Rutgers splits matches with Columbia, No. 8 Cornell in Grapple at the Garden
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Rutgers wrestling team split its two matches Sunday afternoon at the fifth annual Grapple at the Garden in Madison Square Garden.
The No. 10 Scarlet Knights (5-1) kicked off the day with a resounding 39-3 victory over Columbia (0-1) but followed that up with a 28-10 loss to No. 8 Cornell (3-0).
Against Columbia, the Knights did not need long to get their lead going, as fifth-year senior 125-pounder Sean McCabe won via forfeit to bring Rutgers to a 6-0 lead.
At the 133-pound weight class, junior Scott DelVecchio, who has taken a backseat to No. 13 Tyson Dippery so far this season, pushed his name into starting contention with a fall in 5:46, bringing the Knights to a 12-0 advantage.
No. 5 Anthony Ashnault followed suit at 141 pounds, scoring an 18-3 technical fall over Jacob Macalolooy.
Trailing 17-0, the Lions looked to fight back with junior 149-pounder Dan Reed, but Knights' sophomore Anthony Giraldo nabbed a major decision to run the score to 21-0.
Head coach Scott Goodale sang Giraldo’s praises Saturday, calling upon the lineup issues that have come up with his recent success.
“We need to get this lineup set after Midlands,” Goodale said. “That lineup needs to be set going into this Big Ten Conference. Kenny and Giraldo, why should Giraldo be out of the lineup? We gotta figure that out.”
Following Giraldo were John Van Brill, Willie Scott and Jordan Pagano, who all scored decisions over their foes in the 157, 165 and 174 weight classes, respectively, to extend Rutgers’ lead to 30-0.
Back in the fold was No. 13 Nicholas Gravina, a week removed from a ranked win over Princeton’s Ian Baker.
The 184-pound junior continued his good run of form with a 57 second fall over Donny Donnelly, pushing the score to 36-0.
With the win already in the books, freshman 197-pounder Matthew Correnti followed with a decision of his own.
Junior heavyweight Razohnn Gross looked to close out the bout with a decisive win to secure a shutout for the Knights, but Columbia’s Garrett Ryan was determined to salvage something for the team from the Upper West Side, collecting a decision and ending the day with his side on the losing end, 39-3.
But Cornell proved a much taller task, even before the first whistle.
Though Rutgers defeated the Ivy Leaguers at last year’s Grapple at the Garden, the Knights came into Sunday’s affair without All-American Anthony Perrotti, who graduated, and missing 157-pounder No. 6 Richie Lewis due to injury.
Their absences were sorely felt from the very beginning, as Cornell’s Noah Baughman and Mark Grey scored decisions in the 125 and 133 weight classes respectively.
Especially with 133-pounder No. 13 Tyson Dippery at the helm, Goodale had stressed the opening bouts as integral to Rutgers’ success against top teams like Cornell, and they didn’t produce on that end Sunday.
“You need to win those first two matches, because it gives you, not only momentum, but it puts you exactly where we thought we’d be,” Goodale said. “We got beat at 25 and 33, and I’m not blaming those guys, but that was the biggest part of the match right there. Trying to play catch-up against one of the best teams in the country is a really, really hard thing to do.”
Down 6-0, Ashnault chipped away at the lead with a slim decision over Cornell’s Will Koll, 6-4.
And following Ashnault was fifth-year senior 149-pounder Ken Theobold in his first match of the day against No. 19 Joey Galasso of the Big Red.
At No. 14, Theobold engaged in his second ranked match of the season Sunday, as he defeated No. 19 Jordan Laster of Princeton at last weekend’s Battle at the Birthplace. Theobold knocked off another No. 19, garnering a 6-0 decision and tying the score at six.
And though Theobold held his own in his match, he was not thrilled with his performance after.
“I could have done better in the first period,” Theobold said. “I’m always trying to score bonus points in a team atmosphere like this where we’re going up against a ranked team opponent. It’s really big to score bonus points. If I could have gotten a pin or a possible major, that could have set the momentum up for other people’s success.”
Van Brill continued Theobold’s success with a major decision over Cornell’s Taylor Simaz, giving the Knights their first lead against the Big Red so far.
But the tide shifted within minutes, as redshirt freshman 165-pounder Willie Scott was unable to extend Rutgers’ streak, falling victim to a fall at the hands of No. 10 Brandon Womack, which lifted Cornell back into the lead at 12-10.
Fifth-year senior 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas looked to halt a potential Cornell onslaught, and he held No. 5 Brian Realbuto to a deadlock until the final moments of the match, until Realbuto issued a takedown in the last five seconds of the bout.
Losing matches in the final moments of a match has been a running trend in the last few weeks for the Knights, as the same happened to Ashnault against Princeton’s Matthew Kolodzik just a week prior.
“Close out matches,” Goodale said. “I mean, sitting around at 2-2, close out a match. And you can’t get over the hump, and you can’t become All-Americans and national champs if you’re not closing out matches.”
Bakuckas’ loss opened up the opportunity for the Big Red to strike and they did so in inspiring fashion. No. 1 Gabe Dean fleshed out a 16-3 major decision over Gravina, extending Cornell’s lead to 19-10.
At the 197-pound division, Cornell’s Ben Honis scored a decision over junior Anthony Messner, and in the final bout of the day, Razohnn Gross recorded his second loss, falling to No. 19 Jeremy Sweany, propelling Cornell to a 28-10 dual win.
Losing to a side a few spots above them in the national rankings will do no favors for Rutgers, and now it looks toward the Midland Championships next weekend to offer up some reprieve from a disappointing weekend in New York, despite the morning’s win.
As Theobold ensures though, the team has been in this situation before, and it is how it responds that will decide its path going into the meat of the season.
“We’re not gonna take this loss too hard, we’re just going to work better starting on Monday,” Theobold said. “Just focus on and fine tune our technique.”