July 22, 2018 | ° F

Streak hits 14 in weekend trip to D.C.

Photo by Andrew Howard |

Junior D.J. Russo, top, won both of his heavyweight bouts this weekend at Liberty and American in the nation's capital. The Netcong, N.J., native did not give up a single point to either opponent, winning 8-0 and 6-0, respectively.

The Rutgers wrestling team's performance in the spring semester can only be described in one word — dominant.

After a weekend trip to Washington D.C. that resulted in victories over Liberty and American by scores of 39-3 and 26-12, respectively, the No. 23 Scarlet Knights extended their unbeaten streak to 14 games.

Not even the four-hour drive down Interstate 95 into the snow-filled capital city slowed down the rolling Knights.

"After we got in we had a nice afternoon warm-up to get the bus ride out of us and then we went out and wrestled hard," said head coach Scott Goodale. "The roads in the city were pretty bad at some points. I guess they just aren't used to the weather like we are up in Jersey."

RU (18-4-1) imposed its will early in both matches, winning seven straight matches out of the gate against Liberty on Friday, and then came right back on Saturday against American to build a 9-0 lead. The Knights are 13-0-1 in 2010 and have not lost a dual match since Dec. 12, 2009, when they fell by three points to then-No. 24 Pittsburgh.

The big test came on Saturday against conference-foe American, a team that boasts three nationally ranked wrestlers.

Two of their three top grapplers claimed victories, all except No. 16 Jason Borshoff. However, the balanced attack of the Knights' lineup proved too much for the Eagles (7-6).

"Our balance won out for us," Goodale said. "Once you pick off one of their horses, which we did at 125 [pounds], you are in good shape."

To figure out how the Knights got out to such hot starts, look no further than redshirt freshman Joe Langel, who opened both matches at 125 pounds.

The Howell, N.J., native pushed his team-best winning streak to 16 games after knocking off Borshoff of American in a triple overtime decision.

"Going into the third overtime I knew that I just wanted to end it," Langel said. "[The win] adds a lot of momentum for me. The win streak is good, but now I'm starting to beat quality opponents so it's giving me a lot more confidence."

Langel is second only to heavyweight D.J. Russo in wins this season with 25 and he is no longer being overlooked on the RU lineup.

"He is going to end the year with a good national ranking and teams are starting to scout him," Goodale said. "He is very good in scramble situations and there is only so much scouting you can do against someone who wrestles like that. As much as it's an individual sport, having him at the beginning of our lineup is really a spark for us and he gives us momentum."

RU's ranked wrestlers also held their own against American, with junior Billy Ashnault, sophomore Trevor Melde, redshirt freshman Daniel Rinaldi and Russo winning by a combined score of 31-4.

"I feel like they didn't give us their all," Russo said. "They forfeited one of the matches and I thought it was going to be closer than it was."

Junior Daryl Cocozzo won by forfeit and senior Lamar Brown was upset 7-4 in the 197-pound bout. Sophomore Greg Zannetti stood tall against Tanner Shaffer of American and earned an impressive 12-4 major decision.

On Friday night, the Knights never gave Liberty a chance, pushing the score to as lopsided as 32-0 before back-up Jesse Boyden fell in the 184-pound match.

Russo put the finishing touch on the Flames (9-9) by earning an 8-0 major decision. The No. 10 heavyweight did not give up a single point to his opponents this weekend.

"He is just dominating guys right now," Goodale said of Russo's progress. "Watching the tape you can tell he is getting frustrated because nobody is trying to wrestle him back. But that's a good problem to have."

Alex Jankowski

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