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No. 17 Rutgers wins 2 of 3 against ranked foes at Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals

The No. 17 Rutgers wrestling team entered the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals on Sunday with a chance to make an early-season statement. 

With match-ups against No. 13 North Carolina, No. 22 Oklahoma and No. 25 Northern Iowa in front of them, the Scarlet Knights were going to learn how they stacked up against three top programs for the first time this season.

At the conclusion of a long day of wrestling in Troy, New York, that included three highly competitive matches, the Knights had walked away just two points shy of completely sweeping the Northeast Duals. 

Rutgers (5-1) fell late to Oklahoma, 19-18, in its first match, but came back strong by squeezing past No. 13 North Carolina, 19-13, and cruising right by Northern Iowa, 28-10, to finish the dual meet with a 2-1 record.

“It was a major test having three nationally ranked programs like that who wrestle really, really hard, traditionally,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “Overall, there’s a lot of room to improve, obviously. But we’ll get the positive out of it in getting 2 of 3 ... I think what you take out of it is the way you bounce back. We bounced back and we beat No. 13 North Carolina and then Northern Iowa, who’s a really good program. So we’ll take those positives out of it and get back to the drawing board.”

The Knights' first match of the day was a nail-biter against Oklahoma. 

Both teams traded bouts through the first eight matches to bring it to an overall score of 15-15 entering the final two matches. After Hayden Hrymack fell in a major decision, Billy Smith’s 8-1 decision victory in the final match was not enough as Rutgers was barely edged out by the Sooners, 19-18, in its first of three meets.

The Knights came back strong following their first loss off the season with a fast start in their second match of the day against North Carolina. 

Rutgers won its first three individual matches to take an early 9-0 lead, finished off by No. 8 Anthony Ashnault taking down No. 5 Evan Henderson in a 7-4 decision for his second victory at the duals. 

After the teams traded bouts in the following two matches, No. 9 Anthony Perrotti defeated No. 3 Ethan Ramos in a 6-4 decision to give the Knights a 15-3 lead.

But following Perrotti’s victory, the Tar Heels reeled off three straight wins to shrink Rutgers’ lead to 15-13. With the fate of the entire match in the hands of the heavyweight showdown, Smith’s second victory of the day sealed the Knights' 19-13 victory over North Carolina.

“You gotta be able to bounce back,” Ashnault said. “Losing happens, but what you do after that shows a lot about your character and where we are as a team. It was really good for us to go back to back there, especially in that last match we really dominated. So it was nice to come back from that loss and see what we could do. The team battled hard and I think we looked pretty good after that.”

With their first victory of the day under their belts, the Knights entered their final match of the day against Northern Iowa with a chance to leave the dual-meet with a winning record. 

Northern Iowa got to the Rutgers early on with a 7-0 lead after the first two matches, but then the Knights reeled off three consecutive victories behind Ashnault, Tyson Dippery and Richie Lewis to take the lead.

Then Perrotti recorded a pin fall victory in the final seconds of his match to give the Knights a commanding 19-7 lead with four matches remaining. 

In all, Rutgers won 7 of the final 8 matches against Northern Iowa on its way to a dominating 28-10 victory over the Panthers to leave the duals with a winning record.

“It’s important, capping a good day off for the team,” Perrotti said. “Getting bonus points for the team is real important and you never know what can go on in a match, so whenever there’s bonus points, you have to kind of see it and act on it.”

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

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