Four Rutgers grapplers qualify for NCAAs
COLUMBUS – Anthony Ashnault wanted to win the Big Ten title at 141 pounds. Anthony Perrotti also wanted to stand at the top of the podium.
But when the time came, both Perrotti and Ashnault were watching the finals in their street clothes.
Although the pair did not collect a Big Ten Championship like they hoped, they still managed to find a spot on the podium. Along with heavyweight Billy Smith and 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, Perrotti and Ashnault qualified for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships –– tying the amount of grapplers sent last year.
Ashnault finished in fifth place, while Perrotti ended his tournament in seventh place. DelVecchio and Smith both placed ninth for the Rutgers wrestling team.
While his tournament did not end how he wanted, Perrotti knows an NCAA qualification out of the Big Ten is hard to come by. Making it to the NCAAs is one thing, but Perrotti has bigger goals in mind.
“I’m not too happy with my performance,” Perrotti said. “But I made Nationals. You have to be in the tournament to win the tournament –– that’s still my goal. I’m not satisfied where I placed and (the loss to Ohio State’s Josh Demas) is not going to sit well with me. I think I would’ve went for third, but I have to put it behind me and move on to Nationals. I’ll be ready.”
Perrotti’s path to the qualification was taxing. After losing his first bout, 7-5, in tiebreakers to Penn State’s Luke Frey, Perrotti needed to start winning.
In his match after the loss, Perrotti pinned Iowa’s Michael Kelly in 55 seconds. Perrotti followed the pin with a 2-1 tiebreaker loss to Demas.
Needing a win for seventh place, Perrotti went on to face Maryland’s Lou Mascola. After an escape and a late double-leg takedown to take the 3-0 lead, impressive defense decided the match in Perrotti’s favor and secured seventh place for him.
“I was feeling really good this morning and felt like I needed to get in on my attacks,” Perrotti said. “I ended up in a couple of scrambles and I felt him wear down towards the end. I got in on that double and went up, 3-0. I was confident that if I stayed on my ride the whole time, I knew it would be easy to finish that match.”
Ashnault ended the first session on Day One knowing that he qualified for the NCAAs after a 7-2 decision against Maryland’s Shyheim Brown and a fall against Wisconsin’s Jesse Thielke, but he wanted more. Only Ohio State’s Logan Steiber stood in the way of Ashnault’s chance at the finals.
Steiber, a three-time undefeated NCAA Champion, would be harder to stop. A takedown, reversal and over five minutes of riding time proved too much for Ashnault. He dropped the match, 5-1.
A 3-2 victory over Purdue’s Nick Lawrence cemented Ashnault’s tournament with a fifth-place finish. It may not have been what he envisioned, but Ashnault still believes his dream of becoming a national champion is still alive.
“Fifth place is not what we came here for, we wanted to win it,” Ashnault said. “You take what you can get and move on to Nationals. The main goal is still to win a National title, so as of now, it’s still in reach. I would have liked for it to be a different finish.”
For head coach Scott Goodale, the tournament ended on a positive note. With four wrestlers receiving automatic qualifications, and the possibility of Ken Theobold and Phil Bakuckus receiving at-large selections, Goodale was happy he survived the gauntlet of a tournament.
The second day of competition was a good one for the Scarlet Knights. With everyone winning their last match, Rutgers enjoys some optimism in the two weeks leading up to the NCAAs.
“We had a good day – everybody won,” Goodale said. “It was important to win the last ones to end on a good note and we got four through. It was our first time in this meat grinder and there are no breaks – there’s no tournament out there like this one. We felt like we hit a brick wall and there was no response. We lost a lot of close matches and that was hard to sit through, but I like the fact that we bounced back. I think we got some guys that can win matches at the National Tournament. That’s what I’m excited about.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.