Scarlet Report: Coach, thanks for having me today. You're about to leave for the Big Ten. How locked in are your guys? What's the focus?
Rutgers wrestling coach Scott Goodale: “We're getting healthy. We're getting rest and focused on staying healthy. That's the most important thing right now, and just being excited to wrestle. We're going in there and grinding our workouts. We're really just sharpening our skills and getting great nights of sleep, doing a good job nutritionally. Everybody is down in weight, but most importantly we're healthy, so we're excited to wrestle and that's important this time of year.”
SR: A lot of eyes are on Anthony Ashnualt for obvious reasons. How confident are you in his ability to repeat?
SG: “My confidence level is very high. I'm just really confident that, every time he takes the mat at this point, he's going to win the match. Whether it's this tournament or moving forward, he's wrestling really, really well. His training is great. He hasn't slipped up at all. He's been very focused. You can tell this time of year that he gets really locked in. He's locked in right now.”
SR: What is your advice for guys like Razohnn Gross and Brandon Paetzell that are about to do this for the first time?
SG: “Don't look ahead. Worry about yourself. Be selfish, if that makes sense. It's about you and your match. Stay out of the arena. When it's your time to wrestle, get in the arena an get right back out. Get yourself ready to go on your own. It's about you and nobody else. Don't get caught up in watching teammates. Stay in the back room. When it's time to go, you be ready to go. You have no idea. Don't look ahead to who you're going to wrestle, where you're going to drop if you lose a match. In the Big Ten, crazy things will happen, so its got to be about one match at a time. I know that sounds boring but that's the way it has to be. You have no idea, in this tournament, who you're going to wrestle. Focus on the task at hand and the next opponent.”
SR: Kind of a big picture question, but for you guys to send 10 guys to the NCAAs last year, how has that driven this year's team with the goal of doing it again?
SG: “That's the expectation now. At the time, we didn't realize how big of a deal it was. It's a big deal. It's a hard thing to do, especially in this conference. We're going to have to wrestle our tails off to do that. Our guys know that. The reason it happened last year was because of some of the things I just talked about. People got upset. Boom, our guys game in and they were hungry, excited and we had a great tournament. There's momentum that takes place in this tournament. I think we went 11-2 that first session and there was momentum. We have to draw on that. As much as it's an individual tournament, continue to make it like a team atmosphere and hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to do it. We've got guys that can do it, but they're going to have to wrestle really well.”
SR: Do you think it's a fair goal to set for the guys?
SG: “It was our goal starting out. You never want one of your guys' season to end. When I go in there, I know it's a long shot, but there's going to be some spots where there's going to be upsets that have to happen for us. I'll leave it at that. Are we capable? Yeah, we're capable of doing it. We're going to have to wrestle our tails off. We haven't won a match at '65, and they're only taking five at heavyweight. Those two weights right there, we're going to have to pick some people off where, maybe on paper, it shouldn't happen.”
SR: Who do you look at right now as someone that can show up and surprise some people?
SG: “Jordan Pagano is wrestling really well right now. For him and for everybody else, it's about confidence. He has it right now. I wouldn't want to wrestle Nick Gravina. At this time of year, he can be dangerous and so can Ken Theobold. All of those guys but right now, Jordan is really showing confidence. That's dangerous this time of year.”