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Rutgers earns monumental win over No. 7 Cornell at Madison Square Garden

<p>Junior 125-pounder Sean McCobe earned a comeback win over Cornell’s No. 18 Dalton Macri. After trailing 3-1 earlier, McCabe used two takedowns to get a 6-5 win.</p>

Junior 125-pounder Sean McCobe earned a comeback win over Cornell’s No. 18 Dalton Macri. After trailing 3-1 earlier, McCabe used two takedowns to get a 6-5 win.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Last season, the Rutgers wrestling team found that competing in the Big Ten Conference was nothing like its previous conference experiences. 

In an effort to better prepare for the highest level of competition in collegiate wrestling, the Scarlet Knights loaded their out-of-conference schedule to begin this season with ranked programs occupying half of their first 10 scheduled matches.

The Knights wrapped up their rigorous non-conference schedule on Sunday with two big wins in the Big Apple. No. 14 Rutgers (9-1) shut out George Mason, 47-0, and grinded out a 21-13 victory over No. 7 Cornell at the “Grapple at the Garden.”

The Knights’ victory over the Big Red was its first since 1998, marking their fourth win over a ranked opponent this season, a new team-high in the nine-year tenure of head coach Scott Goodale.

“Just a lot of fight, a lot of grit, our team’s hungry right now,” Goodale said. “From top to bottom, we wrestled in all three positions. We got some huge toss-up bouts we won — Sean McCabe, Tyson Dippery, Hayden Hrymack. That all adds up to a really special dual meet. Then we limit their three national finalists to decisions ... no bonus points out of them, so that’s a total team effort."

McCabe, a sophomore, set the tone early for the Knights with an upset, come-from-behind win over No. 18 Dalton Macri. McCabe trailed 3-1, entering the third and final period of the match, but used two takedowns to secure a 6-5 victory, giving Rutgers an early 3-0 lead. 

After No. 4 Nahshon Garrett picked up a decision win for Cornell to tie the match, No. 3 sophomore Anthony Ashnault recorded his second pinfall of the day in the final period of his match to give the Knights three bonus points and a six-point lead.

The Knights took two of the next three bouts, capped off by 6-2-decision victory by No. 9 Anthony Perrotti over No. 10 Duke Pickett in the 165-pound weight class, to extend their lead to 15-6.

Just when it appeared that Rutgers was going to easily cruise to its second upset victory of the season, the Big Red’s top-two grapplers got them right back into the match. 

A 6-2-decision victory from No. 2 Brian Realbuto over junior Phillip Bakuckas followed by a 13-5 major decision from No. 1 Gabe Dean over sophomore Nicholas Gravina shrunk the Knights’ lead to 15-13.

The fate of the match between the two wrestling powerhouses hung in the balance of the 197-pound and heavyweight matches. 

After trailing by one after the first period, senior Hayden Hrymack outscored Owen Scott, 6-1, in the second to give him a four-point lead heading into the final period of the match. In what may have been the most intensified match of the day, Hrymack held on for a 9-7 decision win to give the Knights an 18-13 lead.

With a pinfall being the only way for Rutgers to surrender its lead, No. 7 senior Billy Smith cruised to an 8-1 decision victory over Jeramy Sweany to seal and stamp Rutgers’ fourth victory over a ranked opponent on the season.

“It was definitely a great win, we all really wanted to beat Cornell,” Dippery said. “We all came out and we brought it, we put the intensity on them and kept pushing pace, and we got the ‘W.'”

The Knights went a perfect 10-for-10 in their first match of the day against George Mason. Rutgers picked up bonus points in all but one match on their way to a commanding 47-0 victory over the Patriots. McCabe, Ashnault and Gravina each recorded victories by way of pinfall.

The Knights will open the Big Ten Conference competition in just under two weeks when they travel to Iowa City to take on No. 2 Iowa, after a 27-9 loss to the Hawkeyes last season. 

But riding high off a victory over a top-10 opponent Rutgers is feeling confident as it enters leagueX play.

“Beating Cornell is probably one of the biggest wins this program has had,” Perrotti said. “For the past 15 years, I’ve never seen them out of the top five or out of the top 10, and they’re a powerhouse in college wrestling. Just seeing this program come full circle in the five years I’ve been here, it’s really amazing ... I’ve never had more fun in wrestling than I’ve had this year so far, and there’s a really bright future here.”

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

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