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Rutgers finishes regular season with 2 wins in 3 days

Knights manage to end season over .500

After a bit of a midseason lull, the Rutgers wrestling team finished out the regular season with its best wrestling of the year — just in time for tournament season. 

On the road against No. 18 Wisconsin (7-5, 4-5) and Princeton (4-9, 3-2), the No. 21 Scarlet Knights (8-7, 3-6) came away with two wins in three days and will now look ahead to the Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Michigan in two weeks. 

“I'm super proud of these guys,” said head coach Scott Goodale after the win against the Badgers on Friday, according to scarletknights.com. “We have been battling hard all year competing against some great programs and facing some adversity.”

Rutgers led Wisconsin right from the beginning after freshman 125-pounder Shane Metzler, who was filling in for No. 1 sophomore 125-pounder Nick Suriano, pinned Johnny Jimenez in less than a minute (0:59) in his varsity debut.

Another notable win on Friday came by way of junior 157-pounder John Van Brill, who defeated No. 14 Andrew Crone, 6-2. Right after that, No. 7 fifth-year senior 165-pounder Richie Lewis proved his ranking, beating No. 11 Evan Wick, 2-1.

Two bouts later, No. 12 fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina added a win over a ranked opponent of his own, upsetting No. 9 Ricky Robertson, 5-3, and giving the Knights a 21-6 lead. Rutgers ultimately won 24-12 — its first win over the Badgers in program history.

“We had huge wins from John Van Brill, Nick Gravina, Richie Lewis and Shane Metzler,” Goodale said. “I feel good for our entire team staying the course, but we need to finish Sunday at Princeton.”

And stay the course they did.

Returning to New Jersey and competing in an in-state rivalry against the Tigers in Princeton, the Knights kept the rivalry trophy in Piscataway, winning 8 out of 10 rounds and dominating Princeton 28-7 to close out the regular season.

Just like it did against Wisconsin two days prior, Rutgers jumped out to an early lead, winning the first three bouts. 

But at 149, in a ranked matchup between No. 11 fifth-year senior Eleazar DeLuca and No. 12 Matthew Kolodzik, DeLuca suffered the loss, giving the Tigers their first points of the day.

Van Brill was committed to making this his weekend and got his second victory over a ranked opponent in as many matches by defeating No. 13 Michael D’Angelo, 5-3. 

From there, it was all the Knights — who won 4 out of the final 5 matches, including a pin from Gravina.

“It's a rivalry match, so I'm proud of our guys and proud of our program,” Goodale said.

The win marked Goodale’s 161st — six away from passing John Sacchi for the most in program history — and the 22nd straight over Princeton. Rutgers hasn’t lost to the Tigers since 1991.

With the two wins over the weekend, the Knights also finished the regular season above .500. Rutgers was in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time during the Goodale-era.

But even after an up-and-down season, Goodale was proud of how his team fought back this weekend and is now looking forward to the Big Ten Tournament.

“I love the way we handled the travel, fought through adversity all year long with some of our best guys in and out of the lineup,” he said. “It's a product of what goes on in our program and the guys in it.”

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

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