Rutgers captures 2 wins in Indiana
With March rapidly approaching, the Rutgers wrestling team found its most productive road trip of the season this past weekend, extending its win streak to three with victories over Indiana and No. 20 Purdue.
“We piece things together and we find a way to win dual meets. I’m proud of our guys. It's been a long weekend, we’re banged up and we just keep fighting through it and we find a way to win,” said head coach Scott Goodale.
It was a particularly fruitful finish in the 125-pound slot for sophomore Shane Metzler, who notched his first Big Ten win against the Boilermakers' (6-8, 2-5) Marshall Craig. Metzler, who has taken over for the 125-pound weight class this season after No. 4 junior Nick Suriano transitioned to 133 pounds, has started all but one match for the No. 18 Scarlet Knights (11-5, 4-3) without huge returns.
Metzler took a 10-match losing streak into the weekend, a streak that extended to 11 after a loss on Friday night to the Hoosiers' (5-10, 1-6) Elijah Oliver, but came back in a big way on Sunday with a critical 4-1 decision over Craig to tie the meet at nine for Rutgers — its first 125-pound victory since November.
“The past couple weeks I’ve hit a lot of top-ranked competition," Metzler said. "So I’ve been working through some tough guys and really, I saw an opportunity in this match and tried to take advantage of it.”
Metzler’s victory set the stage for Suriano to give the Knights the lead after the intermission. Suriano picked up his 19th and 20th wins over the weekend with two major decisions. He knocked off Indiana’s Garrett Pepple on Friday and gave Rutgers a 4-point lead with a 12-4 victory over Purdue's No. 14 Ben Thornton.
Going into the meet against the Boilermakers, the two matches that would be critical for both teams were in the 157-pound and 197-pound slots. Purdue’s two best wrestlers in No. 13 Griffin Parriott and No. 12 Christian Brunner both earned decisions over the Knights.
“I look at the ones we dropped to the nationally ranked guys, and those are tough to swallow, but overall we wrestled hard and we wrestled strong in all three positions,” Goodale said.
Suriano and three other Rutgers wrestlers won both their matches over the weekend. Junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari earned a major decision on Friday over the Hoosiers' Kyle Luigs. On Sunday against the Boilermakers' Nate Limmex, Lipari worked a reversal in the second overtime period to clinch a 5-4 victory and put the Knights up 16-9.
Consensus No. 1 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault earned a close 8-7 decision on Friday night over Indiana's Fernando Silva and worked a first-period pin over Purdue's Parker Filius on Sunday. Ashnault improves to a perfect 21-0 on the season and is now just five wins shy of tying Mike McHugh on the program’s all-time wins list.
Junior heavyweight Christian Colucci earned a 10-1 major decision Friday night over the Hoosiers' Fletcher Miller and a 3-2 double overtime decision over the Boilermakers' Jacob Aven on Sunday. Colucci has now won three straight bouts since his meet-deciding victory over Princeton’s Kendall Elfstrum, last Sunday.
“The coaches definitely know what they’re doing," Colucci said. "They’ve been helping me out every single day on and off the mat. I just trust in myself that I’ll be ready to go, come the Big Ten tournament and for Nationals."
While Rutgers has now won three straight meets, the team is still not completely whole. The Knights reinserted junior 174-pounder Willie Scott back into the lineup on Friday night only to once again lose him to injury later that night.
True freshman 165-pounder Stephan Glasgow didn't travel with the team, as he was left on campus to rest. Glasgow was one of the team's biggest surprise contributors early in the season before sustaining leg injuries. There is no word on when the freshman will return to the lineup.
Rutgers will put its three-game winning streak on the line in its biggest challenge of the year next Sunday as they are set to host No. 4 Michigan in its last home meet of the season and second-to-last meet overall before the Big Ten Tournament.
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