July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Rutgers leaves Journeymen Tussle with mixed results

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Freshman Willie Scott improved his record this season to 7-3 after finishing in first place at the 2016 Journeymen Tussle. Scott went undefeated Sunday, going 3-0, and was the only Rutgers wrestler who finished on top of his division.

On a day where head coach Scott Goodale was hoping to set his starting lineup into stone, the Rutgers wrestling team gave him plenty to work with.

The Scarlet Knights left the Journeymen Tussle with 10 of its 14 competitors placing, with 165-pounder redshirt freshman Willie Scott finishing in first place in his division.

Hosted by Hofstra University, the Long Island crowd also saw 125-pounder Sean McCabe, 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault, 149-pounder Ken Theobold, 157-pounder John Van Brill, 165-pounder Anthony Pafumi and 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas earn second-place honors. 

A pair — 125-pounder Brandon Paetzell and 149-pounder Anthony Giraldo — finished the day in third place.

Despite the placements, Goodale was neither happy nor angry with the results, holding that it was an average outcome for a team expected to excel.

“It was a good day,” Goodale said. “It wasn’t a great day, it wasn’t a terrible day, it was a very normal day where it was a little frustrating to be able to beat some of the nationally ranked guys and we didn’t get it done. We didn’t get it done enough.”

In a division with a lot of question marks surrounding it for Goodale and the Knights, the 165 weight class saw Willie Scott and fifth-year senior Anthony Pafumi take to the mat.

Scott opened his day with a major decision over Campbell’s Quentin Perez. His success carried on into his next bout, as he scooped up a technical fall in a shutout versus Jason Carr of the Citadel.

The first-place winner closed his day with a 6-1 decision over Hofstra’s Bobby Fehr, and now Scott has his sights set on the duels ahead in which he hopes he can earn a starting spot.

“I had a good showing today, I believe,” Scott said. “With Richie Lewis not being in the mix at 157, I think I kind of earned the spot. And I’m excited to start the Big Ten duels and head out to Chicago for the Midlands.”

Pafumi, who hasn’t seen much action this season, mustered a 3-0 decision over The Citadel’s Russ Hill. But he was unable to draw the same momentum against Penn’s Joe Velliquette, falling in a 10-1 major decision.

Pafumi fought back from his disappointing second affair to a high-scoring contest with Richard Muniz, as he cleaned up with a 17-12 decision.

The Knights were represented on both sides of the collegiate experience in the 125-pound division, as fifth-year senior Sean McCabe and freshman Brandon Paetzell took the mat.

McCabe and Paetzell asserted themselves early with consecutive 4-1 decisions over Brown’s Donald Keeley and Michael Russo, respectively.

The second-place winner, McCabe, finished the day with a 3-1 showing, ultimately falling to No. 13 Nathan Kraisser of Campbell in the first-place match.

At 3-1 as well, Paetzell collected third-place honors with a 6-2 decision over NC State’s Charlie Lenox.

At 133 pounds, junior Scott DelVecchio assumed the reins with an 3:56 fall over Campbell’s Paul Ambrose in one of the first few matches of the afternoon. He later added to his tally with a 9-4 decision Hofstra’s Vinny Vespa, in what was DelVecchio’s case for reasserting himself into the starting lineup ahead of No. 19 Tyson Dippery.

No. 5 Ashnault was the lone representative for the 141 weight class, and he kicked off the day with fall in 1:38 over Hofstra’s Conner Burkert. The junior was not finished there, dominating Brown's Ezekiel Salvo en route to a 17-1 technical fall a few hours later.

Ashnault faced off against No. 6 Kevin Jack in the first-place match, a wrestler who defeated him last year. 

Already falling to a ranked opponent in Matthew Kolodzik earlier this season, a win against Jack would keep Ashnault firmly in his place on the rankings. But as with last year’s defeat, Ashnault succumbed to a 2-0 decision at the hands of Jack and Ashnault settled for the second-place slot.

Senior Theobold and sophomore Giraldo wrestled for Rutgers in the 149-pound division, a duo who Goodale has had trouble figuring out who should start between them. No. 10 Theobold is undefeated so far this season with wins over ranked opponents in Princeton’s Jordan Laster and Cornell’s Joey Galasso, but Giraldo has also impressed early on.

Even through Sunday’s event, Goodale is still undecided regarding the 149-pound division, as well as a few others heading into the Knights’ first Big Ten duel of the season against Maryland next weekend.

But despite that, Theobold and Giraldo continued their collective good run of form, as Theobold nabbed an 11-2 major decision over The Citadel’s Ty Buckiso. Giraldo followed suit with a decision over Ryan Burkert of Hofstra.

Theobold had to claw his way through his second match, nailing the 5-4 decision through riding time over NC State’s Beau Donohue.

Undefeated so far, Theobold met NC State’s No. 16 Sam Speno in the first-place contest. Speno quelled Theobold’s quest for first-place with an 8-1 decision.

Giraldo also placed, as he closed out his afternoon with a 16-11 decision over Donohue to finish in third.

But perhaps the most shocking results of the tournament came at the hands of sophomore 157-pounder John Van Brill. Up against NC State’s No. 4 Max Rohskopf, the clear favorite to emerge as his division’s champion at the end of the day, Van Brill pulled off the upset fall in 5:45.

Van Brill’s string of upsets did not end there, as he also bested No. 16 Maaziah Bethea of Penn in a 4-2 decision.

“Obviously I was excited that I was about to get wins over some good guys, but I was just trying to stay focused on closing out the match,” Van Brill said. “Just trying to stay focused on technique, trying to stay focused on finishing out the match.”

But Van Brill’s third matchup pitted him against the Citadel’s Aaron Walker, and he dropped his first of the day through a 12-10 sudden victory for Walker.

At 174 pounds, fifth-year senior Phillip Bakuckas and sophomore Jordan Pagano emerged for Rutgers, two wrestlers who have traded spots in the lineup throughout the early season.

Their jockeying for position continued into Sunday, as both carried decisions in their first matches.

But Pagano’s 6-0 decision soon turned around in his second bout, as the sophomore fell to Penn's No. 3 Casey Kent, 6-0.

In contention for first place, Bakuckas battled Kent but ultimately came up short, falling, 10-0.

The 197-pound division, which has consistently been one of the weakest for the Knights in the early campaign, continued its rough stretch with three consecutive defeats to ring in the day. Freshman Matthew Correnti was the beneficiary of two of those losses, while junior Anthony Messner picked up one.

Marc McDonald represented the heavyweights for Rutgers on Sunday, and he started his afternoon with a slim 2-1 victory over the Citadel’s Joe Bexley. Unable to follow that win with another, he fell to Campbell’s Jere Heino in a 10-4 decision.

With only Van Brill holding a win over a ranked opponent on the day, wrestlers like Ashnault and Theobold face a drop in the rankings, losing matches to competitors below them nationally.

Goodale holds that those were matches which they should have put away, but ultimately, the team walks away rather disappointed heading into the dual against Maryland.

“We had some nice wins over nationally ranked guys, but that’s why we came here,” Goodale said. “To wrestle the best guys in the weight classes, and when we were matched up with them, we didn’t get it done.”

For more updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Jon Spilletti

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