June 18, 2018 | ° F

Russo wins gold with four pins at Brockport

Photo by Ramon Dompor |

Sophomore Dominick Russo, top, won the heavyweight bracket at the Oklahoma Gold Tournament by pinning Edinboro's Chris Birchler in the final. Russo earned four pins along the way as the Scarlet Knights finished sixth overall with 120.5 points.

 The Rutgers wrestling team went into Saturday's Brockport Gold Tournament wanting to prove that the Scarlet Knights could compete against some of the best in the nation.

They did just that, and when their bus pulled out of Brockport, N.Y., they also had a new tournament champion among them.

Redshirt junior Dominick Russo pinned Edinboro's Chris Birchler in the finals of the heavyweight bracket and propelled RU to an impressive third place finish.

"I sat and watched our guys stay with the best wrestlers in the country," said head coach Scott Goodale. "We kept ourselves in the tournament and in matches all day long and it's an overall great day for us."

For Russo, this is his first tournament win and it could not have come against a better opponent, having lost to No. 7 Birchler twice last year.

"I knew that I was better than him, even after the losses," the Netcong, N.J., native said. "All I had to do was go move-for-move with him and I knew I would win."

Russo — the 14th ranked heavyweight in the country — improved to 5-0 on the year, with all of his victories coming courtesy of pins.

The road to the finals was not an easy one for Russo, Goodale said.

"He was in all good matches," the third-year coach said. "His semifinal match against [No. 17] Corey Morrison of Ohio State could have gone either way. But D.J. is such a talented wrestler and he was able to score the pin."

The Knights finished the day with 120.5 points. This placed them third behind No. 3 Ohio State and tournament winner No. 17 Oklahoma, but ahead of teams such as No. 12 Edinboro and No. 20 Kent State.

RU wrestled strong all day long, recording 12 pins as a team and sending four wrestlers to the finals in their respective brackets.

The most impressive run at the tournament for the Knights came in the 125-pound weight class, where redshirt freshman Joe Langel used his unique style to confuse opponents and score big bonus points for RU.

In the quarterfinals, Langel defeated No. 14 Nikko Triggas of Ohio State in a 7-1 decision and then Justin Forrest by a score of 4-1 before falling in the finals to No. 11 Eric Morrill of Edinboro, 3-2.

"My style is very non-traditional. We call it ‘funky,'" Langel said. "I use a lot of different moves that most wrestlers don't use and it keeps my opponents guessing. In the end they get frustrated and that is when I push the pace."

The Howell High School product has wrestled in this unpredictable style his whole life and there is no good reason to change it, he said.

Also reaching the finals were junior Bill Ashnault and redshirt senior Lamar Brown.

RU dropped only two opening round matches, and both of those came when the Knights' wrestler was faced off against a higher ranking opponent.

"The depth of this team is a huge plus for us," Goodale said. "It's always about the next guy in. [Redshirt freshman] Jesse Boyden couldn't go today because of an illness and [junior] Michael Cucinotta stepped right in and won two big matches for us."

After finishing ahead of two nationally ranked opponents, the Knights should see their stock rise in the rankings.

"The rankings really don't concern me right now," Goodale said. "We have some great opportunities coming up for us and we got to focus on each one at a time. I will just let the rankings fall where they may."

Next weekend RU travels back to upstate New York to Binghamton where they take part in the Sprawl Brawl. The Knights face Sacred Heart — a team they embarrassed last week — Northern Iowa and, most notably, No. 14 Penn State.

Alex Jankowski

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