Lone Rutgers grappler keeps hope alive at NCAA Tournament in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS – Anthony Ashnault’s dream of reaching the top of the podium at 141 pounds is still
alive. But, to the dismay of the Rutgers wrestling team, his journey is the only one that still exists
in the NCAA Championship bracket.
After a commanding 9-2 decision Wednesday against unseeded Mike Longo of Appalachian
State, Ashnault needed another strong performance to become the first Scarlet Knight since 2011
to reach the quarterfinals of NCAAs.
Ashnault was tasked with facing 10th seeded Zachary Horan of Central Michigan in order to
accomplish the long-awaited milestone for Rutgers.
With the score tied 2-2 at the outset of the third period, Ashnault was delegated to the defensive
position. The South Plainfield (H.S.) product took no time to make it neutral, escaping only 5
seconds into the third period.
With a lead, Ashnault went to his offense and stayed aggressive on the edge. Ashnault said he
knew Horan would play defense throughout waiting for a mistake. Ashnault made no mistakes
and found a leg for a takedown – riding out Horan for the 6-3 decision.
Ashnault never felt his match was in jeopardy and thinks he is peaking at the right time this
“I feel like I’m wrestling the best that I have all year,” Ashnault said. “I’m going forward – I’m
not backing up at all like people saw me doing earlier in the season. I just feel like I’m on the
attack and I’m dominating these guys. That was a 6-3 win, but I never felt really in danger. I’m
really wrestling to the game plan and I feel good about that right now.”
Not every has had the joy of victory in the first day of competition at NCAAs. As happy as
Ashnault was to make it to the quarterfinals, two wrestlers were on the opposite end of the
Sophomore 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, who qualified for the first time in his career, did not
begin the tournament the way he had envisioned. After losing an 11-3 major against the 7 seed
from Penn State, Jimmy Gulibon, DelVecchio dropped his second, and final, match of the
tournament 9-4 against 10th seeded Mason Beckman of Lehigh.
DelVecchio not advancing in the Championship bracket wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the other
Knight who was eliminated in the first day was a surprise.
After claiming the first All-American under the guide of head coach Scott Goodale, Anthony
Perrotti wanted to at the very least duplicate his Top-8 finish from a year ago. Perrotti would not
After losing his first bout to Drexel’s Noel Blanco 5-3 in sudden victory, Perrotti would again be
forced to take his second match to overtime. While Perrotti shined in the consolation bracket a
season ago, he balked against Columbia’s Mark Scheidel.
Perrotti failed to find his offense in the match and, again, sudden victory would be needed to
decide the winner. Scheidel got off an attack late in the stanza and a takedown ended the match –
Perrotti would not be an All-American. He wouldn’t even make it to the second day.
“You never expect your returning All-American to come back here and go 0-2,” Goodale said.
“That’s the nature of this sport. We would have to really evaluate [what went wrong]. He was
training hard, he was prepared and he had really done a great job in the room. I thought he
wanted this tournament, but you just can’t turn it on. Last year he caught fire and he wasn’t able
to do it this year. He couldn’t generate any offense and score points – if you can’t do that you
A pair of Rutgers wrestlers did advance to the second day alongside Ashnault. Heavyweight
Billy Smith and 149-pounder Kenny Theobold fell to the consolation bracket.
Theobold won his first bout 6-5 in upset fashion against 10th seeded Christian Pagdilao of
Arizona State before dropping his second match 11-6 against the 7-seed Sal Mastriani of
Smith would start his bout with one of the toughest draws of the tournament against returning
NCAA Champion Nick Gwiazdowski of NC State. Smith would fall by an 8-2 decision and
would jump to the consolation bracket.
After the loss in the first bout, Smith followed it up with an impressive 8-0 win against George
Mason’s Jacob Kettler.
With three wrestlers set to advance, Goodale was pleased, but not as much as he could have
been. Goodale felt all five NCAA Qualifiers for the Knights had the ability to win matches at the
“Well, it’s just three guys that are going – I’m happy for those guys. But, I’m disappointed the
other two guys didn’t go through – I thought they were certainly capable of winning matches
here,” Goodale said. “I think the three guys who made it through can win matches.”
Ashnault is the only one alive in the Championship Bracket and is tasked with having to face
second-seeded Mitchell Port of Edinboro – who is 36-1 on the season. But, Ashnault thinks he
has as good a chance as any to advance and become just the third Knight to make it to the semi-
finals at NCAAs and just the first since 1960.
“I feel like I’m in a really good position,” Ashnault said. “With this Edinboro kid, I feel like I
have a really good shot. I’m just going to take it one period at a time, and right now I’m focusing
on the first period and then I’ll take it from there.”