Dean Peterson remembers sitting matside in the crowd, cheering on the Scarlet Knights, even when they were wrestling at the College Avenue Gym.
Need proof? He’s got an autographed shirt, signed by Nicholas Gravina and Anthony Ashnault. There’s also a picture of him smiling ear to ear with his arm around coach Scott Goodale. He said he’s about 8- or 9-years-old in the photo. So when Peterson, then the top-ranked recruit in New Jersey, picked Princeton over Rutgers, there was a level of disappointment for Goodale’s staff.
“It was frustrating when we saw him go Ivy. We understood it, but we’re elated he’s finally with us now,” Goodale said Tuesday after Peterson picked up his first dual-meet victory at “The Barn,” the place his Rutgers fandom began last week.
Wrestling in his first varsity dual at 125 pounds Friday, Peterson worked his way to a 6-1 decision against Clarion’s Joey Fischer. Peterson, a former two-time state champion at St. John Vianney, got to his offense against Fischer, with a pair of takedowns, and added a riding point after a dominant second period.
“I just wanted to go out there and score points,” Peterson said about his first varsity bout in a Rutgers singlet. “For me, wrestling is fun so I wanted to just go out there and have some fun.”
Peterson admitted he felt nervous before the match “for the first time in about two years” as he made his Rutgers debut. Nevertheless, he looked sharp and added to a break-out evening for four newcomers in the lineup.
Questions about Peterson and his place in the lineup remain, however. He’s locked in a battle with sophomore Dylan Shawver for the starting spot at 125. Both split time during the opening weekend with Peterson wrestling against Clarion and Shawver getting the starts Saturday when No. 21 Rutgers defeated Sacred Heart and lost to No. 6 Arizona State.
“I’m just going out there and controlling what I can control,” Peterson said. “I want to go out there and do what I can do. At the end of the day, I trust the coaches’ process so whatever they want me to go through, I’ll go through, put my head down and keep moving forward.”
Goodale said a decision for the starting role won’t be made until after the Midlands Championships, which are scheduled for Dec. 29-30 at Northwestern.
“We finally have a problem. It’s a good one, but it’s a sensitive one, too, because we have to keep them both happy. We’ll try to do that,” Goodale said. “(There’s) incredible competitiveness in the room because of it. They’re both trying to put on a show when they get their number called.”
Goodale picked up his 200th win with the victory over Clarion then Rutgers registered its 700th all-time victory against Sacred Heart.
“That’s a lot of wins. I don’t know how many schools have that,” Goodale said about No. 700. “It’s good for the guys that came before us and the coaches who were here before us. There are a lot of proud alums. They have been for a while. It’s good to have their support.”
Rutgers heads to Northern California, where it takes on Stanford in a dual Saturday then wrestles the following day at the CSU Bakersfield Open, where Rutgers will get to open up its lineup. Expect both Peterson and Shawver to be in the same bracket, like they were at the Princeton Open to start the season.
Rutgers dropped a spot in the NWCA Coaches Poll from No. 21 to No. 22. Individually, Brian Soldano cracked FloWrestling’s top 20 after knocking off a pair of ranked wrestlers during the opening weekend.