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Rutgers falters in Nebraska, fails to complete weekend sweep

A strong start to the weekend ended with disappointment for the Rutgers wrestling team, as it couldn’t hang on for the weekend sweep, falling to Nebraska on Sunday after demolishing Hofstra on Friday. 

After shellacking the Pride 37-9 at home, the No. 16 Scarlet Knights (5-4, 1-3) traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the No. 18 Cornhuskers (6-3, 4-1), which head coach Scott Goodale described as a good test for Rutgers.

“This is a heck of a challenge coming up for us,” he said. “Nebraska has always been a really good matchup between us.”

Before that, the Knights took it to Hofstra, winning the first eight matches and blanking the Pride 37-0 in the process.

In the middle of all the action were junior 165-pounder John Van Brill and redshirt freshman 141-pounder Michael Van Brill. The brothers from Mullica Hill gave Rutgers its only two pins of the night, netting 6 points each for the team.

“Every match I just try to go out there, get as many points as I can and then he comes up and follows,” Michael Van Brill said. “It’s a good duo.”

Coach Goodale agreed, while also offering his praises to the younger Van Brill brother for stepping up for the injured Anthony Ashnault, who entered the preseason ranked fifth in the nation in the 141-weight class.

“We knew he would be very successful,” Goodale said. “He’s got a long way to go to get where we want to go, and he knows that, but the biggest thing has been consistency and now you can see it start to happen. He’s beaten some good guys too, so I’m not surprised by it, and he’s gonna have a really good career here.”

After Michael pinned his opponent in 4 minutes and 17 seconds, older brother John one-upped him, pinning his opponent in 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

But, the good times would soon fade as the Knights quickly headed to Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers. 

While Rutgers went up 13-7 with four matches left, Nebraska went on to sweep the final four bouts and ultimately won by a score of 19-13. 

Perhaps nobody summed up the weekend better than Goodale.

“We’ve come a long way, there’s no question about it,” he said. “There’s a long way to go still.”

In a meet with a few notable ranked matchups, some key wins for the Knights came by way of fifth-year seniors 165-pounder Richie Lewis and 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina. No. 12 Lewis defeated No. 11 Isaiah White 2-1, while No. 14 Gravina upset No. 7 Taylor Venz 9-3.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

Things will not come any easier for Rutgers, as it must now get ready to host No. 1 Penn State (9-0, 5-0) at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Jan. 28, an event that is already sold out.

But despite the loss, the Knights know what they must do.

“Just wrestle,” Goodale said. “Be prepared to wrestle and that’s it. Just wrestle, that’s the mindset. Just wrestle.”

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

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