Entering the season, Rutgers head wrestling coach Scott Goodale harped on the importance of having depth in each weight class.
For a program that competes in the top wrestling conference in the country, he said it was important to have two grapplers in every class that are capable of winning a big match.
While having depth at each weight class is a hard task for a program to achieve, Goodale called the current Rutgers wrestling team the deepest that the Banks has seen in recent years.
On Sunday, the Scarlet Knights’ depth showcased itself for the first time this season at the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open in Binghamton, New York. The Binghamton Open was an all-day, tournament-style event that featured almost 500 wrestlers from a number of different schools, including No. 7 Cornell and No. 8 Lehigh.
Since the event was tournament-style and didn't hold a bearing on the team’s record, Rutgers viewed the Binghamton Open as an opportunity for its depth grapplers to compete. In all, a mix of 16 alternates and redshirts competed for the No. 18 Knights.
Without a single starter competing in the event, Rutgers (3-0) had two grapplers finish in the top six of their respective weight classes in former NCAA-qualifiers Scott DelVecchio and Ken Theobold.
“I think our good guys did really, really well,” Goodale said. “DelVecchio, we anticipate those type of tournaments out of him. Kenny Theobold is right there, a No. 10 kid in the country. We expect those type of tournaments. Those guys are battle-tested, they’ve wrestled with us, so they’re going there to win those tournaments.”
DelVecchio went 5-1 throughout the day before finishing second overall in the 133-pound weight class. The junior lost his championship match to fellow All-American Nashon Garrett from Cornell in a 6-1 decision.
In the 149-pound weight class, Ken Theobold finished sixth for the Knights. The senior made it to the semifinals before losing a close 3-2 decision match to C.J. Cobb of Penn.
Cobb eventually won, becoming the champion of the 149-pound class. Theobold ended his day with a medical forfeit in the fifth-place match.
Josh Patrick, an alternate for the Knights at 125 pounds, was the only other grappler to reach the quarterfinals of the championship bracket at the event.
“Overall, some of those younger guys, Pete Lipari had a really, really good tournament. He’s going to be good,” Goodale said. “We won some bouts, Billy Povalac won a bunch of bouts. You want to see them get through and place. And for some it’s their first time, first go-round, long day. But it was good to see our guys winning matches, winning big matches.”
Depth is great for the Rutgers program to have as it prepares to take on the really tough competition that lies ahead of them, but it ended up leading to some tough roster decisions.
DelVecchio and Theobold, both of whom are former participants at the NCAA Championships for the Knights, were left out of the starting lineup to begin the season and redshirted as a result of the depth that the Knights have.
Although DelVechio and Theobold were left out of the starting lineup, it doesn’t mean that their seasons are over. Both grapplers have the opportunity to take a full season to individually improve without losing a year of eligibility.
Since each of them are have had their successes in the past, Goodale expects them to take this season to improve, while also finishing at the top of the competitive tournaments they compete in.
“Be in the thick of it, and win some,” Goodale said. “Make it to the finals and give yourself a chance to win it. We’ll have a schedule specifically for them, whichever tournament, it will be a big one — Penn State Open, the Midland, things like that. Make them really, really important and give them a feel for what this season is all about so they’re not just taking it as an off year. There’s some really big events coming up for those guys specifically.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.