The turning point was a stunning loss by ninth-ranked Mario Mason at 149 pounds after a quick start at the lighter weights, and the Scarlet Knights never recovered.
No. 10 Lehigh asserted its dominance in the closing weights, winning the last five matches to beat the seventh-ranked Scarlet Knights 21-9 in front of 5,011 fans, a Rutgers Athletic Center record crowd for wrestling.
It was Rutgers' first lost in 17 matches, and marked the 37th straight time the Scarlet Knights (20-2, 8-1 EIWA) fell to the Mountain Hawks (14-6, 5-1) in a series Lehigh now leads 40-1.
"I know it's a big deal around here and we wanted that one," Goodale said. "We wanted it for our boosters, we wanted it for our fans, the people in New Jersey, but the grand scheme of things it's the national tournament (that is the most important)."
Rutgers concludes its regular season Sunday at Drexel before the EIWA championships (March 5-6) and NCAA championships (March 17-19).
"It's a missed opportunity," said Rutgers' DJ Russo, who lost 2-1 to the top-ranked heavyweight in the nation. "We're good enough and we matched up well, and we could have taken this thing."
Rutgers took a 6-0 lead when Joe Langel (125 pounds) won and Matt Fusco (133) upset No. 17 Frank Cagnina, both Queen of Peace High products. Fusco moved up in weight class to beat Cagnina, but the Scarlet Knights could not hold the momentum.
The big defeat came when Mason was beaten by Joey Napoli, 7-2, to tie it 6-6. Another big upset came when Rutgers' Scott Winston, ranked fifth, lost to No. 19 Brandon Hatchett at 165 pounds to tie the match 9-9.
"Yeah, 149," Goodale said when asked for a turning point. "That's not to knock Mario. That's just not who we are. Not all is going to go well in a match and you have to find a way to face a little adversity in a match, and we didn't do that."
Lehigh's last four wrestlers are ranked nationally, ending with the nation's top-ranked heavyweight in undefeated Zach Rey. After losses at 174 and 184 pounds put Lehigh ahead, 15-9, it put pressure on Rutgers freshman Mike Wagner at 197 pounds.
It was tied late in the match and, at first viewing, Goodale thought Wagner was able to gain a point with an escape, but he didn't get the call and Lehigh's Joe Kennedy clinched the match by winning on a riding point.
"No, I didn't get (the escape)," Wagner said. "He rode me out and I should have gotten out in five seconds. This is experience, but it's also a stepping stone to becoming a better wrestler."
125: Joe Langel (RU) dec. Mitch Berger (LU), 7-2; Rutgers leads, 3-0
133: Matt Fusco (RU) dec. No. 17 Frank Cagnina (LU), 5-2; Rutgers leads, 6-0
141: Stephen Dutton (LU) dec. Trevor Melde (RU), 6-1; Rutgers leads, 6-3
149: Joey Napoli (LU) dec. No. 9 Mario Mason (RU), 7-2; Match tied, 6-6
157: No. 15 Daryl Cocozzo (RU) dec. Sean Bilodeau (LU), 5-3; Rutgers leads, 9-6
165: No. 19 Brandon Hatchett (LU) dec. No. 5 Scott Winston (RU), 7-2; Match tied, 9-9
174: No. 10 Austin Meys (LU) dec. Alex Caruso (RU), 4-1; Lehigh leads, 12-9
184: No. 4 Robert Hamlin (LU) dec. Dan Rinaldi (RU), 5-2; Lehigh leads, 15-9
197: No. 19 Joe Kennedy (LU) dec. Mike Wagner (RU), 3-2; Lehigh leads, 18-9
285: No. 1 Zach Rey (LU) dec. No. 4 DJ Russo (RU), 2-1; Lehigh wins, 21-9