

Asked what his wrestlers could have done better at nationals, Goodale focused on the fundamentals.

“Just need to be stingy. Every second, every point matters,” he emphasized. “You can’t turn and kick away. You have to fight for every single point. Got to be able to ride somebody. Got to be able to get off the bottom. My thought in spots we lost we got ridden pretty hard. That’s kind of been our achilles heel all year long. Bottom mat wrestling is really important at this level. We’ll look at those things and figure out ways to get better. We have to put a lot of work in, that’s for sure.”

It was a disappointing end to what was a disappointing season by the program’s own standards. The program finished No. 22 nationally in the coaches poll, but a 10-7 overall record that included a 2-6 record in Big Ten dual meets was a step below recent seasons. While Rutgers had five podium finishers at the Big Ten Championships, an 11th place team finish was well below where the program wants to be.

“We’ve got to get better,” Goodale said matter of factly. “You have to keep bringing in talent. You have to bring in people that are going to challenge other people. We need to be challenged in our own room. I think at the beginning of the year, Dean (Peterson) and Dylan Shawver were really, really good for each other. They were challenging each other. That has to happen in ten weights. That’s what I’m talking about.”

Goodale also pointed out that the cupboard is not bare and the core is there for success. Building on it is the key.

“We’ve got good guys back at home,” Goodale said.  “Shawver and (John) Poznanski have won matches here before. Poznanski was an All-American, but we’re going to bring some guys in, get after it. I’m sure it will be a little different look, but we’re excited to do that and start that process, but we do have a core of guys who can compete.”

The program has come a long way under Goodale over the past decade since joining the Big Ten. However, it is fair to say that the rise of the Rutgers wrestling has now hit a plateau. The good news is that Goodale knows what needs to be done to make further progress. He has been open in expressing his own disappointment about the state of the program. Goodale seems focused on doing just that. Stability is important, but if there was ever a time to shake things up a bit within the program, now appears to be the right time.
Here is the full interview of coach Goodale on Friday night after all seven wrestlers had been eliminated from nationals.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. RUinChiTown

    March 22, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    It will be interesting to see what changes. Lots of long-term coaches, etc. on the staff; will there be exits?

    RU has had relatively poor success recruiting the north NJ parochial power schools. What must be done to fix that?

    Another result/year like this and Goody’s seat might get warm.

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