Lewis paces Rutgers with 3rd-place finish at Big Ten Championships

Five Knights earn automatic bid to NCAA Championships

The season remains alive for five members of the Rutgers wrestling team after reaching the podium at the Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Michigan over the weekend. 

No. 7 fifth-year senior 165-pounder Richie Lewis, fifth-year senior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, No. 1 sophomore 125-pounder Nick Suriano, No. 12 fifth-year senior 149-pounder Eleazar DeLuca and No. 18 junior 157-pounder John Van Brill have all punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships, hosted inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio in two weeks.

Despite the results, no Scarlet Knight headed to Cleveland will be doing so as a conference champ. Lewis paced the team with a third-place finish, while DelVecchio and Suriano each finished in sixth. DeLuca and Van Brill added a pair of eighth-place finishes, as well.

Coming in as the No. 4 seed, Lewis, who moved up a weight class midway through the season, defeated No. 13 seed Brendan Burnham of Maryland by major decision, 20-7, in the first round. 

After that, he picked off Wisconsin’s No. 5 seed Evan Wick, 6-4, to reach the semifinals. There, Lewis lost to top-seeded and eventual champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois, 8-5.

In the consolation round, Lewis stunned Iowa’s No. 2 seed Alex Marinelli 7-5 to pull off the upset. In the third-place matchup, Lewis won by default after Wisconsin’s Wick had to medically forfeit.

After his first round bye, No. 1 seed Suriano breezed past the Illini’s No. 9 seed Travis Piotrowski, 9-2. But in the semifinals against Minnesota’s No. 5 seed Ethan Lizak, Suriano was forced to a medical forfeit and did not compete for the rest of the day. Suriano missed the team’s final four dual meets due to an illness.

“He'll be ready (for nationals),” said head coach Scott Goodale, according to NJ Advance Media. “He needed probably another week … If he was good after the first one (he would have kept wrestling).”

No. 5 seed DelVecchio defeated the Badgers’ unseeded Jens Lantz 3-1, before falling to Nebraska’s No. 4 seed Jason Renteria by that same score. DelVecchio then went on to wrestle Northwestern’s Colin Valdiviez in the loser’s bracket, securing a 10-1 major-decision win. 

Then, against Purdue’s No. 8 seed Ben Thornton, DelVecchio won 9-6, before losing to No. 3 seed Mitch McKee of the Golden Gophers 8-5. DelVecchio dropped the rematch against Renteria 3-2 to finish in sixth.

At 149, No. 6 seed DeLuca soundly defeated the Boilermakers’ No. 11 seed Austin Nash by major decision, 14-5. In the second round, DeLuca suffered an 11-1 major-decision loss against the Wildcats’ No. 3 seed Ryan Deakin.

DeLuca then went on to defeat No. 12 seed Eric Barone of Illinois 4-1, before losing to Maryland’s No. 7 seed Alfred Bannister 5-4. In the fight for seventh place, Minnesota’s No. 9 seed Steve Bleise pinned DeLuca after 4 minutes and 21 seconds. 

No. 8 seed Van Brill opened up his weekend with a 4-2 victory over Purdue’s unseeded Griffin Parriott. But in the second round, facing the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 seed Michael Kemerer, Van Brill lost 15-5.

On day two, Van Brill defeated Michigan State’s unseeded Jake Tucker 5-2, before losing to Nebraska’s No. 5 seed Tyler Berger 5-1, sending him to the seventh-place match. There, the Gophers’ No. 7 seed Jake Short pinned Van Brill in the second round. 

Noticeably absent from the pack who live to fight another day is No. 9 fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina who missed the podium for a second consecutive year with his ninth-place finish. Nonetheless, Gravina has a good chance of joining his teammates in Cleveland with an at-large bid.

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

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