July 23, 2019 | 73° F

Rutgers defeats Maryland to start Big Ten play on right foot

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Junior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina scored an 11-3 major decision win to kick-off Rutgers' 21-12 win over Maryland in the Knights' first Big Ten dual of the season Sunday.

Wrestling is as much a team sport as any other.

In no other sport does bearing the burden of one’s teammates’ mistakes become so pronounced or securing extra points so important so that those wrestling afterward don’t have to.

Such was the case Sunday afternoon, when the Rutgers wrestling team bussed southward to College Park to defeat Maryland (2-5, 0-1), 21-13, in the first Big Ten bout of the season.

Leading the charge for the Scarlet Knights (6-1, 1-1) was freshman 125-pounder Brandon Paetzell and junior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, who scored identical major decisions to open the scoring and carry an 8-0 lead into the third match.

Paetzell and DelVecchio, who have taken back seats to senior Sean McCabe and junior Tyson Dippery in dual meets so far this campaign, affirmed head coach Scott Goodale’s decision to start them Sunday, giving the Knights some early breathing room.

No. 6 Anthony Ashnault strapped on his headgear for a bout with Billy Rappo, in what was a bounceback victory for Ashnault after a loss to No. 5 Kevin Jack of NC State at the Journeymen Tussle, for which they swapped spots afterward. His 4-1 decision over Rappo propelled Rutgers to an 11-0 lead.

Shades of last year’s dual against Maryland started to set in, when the Knights only dropped one match. At 149, it was up to No. 12 Alfred Bannister to keep the Terrapins’ hopes alive in the most anticipated match of the day against No. 15 Ken Theobold.

Fifth-year senior Theobold has seen his rank drop in recent weeks and three points versus Bannister would have certainly launch him back into single digits.

But Bannister, the sophomore, eked out a 3-2 decision over Theobold, putting the home side on the board, though still down, 11-3.

Bannister’s fortune carried on into the 157-pound weight class, where sophomore John Van Brill, who recently found himself at No. 20 in the national rankings, fell in a major upset to Justin Alexander. It was a frustrating fight for Van Brill, as Alexander held firm ground to maintain an edge throughout, winning 7-4.

With the score at 11-6, the Terps had already surpassed their mark last season against Rutgers, but going into the home stretch with two consecutive decisions, they were looking to do more than just improve.

Looking to halt Maryland’s run, redshirt freshman 165-pounder Willie Scott took the mat against New Jersey native Danny Boychuck.

He did just that, defeating Boychuck to the tune of a 5-1 decision and bringing the Knights back into the scoring column.

Fifth-year senior 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas sought to continue what Scott started, as he squared off against Sam Rowell. With a 9-3 start and second-place honors at the Journeymen Tussle, Bakuckas has enjoyed a stellar start to the season, which figured into his match Sunday.

Amassing more than two minutes of riding time, Bakuckas’ stayed in control throughout the entire bout, pushing Rutgers’ lead to 17-6 with an 8-2 decision.

Putting the game on ice for the College Park crew was junior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina. No. 12 Gravina battled Idris White to an 11-3 major decision with more than four minutes of riding time. At 21-6, the Knights clinched the affair.

But the day was not finished, as the 197 group assumed the neutral with freshman Matthew Correnti and David-Brian Whisler wrestling.

Following poor showings at the Journeymen Tussle from Correnti and his weight-mate junior Anthony Messner, Goodale went with the freshman to fend off Whisler.

But Correnti only aggravated the Goodale’s 197 problem even further, dropping the bout to Whisler and running the score to 21-9.

Rounding out the day was sophomore heavyweight Marc McDonald facing off with Youssif Hemida. What was a relatively even matchup soon flipped in the favor of Hemida, who closed the event with a 9-3 decision.

Though Rutgers proved the victors in Sunday’s affair, it was a dramatic shift from its 30-3 thrashing over Maryland just a year prior.

A few injuries to key athletes has left Goodale scrambling to figure out some holes in his lineup, but the team’s first Big Ten victory of the year should carry them into the Midlands come the end of the month.

For updates to the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @jon_spilletti and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Jon Spilletti

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