NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - – L-E-G-E-N-D-A-R-Y! That is what one has to call Anthony Ashnault, a graduate of South Plainfield High School, who continues to awe wrestling fans at Rutgers University, building onto the legacy that he began in high school. Ashnault, the only high school wrestler in New Jersey to ever hold an undefeated record (170-0) and four state championship titles, has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the collegiate mats.
In looking at his career, which he started at the age of four, Ashnault remembers his greatest moment in wrestling as the day he won his first New Jersey State Championship as a freshman in high school. “That was the day that it really all came together for me and I realized that the only way was up from there,” said Ashnault.
Early on in the 2015-16 collegiate season Ashnault has risen to number three in the country, Ashnault had a 3-0 day on November 15th at the Journeyman/Asics Northeast Duals. During competition, Ashnault defeated Evan Henderson of North Carolina in a 7-4 decision. Henderson, an All American, ranked number five this year, proved to be a difficult opponent. Assessing this win Ashnault stated, “I was really confident going in. Since I have been wrestling for so long, I don't get as nervous as I did when I was younger. ”
Picking up where he left off last year with a ranking of All American, Ashnault started this season at 2-0 at the Rutgers Duals, defeating Franklin and Marshall's number nine ranked Rick Durson in a 7-1 decision, and scoring a major decision against Binghamton's Jesse Dellivecchia on November 1.
This coming weekend the Rutgers team is taking on Oregon State and Utah Valley in the Northwest. While Ashnault is looking forward to this next round of competition, he explained the intricacies of being a student athlete. “Traveling is the biggest challenge I have,” he stated. “Everyone thinks it's nice to travel, but truthfully you don't get to see much. Balancing the studies, practices, travel, and still having a social life is the biggest challenge I have as a student.” Majoring in planning in public policy with two minors in economics and human resources, Ashnault must devote a lot of time to his studies in order to keep up with a demanding academic program. His personal goal, however, is to someday coach an Division 1 college wrestling team.
As a redshirted freshman last year, Ashnault finished 8th with a 3-2 record at the 2015 NCAA Championship in St. Louis on March 19th and 20th. In that competition, Ashnault defeated Number 13 seed Randy Cruz of Lehigh in the round of 12 to secure his All American status, only the tenth Scarlet Knight to ever achieve that status. Unfortunately, Ashnault sustained a hamstring injury during the consolation semi-finals and managed to compete the seven minute bout despite his coach's attempts to get him to default. Using true grit to get him through, Ashnault was defeated 9-4 by Oklahoma State's Deal Heil.
In his first Big Ten Championship Ashnault finished 5th as the highest placing Scarlet Knight in the competition. His overall dual record for his first year of dual competition at Rutgers was an impressive 19-2.
Ashnault credits his father and brother's legacies as wrestlers to his passion for the sport. “My father was a wrestler in high school and college, as was my brother. I went to all of my brother's matches and so wrestling is just something that I've always wanted to do.” His entire family continues to support his career, coming to many of his matches. Ashnault added, “I see my brother every day because as the Director of Wrestling Operations at Rutgers, he is one of my coaches.”
When asked about his aspirations to make the 2016 United States Olympic team, Ashnault responded, “Of course that is one of my goals and I'm going to put in my full effort. In order to qualify for the Olympic team, you have to win the NCAA Division 1 Championship, which is in March. The try-outs for the Olympics then follow in April.”
The eyes of Ashnault's fans will continue to be on him as he powers his way through the wrestling season. A true champion, Ashnault is not only an extremely talented and dedicated athlete, he is humble and grateful for his wonderful accomplishments.