Knights prove unable to solve No. 6 Nittany Lions in loss
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Whatever the Rutgers wrestling team did Sunday afternoon at the Sprawl and Brawl Duals, No. 6 Penn State did just a little bit better.
And with the eyes of the West Gym in Binghamton, N.Y., on the two squads, the Scarlet Knights bowed to the Nittany Lions by a final score of 22-10.
"In all honesty, I think we are as good as them, they were just a little bit tougher today," said sophomore Scott Winston. "I think that if we were to wrestle them later in the year with a couple of matches under our belt, it wouldn't turn out like this."
Penn State (5-0) took close bout after close bout early on to amass a 16-0 lead from which the Knights (3-1) could never bounce back.
In the first three matches — 125, 133 and 141 pounds — the Nittany Lions won by only a combined 18-12 score.
Rutgers started mounting a comeback, as Winston took control of his 165-pound match with a convincing 8-2 decision.
The Jackson, N.J., native has only one loss on the year and believes that his best wrestling is still ahead of him.
"I had a rough week last week. I didn't feel like I was on my game at all," Winston said. "I've been doing a lot of things in the room to get me back to where I used to be."
It seemed as if the tide was turning the Knights' way after senior Alex Caruso earned a quick takedown in the next match. But in the end, opponent Ed Ruth earned a handful of takedowns to win by an 11-5 decision.
"I kind of got away from the game plan and really didn't wrestle well in the third period," Caruso said. "I think that [Penn State] is as good as advertised, and we definitely have some ground to make up, but I don't think we are far off."
But the Knights finished the dual off strong when freshman Mike Wagner continued to impress in the early going and won by major decision, 8-0.
The South Plainfield, N.J., native remains undefeated through dual meet action at 197 pounds this season.
"He just keeps getting better and better," said head coach Scott Goodale. "He's made some real strides in the three months he's been at Rutgers and the best is yet to come."
In a tantalizing matchup of two top-10 heavyweights to close out the evening, senior DJ Russo stayed in control all match long and defeated Cameron Wade by a 7-2 score.
But all was not dismal for the Knights in Binghamton, as the squad went toe-to-toe with West Virginia earlier in the day and came away with a convincing 25-14 victory.
"We expected to win that one. We should be beating them," Goodale said. "I didn't think we wrestled great, but we won."
Like the match against Penn State, Rutgers dropped the first two matches against the Mountaineers, but pulled even when sophomore Mario Mason earned a hard fought 6-1 decision against Brandon Rader, an All-American from a year ago.
The Knights' lead ballooned to 16-6 when Winston's opponent, Donnie Jones, was disqualified for biting the former high school champ on the wrist.
"I was cross-facing him pretty good and he was getting frustrated and he just bit me," Winston said. "I got bitten in second grade, but I haven't seen that in a while."
The win not only earned Rutgers six points, but it also deducted West Virginia a single team point.
Russo closed out the match against the Mountaineers with his fifth pin of the season.
Although it was not the best result possible on the weekend, Goodale knows that his team can learn from the duals, including the loss to arguably the best team in the country.
"I think that's the best team in the country," Goodale said. "I know people are going to argue that [No. 1] Cornell is, but I think Penn State is the best team out there. That's the level that we need to get at and we'll get there."