Rutgers sweeps competition in Grapple at Garden
NEW YORK – The third annual Grapple at the Garden went as well as it could have gone for the Rutgers wrestling team Sunday in dual-competition against Army and Davidson.
A 46-3 shellacking of Davidson closed off the Madison Square Garden event for the Scarlet Knights, after Rutgers had already soundly defeated Army, 24-13, earlier in the afternoon.
The big stage was set and the Knights took full advantage, winning soundly with eight bonus-point decisions against Davidson – a forfeit, two major decisions, a tech fall and four wins by fall – while adding another forfeit and a win by fall by junior heavyweight Billy Smith in the first win of the day against Army.
The return of Smith – who last grappled at the Rutgers Duals nearly two months ago – was huge for Rutgers, as he returned to the lineup at the right time and secured two pins on the day.
Head coach Scott Goodale noted how vital Smith's return was.
“It was great what Billy did. It’s great to have Billy back, obviously,” Goodale said. “He’s a hammer and he’s a guy who anchors your lineup. For us to be successful, obviously we need Billy. That’s good to get him some work – he did what he had to do to get two falls – and that’s important.”
For Smith, it was a welcome return to the lineup in his first major action after only wrestling two matches at the season-opening Rutgers Duals, where Smith only grappled twice while also collecting a forfeit on that day.
“It felt good to finally be in the lineup and be wrestling with my teammates,” Smith said. “We won both matches – which is kind of to be expected – but I treated it like a good preparation for what is to come with the Big Ten matches. I think we have a lot of places to get better, but as a unit, we did pretty well today.”
The first half of the lineup played huge for the Knights, winning nine of the 10 decisions in both dual-meets Sunday, with several bonus point wins from the lower weights.
That portion, anchored by the likes of redshirt freshman Anthony Ashnault, junior Anthony Perrotti and junior Ken Theobold, was once again the strength Sunday. But Ashnault sees things going a different way when the Knights open up their Big Ten schedule Jan. 2 against Iowa.
“I think the first half is one of the stronger parts of our lineup,” Ashnault said. “Maybe things will change now that we have [junior 197-pounder Andrew Campolattano] and Billy Smith back. The upper weights will start moving along a little bit.”
Rutgers has opened up the season 9-0 for the first time in program history and is off to fast start in its inaugural Big Ten season. While the Knights have yet to face a Big Ten opponent, Ashnault still feels the historic mark to start the season can help Rutgers moving forward.
“I think our start to the season is huge going into our next run when we get back from break,” Ashnault said. “After January 1, that’s when the real season starts. That’s when we are going to wrestle these top-5, top-10 teams in the country. I think that’s what some of the guys are excited for. And some of the guys who aren’t excited, they better get excited, it’s going to be huge for the program and we are going to have some huge opportunities – that gets me excited.”
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