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'It's been great here': Scott Goodale has transcended Rutgers wrestling to new heights

Head coach Scott Goodale has taken the Rutgers wrestling team to new heights since joining the program in 2007. – Photo by Franky Tan / Evan Leong

When Scott Goodale became head coach of the Rutgers wrestling team on July 31, 2007, the program was in a much different place than it is today. The Scarlet Knights still competed in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) conference and were not considered a top-25 wrestling program. 

Goodale started his coaching career as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Jackson Memorial High School. Once he became head coach, the team saw new levels of success. Goodale coached four New Jersey State Championships and led his team to two Group IV State Championships. Because of his tremendous achievements, Goodale was named New Jersey State Coach of the Year three times and was eventually inducted into the South Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame. 

“Some of the best times of my life, always wanted to go back to Jackson,” Goodale said. “I got to be around my family … And then this opportunity came and it was the next step.”

Goodale knew he would have to move on from his alma mater one day but was unsure when the right time would come. Bernie Reider, the first-ever head coach of the Jackson Memorial wrestling team, guided Goodale along every step of the way.

“There were times other jobs have come up before and (Reider) would always tell me it’s not the right time and this one (Rutgers), he said would be a good opportunity for you, you should probably do it,” Goodale said. “It was hard because I thought we had the number one team in the country coming back … I didn’t want to leave that and everything that was built up at Jackson but this was obviously another step in the next challenge.”

Once Goodale came to Rutgers, the program was on the verge of extinction and lacked many important resources that were needed to succeed. 

“It was hard here,” Goodale said on the status of the program at the time. “The resources weren’t what they are today, there was two and a half coaches … There was a crowd of 22 at College Ave in our first match, there was no real strength and conditioning coach that was ours, there was no real trainer that was just ours … A lot has changed obviously since then but we never used that as an excuse. We used it as this is what we have and we’re gonna continue to grow it and get better.”

Goodale slowly improved and built up the program to be what it is today. But when the Knights transitioned from the EIWA to the Big Ten in 2014, the program took an even bigger step forward. 

“Huge jump, wrestling the best of the best every single night, it was very very humbling,” Goodale said on the jump to the Big Ten. “Every night you need to be ready to go, but again, never used it as an excuse, it was more of an opportunity to face, wrestle and recruit the best guys in the country … With that comes exposure, with that comes finances, with that comes expectations.”

Anthony Perrotti, who was the first wrestler to earn All-American honors under Goodale, set a massive precedent at Rutgers and changed the trajectory of the program. From there, the Knights had an All-American for eight straight years. 

“It was really really important for that first guy to breakthrough and that changed the direction of the program,” Goodale said. “Anthony Perrotti kicked the door down and allowed for us and our fanbase and people we were recruiting to really believe you could do some special things here.”

Rutgers cemented its name as a perennial top 25 program in 2019 when Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault were both named national champions. The two are the only Knights in history to have won a national title and will always be remembered as program legends. 

“Two totally different guys went about it two different matters,” Goodale said on the duo. “Ashnault was the face of Rutgers University and Suriano became nationwide, became such a huge story … Our fanbase went through the roof, our season tickets went through the roof. These guys were going to win at the highest level and they pushed each other so darn hard, where it was almost like they were almost competing with each other without ever wrestling or training with each other.”

Goodale credits his coaching staff, associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff, assistant coaches Joe Pollard and Steve Mytych and volunteer assistant coach Jeff Buxton as massive factors in the Knights success and growth since he first started on the Banks. 

“Joe’s been with me for 14 years so there’s familiarity,” Goodale said. “We’ve pretty much for the most part other than a couple of guys turning over have been together for a long, long time. Parents see that in recruiting and that’s a big deal. It’s truly like a family with those guys. We tell each other everything. They’re not yes people. There’s a lot of dialogue and discussion that go into our meetings."

Goodale considers Pritzlaff the most sought-after coach in the country and says Buxton brings expertise to the team after being around USA Wrestling and Blair Academy. As for Mytych, his Pennsylvania background has helped tremendously with recruiting wrestlers. 

“(Mytych) knows everybody in Pennsylvania and we’ve been able to go across the border and get a bunch of those guys in so our recruiting has expanded,” Goodale said. “We’ve been out to California a lot, we have California kids in here, Ohio kids in here, so we’ve kinda changed our philosophy but you wanna win at this level, that’s the number one thing, you gotta recruit the best guys. I think probably more important, these guys are great kids … For the most part they’re like-minded and have goals of being All-Americans and national champs.”

Under Goodale, the Knights have produced 102 NCAA qualifiers, 19 All-Americans, six individual conference champions, two national champions and have finished in the top 25 dual rankings 12 times. In 17 seasons, Goodale has successfully turned Rutgers into a top wrestling program after it was on the verge of extinction in 2007.  

“It’s been great, the support from the administration has been awesome, the fan support has been great,” Goodale said. “I get emotional talking about it but I’ve built my families here … It’s been a great experience.”

Despite everything he has done thus far, Goodale still has more planned for the future.

“I want this thing to get to the highest level,” he said. “I wanna win a trophy at the national tournament, that’s my end goal and hopefully I’m able to achieve that before I move on.”

For more updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Matthew Mangam's work, follow @matthewmangam on X.

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