June 18, 2019 | 68° F

Notebook: Knights instill energy in fans with 27-9 win

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

The Rutgers wrestling team captured a crushing 27-9 opening season win over Maryland over the weekend, keyed by amazing performances in front of more than 2,000 Scarlet Knights fans.

The first match of the season was played outdoors at High Point Solutions Stadium after being moved from Yankee Stadium. This was a familiar spot for some of the Rutgers wrestlers but was new territory for No. 3 125-pounder Nick Suriano, who competed in his first match as a member of the No. 12 Knights since transferring from Penn State.

“It was awesome man,” Suriano said. “The energy was through the roof, I had a ton of support behind me, I felt it. It’s just another match, but I’m feeling great. I’m happy, and I’m ready to keep rolling.”

Suriano battled and grappled outdoors for the first time in his career, but it seemed to have little to no effect on the sophomore from Paramus, New Jersey. Suriano handled Terrapins 125-pounder Brandon Cray with ease, securing the first win of the day for Rutgers, 24-7, and giving the team a 5-0 lead after one bout.

Suriano provided eight takedowns in the match, with the final one giving him the 24-7 tech fall win over Cray.

Once the hype of Suriano cleared the air, new hype came after junior 165-pounder John Van Brill swept through his match without missing a beat. Van Brill took out Maryland’s 174-pounder Brendan Burnham and cruised to a 15-0 victory, which gave the Knights a 20-3 lead.

“It feels good just knowing that the training is going as well as I thought it was going,” Van Brill said. “It wasn’t the biggest test that I’m looking to get this season, so I’m really excited to test myself, to test how much I can handle and get more of those top-tier guys.”

With the crowd already roaring over his stellar performance, Van Brill gave them what they wanted as he got up from the mat and instantly did a backflip, landing on his feet and receiving a standing ovation from the rowdy fans.

But no other performance of the day was more tied to the atmosphere than that of No. 10 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina. The senior from Allendale, New Jersey secured a 10-4 comeback victory over Maryland 184-pounder Jaron Smith.

Gravina was able to capture the decision victory after one of the craziest sequences to occur on a mat. Early on in the bout as the two players grappled on the ground, Gravina’s shoulder popped out of its socket and the entire stadium froze with shock.

“I’ve dislocated my shoulder a bunch of times. I think it’s happened probably like five times in matches, all of which, but one, I kept going through,” Gravina said. “The immediate feeling is just trying to get it back in, and when it finally went in, I was like alright now I gotta make this up, I gotta do it.”

Gravina had his shoulder popped back in by the coaching staff, stretched out a few times and was ready to go right away, with his game face on instantly as he waited for Smith to meet him back at the center of the mat.

Gravina’s decision victory gave Rutgers a 23-6 lead with just two more matches remaining on the day. The Knights secured one more victory and took home the 27-9 Big Ten win.

Rutgers has only just begun its season, but things are looking good as the team tries to make its way up into the top-10 NCAA rankings.

“When you get a tech fall and an outside match like that, a lot of fans, gotta get them into it and give the people what they want, so I did it,” Van Brill said.

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

Coby Green

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