Rutgers Wrestling Posts Sixth-Best National Attendance in 2014-15

March 25, 2015

The Rutgers wrestling team can add another accolade to its list of accomplishments from its first Big Ten Conference season. The program finished sixth in the country in attendance, according to a report released by Roby Publishing.

The Scarlet Knights drew 18,877 fans to the Rutgers Athletic Center and College Ave. Gym across seven duals in 2014-15 - an average of 2,697 per match - and reset the program single-match attendance record twice. Five of the top-six programs in attendance hailed from the Big Ten. To view the full top 10, click here.

"It shows our student-athletes and our incoming recruits that when we promised them they would wrestle in front of great fans and that wrestling is an important sport on this campus, we meant it," said head coach Scott Goodale. "They get a really good idea of what it's like to be in a great wrestling atmosphere. It's not like that everywhere around the country.

"We draw really, really well. That number is a good number, but I think we can draw more. As we continue to progress in this conference we will draw more."

The tone for Rutgers' (14-7, 2-7 Big Ten) record season in attendance was set by strong fan support on Jan. 2 against then-No. 1 Iowa. 5,420 fans packed into the RAC to watch RU wrestle in its inaugural Big Ten Conference match, which was also the first dual for the program in front of a national audience on the Big Ten Network.

Sophomore Scott DelVecchio earned RU's first Big Ten Conference bout victory with a 9-3 win over Hawkeye Phillip Laux at 133 pounds. A match later the RAC erupted, as redshirt freshman 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault scored the winning takedown against then-No. 6 Josh Dziewa as time expired to give Rutgers the lead.

The support continued as the Scarlet Knights battled then-No. 2 Minnesota on Jan. 11 and then-No. 5 Penn State on Jan. 16. Rutgers drew 2,636 fans to the RAC against the Golden Gophers, only to re-set the attendance mark set versus Iowa with 6,071 fans for the Penn State match.

"It was really easy to get up for those kinds of matches," said Ashnault, a 2015 All-American. "Growing up, those were the teams that you looked up to that were always good in college wrestling. Getting to wrestle them in front of a crowd of over 5,000 people, it was easy to get excited for a match like that and want to go put on a show."

Promotions such as inaugural Big Ten match t-shirts versus Iowa, foam "take down" fingers versus Minnesota, and "R" cauliflower ears against Penn State also created a fan experience unlike year's past.

"The attendance at home matches was fantastic, obviously highlighted by the Penn State and Iowa matches," said Rutgers Senior Associate Athletic Director/Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Brown. "To finish in the top 10 in the country in attendance is great for the program.

"We went from 200 season ticket holders last year to 900 this year. We also booked more groups this year versus last year. Scott has put together a great program and it's exciting to have so many fans want to come out and join us for the matches."

Along with matches at the RAC, fan support at the College Ave. Gym also boomed. 1,345 attended the Navy match (Jan. 31), 1,523 showed up for a Big Ten battle against eventual national champion, Ohio State (Feb. 1), and 1,337 capped the year at the season-finale against in-state rival Princeton (Feb. 14).

"This is a passionate fan base that has a lot of expectations, which is good," Goodale said. "They really like their wrestling in this state and I think this accomplishment says a lot about our program. We put a lot of time into marketing it and a lot of time into getting the word out.

"There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that allows us to draw fans and get them interested in Rutgers wrestling. That was always our vision starting out eight years ago, and it will always play a major part in what we're trying to do."

Ashnault became the 10th All-American in Rutgers history with his eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis from March 19-21. It was the first time in program history that Rutgers has had All-Americans in consecutive seasons, as Ashnault also became the first rookie to earn All-America honors.

Ashnault is confident the environment will only grow stronger as his career in Scarlet progresses.

"I think [our success] is in the near future," Ashnault said. "Everyone that went to nationals this year is coming back. I think we're really confident as wrestlers and coaches. Everyone on the team is really clicking I think more than ever. Everyone is really on the same page and everyone knows what we want to do; we want to be winning those kind of matches. It's just about getting better every day and eventually it's going to happen."

As a team, Rutgers ended the year No. 21 in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, finishing ranked for the second time in the last three seasons. Goodalehas led RU to at least 11 victories and a winning record in every dual season since he took over the program in 2007, along with four final USA Today/NWCA rankings.

As Rutgers wrestling continues to build on the mat, Goodale knows fan support will build in the stands. For the wrestlers who want to compete in one of the best environments in the country, there is no better place, says Goodale.

"You find out a lot about the guys who really want to put it all on the line in front of a crowd where there's expectations," Goodale said. "Not every kid in the country wants to do that, but for the ones that do, for the ones that want the spotlight, for the ones that want to wrestle where this sport is important, Rutgers is a great place."

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