Rutgers snaps 2-match skid with win against Michigan State
Some unexpected adversity put the Rutgers wrestling team in an early hole against Michigan State. Needing a second conference win, No. 5 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano sparked a comeback for the No. 18 Scarlet Knights (8-4, 2-2) as they avoided an upset loss to the Spartans (4-6, 1-4) to end their two-meet skid in a 22-20 victory on Friday at the Rutgers Athletics Center (RAC).
In front of a crowd of 4,014, Rutgers didn't find the start it needed against one of its only unranked opponents the rest of the season. The opening round saw sophomore 197-pounder Matt Correnti fall to Michigan State’s Brad Wilton. Wilton pinned Correnti in the second round to put the Spartans up 6-0.
After three matches, the deficit bubbled to 11-3 as the possibility of being upset at home to Michigan State would have spelled doom for the Knights' season.
Then came in Suriano. Fresh off of back-to-back losses, Suriano seemed to unload a lot of his recent frustration onto the Spartans' Logan Griffin, working a technical fall in a 22-4 victory to get Rutgers right back in it.
Suriano, who didn’t practice until Thursday, wasn't even a lock to wrestle in Friday’s meet. Head coach Scott Goodale made the decision to put Suriano in just prior to the 133-pound match.
“If we started at 125, he probably wouldn't have wrestled. I think what (assistant head coach) Donny (Pritzlaff) and him really locked in on was 'just wrestle,'" said Goodale. "There's too much, 'What does this guy do? What do I do? How do I adjust?' Just wrestle."
Goodale’s decision paid dividends as Suriano's near-perfect performance over Griffin ignited a string of five straight victories for the Knights, effectively clinching the meet.
Junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari, No. 2 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault, No. 15 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill and freshman 165-pounder Stephan Glasgow each earned decisions to put Rutgers up 22-11.
Lipari picked up his second victory and ended a six-match skid in a 4-2 decision over Michigan State's Alex Hrisopoulos.
“He's right there with a lot of good opponents. You worry, it's good to be close, but it's not winning, so you start to worry about if he can win," Goodale said about Lipari. "That was a swing match where maybe on paper we don't give it to us, but we know he's capable and a good job for Pete. That was a big win for him.”
Glasgow was able to pick up his first win of the new year after struggling with injuries the past few weeks in a 7-4 decision over the Spartans' Austin Hiles. The freshman improved to 6-4 on the season.
“It was a great confidence booster, finally getting back on a win streak, or the start of a win streak. Hopefully, we'll see,” Glasgow said. “I just try to, every day, push myself a little bit more, feel a little bit more uncomfortable in my positions so that when I get on the mat, I can scramble how I used to or wrestle in weird positions."
With victory in hand, the Knights did suffer an unexpected blow at the end of the meet. Junior 174-pounder Willie Scott injury defaulted in the final match of the night. The injury is unknown, but Scott’s injury adds to the pile of injuries at the 174-pound weight for Rutgers.
No. 17 graduate student Nick Gravina and fifth-year senior Jordan Pagano, both competing at 184 pounds, have already been sidelined due to injury as the options at 174 pounds continue to get thinner for Goodale.
“Grello's pretty banged up, fighting off a power half for 4 minutes. There are not many options right now," Goodale said. "I'd rather not pull someone out of redshirt, but there are really no options, so we'll kind of see where we're at. Maybe (Anthony) Olivieri up, or something like that, but we'll just have to see what tomorrow brings.”
The degree of competition will amp back up next week for the Knights as they take on No. 11 Nebraska on Friday and No. 25 Princeton on Sunday afternoon. Ashnault, who is undefeated, is slated to take on Princeton's No. 1 Matt Kolodzik on Feb. 3.
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