Suriano medically forfeits, Gravina misses podium for Rutgers
After a long and grueling regular season, the Rutgers wrestling team was finally able to put all of its focus on the first part of its ultimate goal — to be champions.
Through the Big Ten Championships and there after the NCAA Championships, such a feat can be achieved, but in a bittersweet weekend for the Scarlet Knights, that goal is still up in the air.
This past weekend in East Lansing, Michigan, the 2018 Big Ten Championships were held over a two-day span and ended with a group of 10 champions through the weight classes. Through some wins and ultimately losses, Rutgers advanced five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, but did not leave Michigan with any champions.
Here are three observations from the Big Ten Championships.
Suriano’s cautionary early exit
Sophomore Nick Suriano, the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds at the conference championships and the No. 1 overall ranked wrestler in the country at 125, entered the weekend as the favorite to come out of his weight class with the title.
Coming off almost a month off from competition due to an illness, Suriano showed no sign of rust out of the gates. After a first round bye, Suriano picked up right where he left off in the regular season, defeating No. 9 seed Travis Piotrowski of Illinois, 9-2, in the quarterfinals.
In a surprising move that certainly changed the outcome of the entire 125-pound bracket, Suriano medically forfeited from his semifinal match with No. 5 seed Ethan Lizak. Although it is unknown as to why exactly he was pulled, pulling him out from the remainder of the tournament seems like a precautionary measure for the final goal — the NCAA Championships.
Interestingly, this was the second time this season that Suriano missed a match with Lizak, after Suriano missed the Knights’ home finale against the Golden Gophers less than a month ago. Lizak proceeded to fall in the the 125-pound title match against No. 3 seed Nathan Tomasello — who had won the title three times in the past four years and became the 15th wrestler in 106 years of Big Ten wrestling to win the individual title four times.
Lewis scores big upset en route to third place finish
Entering the Big Ten Championships on a roll after ending the regular season better than just about anyone on the team, No. 7 fifth-year senior 165-pounder Richie Lewis continued down that path. Slated at the No. 4 seed in his weight class, Lewis cruised past his first-round matchup in Brendan Burnham from Maryland, 20-7. In a rematch from just a few weeks ago, Lewis met No. 5 seed Evan Wick of Wisconsin in the quarterfinals and again secured the win over him.
Now sitting just one match away from the title match, Lewis needed to get past No. 1 seed Isaiah Martinez of Illinois. After a tight match where both wrestlers grappled back and forth, Martinez pulled away late and advanced past Lewis, but Lewis was saving his best performance for last.
Lewis was put in front of Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, the No. 2 seed and No. 2 165-pounder in the country, in the semifinals of the third-place bracket. With 36 seconds remaining and the score tied at 5 apiece, Lewis managed a last-second takedown to defeat Marinelli and secure the highest-ranked win of the year for Rutgers.
Lewis was named the third-place winner after Wick medically forfeited from the third-place championships round.
Gravina needs another year
In what must have been an extremely disappointing weekend, fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina not only failed to reach the podium at the championships, but failed to automatically qualify for the NCAA’s also. Entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed, Gravina was in good position to, at the very least, make the podium, if not be in the conversation for contention of the title.
Gravina started things off strong, getting a 3-0 decision over Buddy Conley from Indiana to advance to the quarterfinals, and it was there that his day got bumpy. Gravina fell in the quarterfinal to No. 4 seed Emery Parker of Illinois, 5-2, effectively losing out on competing for the title.
Moving down the bracket to the second round of the consolation bracket, Gravina fell for the second time in as many matches, losing to Mitch Bowman of Iowa — who was not seeded prior to competition.
Gravina was able to pull things together at the end of his weekend, winning both the ninth-place semifinal and title matches, but left his turn at the NCAA Championships in question.