Knights fall one point shy of sweep
In the second match of a young season, the Rutgers wrestling team had a golden opportunity to upset one of the premier wrestling squads in the nation, No. 17 Penn State.
Their match in the first round of the Sprawl and Brawl Duals Sunday in Binghamton, N.Y., went down to the wire, but the Nittany Lions (4-1) held onto an 18-17 victory.
The Scarlet Knights (3-1) avenged their opening round loss by defeating Sacred Heart 42-6 and Northern Iowa 25-10.
"[Today] was a step in the right direction," said head coach Scott Goodale. "We wrestled hard all day long and this is a good spot to be at this point in the season."
RU jumped out to an early 7-3 lead over Penn State when sophomore Trevor Melde earned a 14-5 major decision over Adam Lynch in the 141-pound match. The Knights dropped the next three matches however, falling to Penn State wrestlers who were all nationally ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes.
"We knew that was where [Penn State was] going to get their points," Goodale said. "I asked my guys to stay strong with them and they did that. Unfortunately they were able to seize momentum."
Redshirt freshman Dan Rinaldi brought RU back to within three, 14-11, after he dominated the 174-weight class bout with a 15-5 major decision over Michael Lorenzo.
When RU's No. 10 heavyweight Dominick Russo entered the circle against No. 19 Cameron Wade, the deficit was 18-14. Russo responded with a 6-0 decision, but that only gave the Knights three points, leaving them one short of the upset.
For Melde, his major decision over Penn State was just the beginning to a successful weekend. Against Northern Iowa, the Hewitt, N.J., native went head-to-head with Trent Washington — a wrestler ranked in the top-30 of the 141-pound weight class, according to Wrestling Report.
"It was all about wrestling hard," Melde said. "I just put everything I had into the match, and I was successful."
RU handled the Pioneers of Sacred Heart much like it did in its first meeting, recording five pins and only dropping one match.
Goodale rested many of his starters in anticipation of a tight match with Northern Iowa, so wrestlers such as redshirt junior Sean DeDeyn and freshman Dan Seidenberg stepped up and earned victories.
"They got the opportunity and they just ran with it," Goodale said. "We are always preaching that it's all about the next guy in and they took advantage."
The Knights rounded out the event with a convincing victory over a Northern Iowa team who is consistently among the best in the country.
Junior transfer Bill Ashnault, who pinned his opponent, Joey Lazor, in the 133-pound match, set the pace early for an RU squad that never relinquished the lead.
Russo earned another big victory for both the team and his individual ranking, besting No. 15 Christian Brantley by a score of 8-3.
The team has a full plate this Thanksgiving holiday when it travels to Lewisburg, Pa., for a Friday night fight with Bucknell and No.1 Iowa. The Hawkeyes are two-time defending NCAA champions and return all starters from last year's national championship squad.
"[Iowa] is as good as it gets in wrestling right now," Goodale said. "Bucknell is another great test too. I'm not looking for two victories, but I am going to see what our team is made of this upcoming week."