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      Sports November 20, 2008  RSS feed

      RU wrestling looking to make big gains under Goodale

      BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

      After coming on strong late last season (winning seven of its last nine matches to finish 7-5 on the year), the Rutgers University wrestling team is ready to take its success to the next level.

      Now in their second year under head coach Scott Goodale, the Scarlet Knights have entered the season amid some lofty expectations. And for good reason too.

      First off, Goodale's track record indicates an ability to consistently get the most out of his wrestlers. During his years as the head coach at Jackson Memorial High School, Goodale helped mold the Jaguars into the most successful program in the state, earning national acclaim. Jackson's emergence as a national team helped draw eyes to the Shore Conference wrestling scene, which is now recognized as a hotbed for high school wrestling by coaches from many of the top collegiate programs in the nation.

      Simply put, Goodale's success at the high school level led most people to believe that he was destined for bigger things; and if given the chance, could help cultivate similar success at the collegiate level. Now that he is at Rutgers, all signs point to his program emerging as a national power.

      While Goodale expects some of his upperclassmen — guys like senior Mike Whalen, Red Bank's Lamar Brown (who is red-shirting this year after reaching the NCAA Championships a year ago), junior Keith Dobish, junior Jack Barrett (from Metuchen) and junior Kellen Bradley — to emerge as leaders this year and help promote the tenets of his system, the coach also has the luxury of welcoming a number of newcomerswho enjoyed high levels of success at the high school level. And Goodale knows as well as anyone that that kind of success does not come easy.

      The freshman class marks the arrival of three N.J. champions, including one senior national champion, and greatly elevated expectations. Anyone with even a slight interest in high school wrestling is familiar with the name Scott Winston. Winston comes to Rutgers after putting together a brilliant, undefeated high school career at Jackson Memorial (137-0), where he won three state titles, and probably would have won four if not for a broken hand toward the end of his freshman year. As the No. 2-ranked recruit in the nation by InterMat, Winston is very familiar with Goodale's coaching style, as he wrestled for the man he calls "Goodie" for three years before Goodale left to take over the RU program.

      Winston's arrival brought with it even more credibility to a Rutgers program that was already being labeled one of the most improved programs in the country. But Winston is far from the Scarlet Knights' only budding star. The other incoming state champions include Jesse Boyden of Kenilworth, and Joey Langel of Howell, as well as red-shirt freshman Tyler Milonas of Jefferson, who won a New Jersey State title in 2007. All three of these grapplers expect to have an immediate impact on the RU program this year, as do a few other talented wrestlers whose names should be familiar to fans who followed the dominant Region VI wrestlers over the past few years—guys like Greg Zannetti of Edison, Zac Coulas of Ocean Township, Dave Seidenberg of Raritan and Chris Orzechowski of Old Bridge (a red-shirt freshman).

      Early on, the results have been positive. Rutgers placed five student-athletes in the Oklahoma-Brockport Gold Tournament on Nov. 8 in Brockport, N.Y. Winston led the way with a third-place finish at 157, while as a team, RU finished in seventh place. No. 22 Oklahoma University (OU) took first with a team score of 140.

      In his first collegiate bout, Winston had to experience something he hadn't experienced in a long time — a defeat. However, after falling to OU's Chad Terry, 4-1, the talented freshman was able to reach the consolation championship with consecutive victories, including a defeat of fellow Scarlet Knight Zannetti. Then, in the third-place contest, Winston got a rematch with Terry and posted a 4-3 win. Whalen (of Lake Hiawatha) also performed well, taking fourth at 174, and reaching the semifinals before falling to eventual champion and No. 6-ranked Alton Lucas of Hofstra, 8-2. Whalen defeated Kent State's Chris Estep 5-2 in the consolation bracket and then fell in the third-place match to No. 7 Mike Miller of Central Michigan, 13-5.

      Another newcomer, David Greenwald of Union, reached the semifinals of the 141- pound bracket, falling to eventual champion and No. 15-ranked Zach Bailey of Oklahoma, 6-3. In the consolation bracket, Greenwald fell to Hofstra's Justin Accordino, 4-2, before pinning Tony D'Alie of Central Michigan in 1:26 to take fifth.

      RU also had a pair of sixth-place finishers in senior Matt Pletcher (Eastampton) and junior Karim Mahmoud (Wallington). Pletcher fell in the first round of the 165- pound bracket but then reached the semifinals of the consolation round. He dropped consecutive bouts, first to Hofstra's Ryan Patrovich and then to Oklahoma's Ryan Smith, to finish sixth. Mahmoud fell to eventual champion Eric Lapotsky in the semifinals at 197. In the consolation bracket, the junior fell to Oklahoma's Kyle Bergstedt, 7-2, and Kent State's Eric Chine 4-2 to take sixth.

      Several other Scarlet Knights competed in the tournament. Freshman Matt Fusco (Belleville) and sophomore Mike Demarco (Lyndhurst) each competed at 125, with Fusco reaching the consolation-bracket quarterfinals before being eliminated. At 133, redshirt freshman Brian Bollette (Newton) defeated fellow classmate Milonas by way of forfeit to reach the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket before falling to eventual sixthplacewinnerDavidArmstrong of Oklahoma.

      Coulas competed at 141 pounds, while red-shirt junior Barrett reached the quarterfinals of the championship and the consolation brackets at 149 before elimination. Also at 149, Seidenberg joined his teammate in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket, falling to eventual sixth-place winner P.J. Gillespie of Oklahoma.

      Orzechowski fell in the quarterfinals of the 184-pound consolation bracket.

      Local fans will get their first chance to see RU in action when the Scarlet Knights finally arrive home on Dec. 6 for their home opener versus Princeton and Franklin & Marshall. The following day Rutgers heads down to Happy Valley for the annual Penn State Open.