Knights fall against No. 7 Iowa with record-breaking crowd at RAC

Two or three years ago, the Rutgers wrestling team probably would have been content finishing with 15 points against Iowa. After a 27-9 defeat in 2014-15 against the then-No. 1 Hawkeyes and a 29-6 drubbing the following year against then-No. 2 Iowa, 15 points sounds pretty good.

But this year, the No. 16 Scarlet Knights (3-2, 1-1) didn’t just want the extra points, they wanted to annihilate the No. 7 Hawkeyes (6-0, 2-0). And after getting out to an early 12-0 lead, it looked as if Rutgers was on its way to doing just that.

“I don't know if we earned (Iowa’s respect), but we walked away with what we had, and we would have earned more if we won that match," said fifth-year senior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio. "We competed, but we went out there to win. You don't want to get respect from losing.”

The bad blood started when Iowa called out the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) and compared its atmosphere to Blair Academy, a private boarding school located in New Jersey known for wrestling.

Head coach Scott Goodale took exception with that remark and implored fans to come out and show their support for the Knights. The fans obliged as the 6,754 recorded attendees were the most for a Rutgers wrestling match in RAC history.

But the Knights let that 12-0 lead slip through their fingers as they ended up falling 23-15, losing six of the final seven duals. 

“It’s a dual meet that got away from us,” Goodale said. “I know that’s how these guys feel. You want to win these and there are opportunities out there for us. You have to take advantage of these opportunities that don’t come around too often. There are no moral victories. We let one get away and this one will sting a little bit.”

After No. 2 sophomore 125-pounder Nick Suriano, No. 13 DelVecchio and redshirt freshman 141-pounder Michael Van Brill gave Rutgers a quick and much needed 12-0 lead, the No. 14, fifth-year senior and 149-pounder, Eleazar DeLuca, fell to No. 2 Brandon Sorensen in a close 4-1 battle.

Then, in the 157-weight class, Iowa’s No. 3 Michael Kemerer defeated sophomore Brett Donner, who got the start over No. 9 fifth-year senior Richie Lewis, in a technical fall decision, 25-8. 

Goodale then gave Lewis the start at 165 to give his team the best chance against the Hawkeyes’ No. 13 Alex Marinelli. Unfortunately, the U23 Worlds Champ couldn’t get the job done and lost 6-4 in a sudden victory overtime, his first loss of the season.

“That’s one we should win,” Goodale said. “We thought we needed to win six bouts. If (Lewis) goes down, wrestles Kemerer, (John) Van Brill against Marinelli, who knows? That’s something I decided to do, and I take the hit on that.”

Going into the 174 dual, the Knights saw their 12-point lead dwindle down to one, leading 12-11. Perhaps the most interesting and telling move of the night was redshirt freshman Joseph Grello getting the start over junior Jordan Pagano. 

Grello led for most of the bout, but a controversial third period takedown by Joey Gunther flipped the switch. Upon further review, it appeared that both of Gunther’s feet were outside the line before the takedown, but the call was reviewed and upheld. 

“I didn’t understand the call, but they said (Gunther’s) butt was in the cylinder,” Goodale said. “His feet were out, but bottom line is you can’t let a guy in on your legs with 30 seconds left in the match. It’s a mistake, but we’ll learn from it.”

After No. 9 fifth-year senior and 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina’s 4-0 win helped regain the lead for Rutgers, 15-14, consecutive losses to ranked opponents by redshirt freshman 197-pounder Kevin Mulligan and senior heavyweight Razohnn Gross gave Iowa the win, 23-15.

Despite the loss, if one or two things had gone the Knights' way, this could have been the statement win they were searching for.

“Two big matchups there in second part of the match, 165 and 174, just got away from us," Goodale said. "We have to find a way to close those out. To beat a really good team you got to do that. You’ve got to close out those matches.”

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

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