Rutgers finishes out Big Ten schedule on high note, tops No. 25 Northwestern
It started off as strangely as possible for the Rutgers wrestling team when it traveled from Wisconsin to Chicago for its dual meet on Sunday against Northwestern.
In two out of the first three bouts, the Wildcats forfeited at 157 pounds and 174 pounds — the latter being something they have done all season. The Scarlet Knights had a commanding 12-3 lead after the fact.
A string of three-straight losses, including a pin of 197-pounder Hayden Hrymack, left the Knights in a tough situation with three bouts remaining and the score tied, 15-15, with the last bout against NCAA Champion Jason Tsirtsis.
But after a pair of wins by sophomore 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio –– who earned a buzzer-beating 10-1 major decision –– and a 4-2 decision from Anthony Ashnault, the dual was sealed against No. 25 Northwestern and confirmed a 22-19 win for No. 21 Rutgers after junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold dropped a 12-2 major decision to Tsirtsis.
The win proved important for the Knights as they collected another win and finished out their Big Ten schedule on a high note.
“DelVecchio's major was huge. In the third period up 5-0, we were like, ‘Listen, you have to think major,’” said head coach Scott Goodale. “It would take some pressure off of the last match knowing that they had Tsirtsis. I thought it was big that we got bonus points late, and again, its bonus points coming up big for us. Good for Scott, that’s a great win and a great bounce back win.”
While there were some other surprises in the dual, perhaps none were more important to the outcome than the forfeit at 157 pounds.
At 174 pounds, Northwestern has forfeited all season long, so that was expected. But Goodale said he saw their wrestler warming up and was unsure why he didn’t take the mat to start off the dual-competition.
“No, we didn’t expect that at all,” Goodale said. “At 174 pounds, they have been doing it all year so we knew that was coming, but at 157, it was kind of a last-second thing. We saw him working out, warming up and he weighed in. For some reason, and I don’t know if it was because the match started at 157-pounds, but he didn’t wrestle. I felt good about Perrotti anyway and what he could do.”
After a loss to No. 18 Wisconsin on Friday by virtue of bonus points criteria, Goodale admitted he thought it might be tough to rebound after a difficult defeat.
But it was what he saw in the practice room on Saturday that made him believe his grapplers had put the loss behind them and were confident in their bout versus the Wildcats.
“Nah, it was a tough match to lose, and it was one of the tougher ones since I’ve seen here,” Goodale said. “I’ve been on the winning side of those kind of matches, and very rarely been on the losing side of something like that. It was hard and I didn’t know how these guys would bounce back. But, [Saturday] was one of our better practices out here and it was great. They didn’t say a word and they knew it — these guys want to win. They knew that stung a little.”
With all eight of the Big Ten matches out of the way and Rutgers on to two more non-conference bouts before the conference postseason and the NCAA tournament, Goodale knows where the Knights size up.
He also knows the level of talent they have faced in conference play.
“To be in this conference you have to be good and if you don’t hear of a kid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good,” Goodale said. “There’s no breaks and it doesn’t matter if you are 1-6 in the Big Ten, or you are 6-1 – and the perfect example was Friday night against Wisconsin. We’re 1-6 and they’re 6-1, and that was probably a match we should have won. Anything can happen on any given night. The Big Ten is every bit of good as advertised.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.