Knights drop first Big Ten dual meet to Penn State on the road
Rutgers may be a wrestling school, but Penn State can do them one better. Or twenty.
The Rutgers wrestling team left State College, Pennsylvania winless in its 20th attempt against the No. 2 Nittany Lions (7-0, 3-0) Friday, as the Scarlet Knights (7-2, 2-1) dropped their first Big Ten dual meet, 37-6.
Boasting four ranked wrestlers compared to Penn State’s nine, the Knights faced a tall task from the starting whistle, and the opening match did nothing to set head coach Scott Goodale at ease.
Though freshman 125-pounder Brandon Paetzell enjoyed a last-second victory against fellow newcomer Travis Piotrowski of Illinois last weekend, he couldn’t find the same fortune Friday night, as he fell to No. 3 Nick Suriano to the tune of 16-2, sending the Lions out to a 4-0 lead.
Junior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio and George Carpenter took the mat next in what was one of the few unranked matches of the evening. DelVecchio, bouncing back from last week’s defeat to No. 4 Zane Richards, earned an 11-4 decision.
But following an unranked match came one between two All-Americans. No. 6 Anthony Ashnault and No. 12 Jimmy Gulibon grappled to a 6-4 decision in favor of the former, who shoved Rutgers to a 6-4 edge.
The first of a pair of top-ranked wrestlers for Penn State, No. 1 Zain Retherford, approached the mat next, meeting in the middle with fifth-year senior 149-pounder Ken Theobold. Theobold was passed versus the Fighting Illini in favor of Anthony Giraldo, who did not get the job done.
The No. 14 Theobold followed Giraldo’s lead, as Retherford maintained his undefeated record this season with a commanding fall over the senior.
And No. 16 John Van Brill was unable to do any better against No. 1 Jason Nolf. Though the sophomore 157-pounder held his own for the beginning of the first period, two quick near-falls gave Nolf the leverage to record a 22-4 technical fall. Nolf recorded his 12th victorious non-decision of the year, closing the front half with a 15-6 dual lead.
Hoping to break the Lions’ streak was 165-pounder Willie Scott. He faced off against No. 4 Vincenzo Joseph in a battle of the freshmen, though he once again found himself on his back for much of the affair. Joseph pushed Penn State further into the lead with a 19-3 technical fall.
At 20-6, the Knights needed a masterful fight out of fifth-year senior 174-pounder Philip Bakuckas. Bakuckas held then-No. 12 Zac Brunson to a two-point margin last weekend, and the margins were just as cruel to him on the road, as No. 14 Geno Morelli nabbed the 5-3 decision.
The last of Rutgers’ four ranked wrestlers took the mat next and he did so with a wrestler 12 spots higher. But No. 14 Gravina and No. 2 Nickal did not wrestle for long. The latter put away Gravina before the close of the second period, putting the meet out of reach for the visitors.
Despite the early win for the Lions, freshman 197-pounder Matthew Correnti looked to continue his good run of form from last weekend’s dual-saving decision over Illinois’ Andre Lee. This time head-to-head with No. 11 Matt McCutcheon, Correnti was unable to further last week’s success, dropping the match at a 4-3 line.
To round out the evening for the Knights was sophomore Ralph Normandia in only his second match of the season. In his 11th match across the mat was the undefeated No. 5 Nick Nevills, whose ranking brought no worry to the fresh Normandia, who held his own for much of the first period before making way for a Nevills technical fall.
A fitting end to a frustrating night for Goodale and company, Nevills’ technical fall marked the 7th consecutive victory on the evening for Penn State. Rutgers only collected two wins on the night with back-to-back early decisions for DelVecchio and Ashnault.
And they’ll carry those decisions into a conference intermission Friday night in a dual against winless Oregon State. For the other spots in the lineup, Goodale is still shuffling around, a job he was hoping to cease by the new year. Who will figure into the starting roles is less certain after Friday’s loss, in what was not the team’s first test against higher-ranked competition.
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