Sophomore makes debut in rankings after impressive start
Due to injuries along with untimely and unsightly losses, competitors on the Rutgers wrestling team have fallen in national rankings and a few have even dropped off the list entirely.
John Van Brill is not one of them.
Fresh off of two ranked wins this past weekend, the sophomore from Mullica Hill, New Jersey, made his mark on the Intermat top-25 rankings, featuring at No. 20 in the 157-pound division, as well as coming in at No. 11 in The Open Mat's rankings.
“(It is) cool to be recognized for some hard work, but (I) just want to keep climbing, that’s my whole goal,” Van Brill said.
His teammate, senior Richie Lewis, started the season at No. 6 in the weight class, but his ranking soon dropped after missing matches due to injury.
“I train with Van Brill a lot, and Van Brill is pretty much my main partner in the room during weight cuts, during those hard periods,” Lewis said. “He’s great, man. The coaches have trust in him. The team trusts him, and he puts it all out there.”
Van Brill has certainly filled the void left by Lewis’ absence. Though competition was bound to arise between the two, Van Brill’s success so far could only be considered meteoric.
Van Brill finished his first attached season last year at 8-7 overall, a mediocre record compared to his Scarlet Knight counterparts.
But standing at 10-2 on the eve of Big Ten play this year, he has surpassed last season’s efforts in grand fashion, and his national rankings represent just that.
Van Brill’s win total does not only reflect the amount of his victories, but also how he has attained them.
At the Battle of the Birthplace against Princeton, starting Van Brill over Mike D’Angelo started a string of extra-point wins that ultimately pushed Rutgers past the Tigers.
Against No. 8 Cornell at the Grapple in the Garden — which stands as the Knights only loss so far this season — Van Brill’s major decision over Taylor Simaz was only one of three that favored Rutgers.
And with last weekend’s Journeymen Tussle hosted by Hofstra University, Van Brill had his best performance yet, pinning then-No. 4 Max Rohskopf of North Carolina State and defeating then-No. 16 May Bethea of Penn, who was en route to placing second in his weight class.
The evolution of Van Brill over the past year has continued to progress every week, and he credits the coaching staff for it.
But he also did not slight himself in acknowledgement, recognizing a change in mentality as a major component to his rise.
“Everything you see out in the match happens in the room,” Van Brill said. “I was always really intense in (practice), always going really hard — but this year I’m a little more calm, trying to focus on technique. So I think the evolving is just (about) being calmer and focusing on technique a lot more.”
Though Van Brill has recently etched his name into national rankings, the coaching staff — from head coach Scott Goodale to the trainers — are not surprised by any means at his rise. As Van Brill said, much of his progress has come at the hands of the coaching staff and teammates like Lewis.
“He’s certainly capable," Goodale said. "It’s not a shock to us."
Though the meat of the season has yet to commence, with Big Ten play starting at Maryland on Sunday and continuing into 2017, Van Brill and the others have already had tastes of significant play in the early season.
From strangers to ranked opponents, the team has been able to prepare adequately for conference play, and as Goodale said, no one has stepped up more in important matches than Van Brill.
“He gets into those big matches (and) it’s all about those big matches,” Goodale said. "That’s why we’re in this sport and he took full advantage of it. Good for him. He works real hard.”