Ohio State thwarts Rutgers' upset opportunity
Twenty-two hours after a come-from-behind 20-15 victory against Navy on Saturday, the No. 22 Rutgers wrestling team was then tasked with having to face No. 4 Ohio State on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights were on pace to have their first upset of a top-5 opponent since they beat No. 3 Virginia Tech in 2011 in front of 1,523 fans at the College Avenue Gym, also known as the Barn.
But after taking four out of the first five matches, including a tech fall from the redshirt first-year, 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault, Rutgers dropped four in a row before junior heavyweight Billy Smith took the late decision.
The Knights fell to the No. 4 Buckeyes, 23-17, after holding a 14-5 lead at the intermission.
Although the team split the bouts, 5-5, with the Buckeyes, Ohio State took the advantage with four tech falls against Rutgers.
And head coach Scott Goodale knows that needs to be fixed.
“There wasn’t any talk of trying to keep bonus points to a minimum,” Goodale said of forfeiting four bonus-point decisions. “Obviously, you want to win big and lose small. That always helps in a dual-meet situation. I’ve never seen a college dual where there are four techs — that’s a lot of tech falls. That can’t happen at this level. If you are going to compete, it can’t happen at this level.”
Although ultimately losing to Ohio State puts a damper on the afternoon, Rutgers found positives to take from its close loss to one of the top teams in the nation.
To start, Rutgers collected upsets at 133 and 157 pounds against two top-10 grapplers from the Buckeyes to go along with a tech fall from Ashnault and seventh-straight win from junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold.
Sophomore Scott DelVecchio started the excitement for the Knights by collecting the 7-1 decision against No. 7/8/9/5-ranked Johnni DiJulius.
With 43 seconds left in the third period, DelVecchio evened the score after a lock of hands call and took the 2-1 lead after DiJulius stalled.
DelVecchio then fed off the crowd’s energy, reversed on bottom and collected three back points as time expired.
Then the Barn erupted with DelVecchio raising his hands to pump up the crowd as he beat his chest.
“The wrestling season is long, it’s a grind and sometimes you kind of question what you are doing and who you are doing it for,” DelVecchio said. “But then you get a crowd like this, and you realize that’s what you want. You want a big win in front of a big crowd. That’s what really gets the blood going.”
Although not quite known for being as big of a crowd favorite like DelVecchio, junior 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti got the Knights fans going in his own right.
Placed against No. 9/8/9/7-ranked Josh Demas, Perrotti would keep the wrestling fans excited with an 8-5 decision — his first victory against a top-10 opponent of the season.
A reversal and a near fall as the second period expired gave Perrotti a lead he would never surrender.
After sound defense in the third period, Perrotti cashed in and after he got his hand raised he took his turn to arouse the 1,500 fans.
Perrotti exclaimed, “I’m back baby, I’m back,” as he flexed and pumped his arms. And after missing an extended period of time with an injury, it appears Perrotti truly is back to his top form.
To come this close against a national contender like Ohio State has Perrotti feeling optimistic after the dual-meet.
“We’re right there with this team,” Perrotti said. “They are the fourth-ranked team in the country, and we are right there with them. It’s a big step for us. We’ve been getting pounded by some teams. Everyone wrestled their hardest. We aren’t going to back down, we’re all from New Jersey, we are tough kids and we aren’t going to back down from a challenge like this.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.