Rutgers wrestling aims to capture football fans – Asbury Park Press
6 months ago Comments Off on Rutgers wrestling aims to capture football fans – Asbury Park Press
Rutgers athletics celebrated the best student-athlete performances of the 2015-16 school year with a glitzy R Awards ceremony to hand out awards.
PISCATAWAY – Rutgers and Princeton met in the first college football game in 1869, and now the two schools are at the forefront of another potential movement in athletics.
As a precursor to the Rutgers-Penn State football game at 8 p.m. on Nov. 19, Rutgers will face Princeton in an outdoor wrestling match at 11 a.m. on the field at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The match has been dubbed “Battle at the Birthplace” — a nod to Rutgers being the birthplace of college football for hosting that inaugural game.
“We need the Rutgers football fans to be involved in what we’re doing, to draw, to bring more people into the stadium,” Rutgers wrestling coach Scott Goodale said.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do: wrestle in front of the biggest turnout we’ve ever wrestled in front of. They’ll be here, for sure. They’ll be in the parking lots. We need to get them in the stadium.”
Rutgers announced details of the separate-admission doubleheader Monday, after the concept was first reported by Gannett New Jersey.
Tickets for the Battle at the Birthplace will go on sale at a later date at $10 for adults, $8 for children and $6 apiece for parties of 20 or more, but fans can secure a seat in the first few rows of the football stadium with a $50 deposit for 2016-17 wrestling season tickets.
In the event of inclement weather, the purchasers of the first 8,000 tickets will be guaranteed a seat at the match’s alternate location inside the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“You got to have two staffs and two teams that aren’t afraid to wrestle in the cold,” Goodale said. “It’s going to be cold. We know that. It’s something we can’t worry about. I think our stadium allows for a really neat setup.
“Our guys can be back in the tunnels where there will be heaters. We’ll have things like that set up where it will be warm, and it will be about taking off a jacket and getting on the mat and wrestling. With all those fans and all that adrenaline, being cold out shouldn’t be a factor.”
Iowa wrestling hosted Oklahoma State on its football field last November, and the match drew 42,287 fans, a historic first for programs of such stature, according to NCAA.com. It was part of a doubleheader with Iowa-Minnesota football.
Rutgers, which is coming off a breakout wrestling season highlighted by a No. 10 ranking and two All-Americans, and Rider engaged in preliminary discussions before Princeton emerged.
“There is a lot of work that is going to go into this,” Goodale said. “and we needed to find somebody who is going to put forth that work just like we are going to on our end from a marketing standpoint. We needed to find a staff that is going to do the same thing.
“It makes sense with Princeton-Rutgers football. It makes sense because it is New Jersey wrestling. It’s not really Rutgers vs. Princeton, so to speak. It’s about New Jersey wrestling. We did talk to some other teams, but this is the best way to draw because they will start working today on getting in the high schools and going to banquets and going to clubs and really selling this is as a New Jersey thing, and not just showing up and wrestling Nov. 19.”
Goodale said the mat will be placed from the north end zone (opposite the student section) out near the 15-yard line. The scoreboard will be functional.
Convenience is designed to lure in the football tailgater, whether from Rutgers or Penn State, which has won five of the last six wrestling national titles.
“Take a breather. Come watch a match for 1½ hours,” Goodale said. “Then go back out and you have the whole day. Make a day of it. That’s kind of my thing.
“We think it’s a pretty good product we’re putting out. If those football fans haven’t been to the RAC and haven’t been to a wrestling match, it’s a pretty neat experience. It’s an event. And it’s just gotten a whole heck of a lot bigger.”
It’s clear that the Big Ten wants Rutgers-Penn State football to develop into a rivalry, as the annual matchup is in prime time on Big Ten Network for the third straight season.
Unlike the past two years, when the game was played in September because the teams had a contract in place from before Rutgers was in the Big Ten, the game is scheduled as Rutgers’ home finale.
Penn State has been the most anticipated game on the schedule each of the past two seasons for Rutgers fans, but the sentiment is not returned in Happy Valley because of the one-sided series history. The Nittany Lions own a 24-2 all-time edge and haven’t lost since 1988.
Rutgers has enjoyed a similar level of dominance in wrestling against Princeton, with 20 straight victories in the 89-year-old rivalry. The B1G-Ivy Trophy was added to the series this year.
“I am excited for our fans to show that New Jersey has among the strongest, if not the strongest, wrestling following in the country,” Princeton coach Chris Ayres said in a statement.
“I can’t see a reason why we can’t break the record for the most fans at a wrestling event in New Jersey, and we will be prepared to put on a show. It only seems fitting that we do an event this monumental at the birthplace of college football, with the two teams that got it all started.”
Staff Writer Ryan Dunleavy: email@example.com