Rutgers suffers first loss of the season against Lock Haven

If the Rutgers wrestling team has hopes of being in the top-5 by season’s end, matches like the one on Friday cannot happen again.

The No. 11 Scarlet Knights (3-1) lost 22-16 to Lock Haven (1-0) on Friday, suffering their first team loss of the season. 

Despite having a strong team and receiving votes for the top-25, the Bald Eagles are certainly a team that this ranked Rutgers squad expected to beat coming into the season, especially after three dominating wins to start the year — including one against then-No. 19 Oklahoma.

“Honestly, we got our butt kicked,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “Other than our first two guys, who we expect those performances from, they out-wrestled us in every single position.”

In their defense, the Knights rested their star 157-pound fifth-year senior Richie Lewis, who was coming back from capturing a gold medal at the U-23 World Championships a week earlier.

Still, even without Lewis, Rutgers has proven its talent and depth and should have come out of Lock Haven with a win.

“We did a lot of laying on our belly,” Goodale said. “We couldn't get off the bottom, so that was disappointing from that standpoint.”

Despite the loss, five Knights came away from the match with impressive individual results. Nick Suriano, a 125-pound sophomore, who still stands at No. 2 in his weight class, started Rutgers off on the right foot with a 19-5 major decision victory, giving the Knights four early points.

No. 10 fifth-year senior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio added to the lead with an 11-5 win of his own. 

From then on, Rutgers wouldn’t win another match until 174-pound redshirt freshman Joe Grello’s 3-2 decision win over Jared Siegrist. By then, the Knights were digging out of a 16-10 hole. 

The team would make things interesting though, with consecutive wins by 174-pound junior Jordan Pagano and No. 9 184-pound fifth-year senior Nicholas Gravina, who were both wrestling up a weight class. 

“We were hoping for bonus points,” Goodale said on wrestling both Pagano and Gravina up a weight. “We had veteran leadership with Gravina and Pagano who have been through Big Ten seasons, have pinned a lot of guys and have been really good on top, so we were looking for bonus points. We knew we needed bonus points there in order to win the match.”

Tied at 16 going into the final match, Lock Haven went into the matchup with a slight edge sending No. 15 heavyweight Thomas Haines against heavyweight senior 285-pound Razohnn Gross.

Haines got the win with an opening period pin, giving the Eagles a 22-16 victory, their first against Rutgers since 2008.

But the Knights will be the first to tell you they shouldn’t even have been in that position, leaving it to the final match to decide the winner.

Rutgers will now try and put this loss behind it as it gets ready to take on its biggest challenge to date — No. 7 Iowa (5-0). The Knights and the Hawkeyes will face off Friday, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. inside the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), but Rutgers will first need to address some things before it can feel ready for the test.

“(Lock Haven’s) game plan was great, they were in better shape than us, they were tougher than us and they out-hustled us,” Goodale said.

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

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